Clearing the Clutter

by Ellen

Want an immediate energy boost?  Try clearing a little space in your home.  I’ll be the first to admit that my family has a clutter problem, but we’re working on it.  Last week I bribed my son to get rid a large box of his possessions in exchange for a new yo-yo. I saw a gain of space in a too-cramped bedroom; he saw a coveted tool to perform better tricks. Those little plastic toys, ancient Valentines and preschool art projects held special meaning for him and he was brave to let them go.  While he still has plenty of mementos decorating his room, it feels better now.

Clutter and Mental Health

I’m no mental health expert, but I do know that too much clutter drives me crazy.  Endless boxes of stored things bother me almost as much as looking around a room and realizing that it’s impossible to put everything away, because there isn’t a dedicated closet, drawer or shelf.  If I need to shuffle things from room to room to make the house presentable to guests (I do), I have too much stuff.  The constant rearranging is exhausting and time-consuming.

We collect things for so many reasons.  Purchases, gifts, inheritance, school projects, and household paperwork all pile up in our homes. Often it’s not so easy to remove the things we no longer need, but freeing up space can be liberating.  Objects blocking our path through a room also block the flow of energy, zapping our reserves as we move through our homes. Likewise, walking past “work in progress” several times a day, can weigh a person down; it’s a constant reminder of something unfinished.  After a good decluttering I think better and I get more done.

Several years ago I read a book called Clear Your Clutter With Feng Shui.  Although I never actually applied many feng shui principles to our home, the book helped me see my possessions differently so that I was able to part with things I had been reluctant to let go — old clothing I’d kept “just in case,” and items I’d accumulated because of the memories attached to them.  Reducing our stuff had the added benefit of making our home feel better — sounds like feng shui to me!

Decluttering Tips

Here are a few tips that I’ve learned from the clutter gurus and friends.

  • Start small. Choose one room or closet at a time to tackle. There’s nothing worse that pulling everything out, spending the day combing through piles and then being too tired to put things away. Giving away possessions is an emotional endeavor and it requires energy.
  • Sort. Mark four containers: Trash, Recycling, Donations, To Sell.  Find a place in your home to put away anything that doesn’t belong in one of the boxes.  I find that I can slowly whittle down the things I choose to keep if I repeat this process every few months.
  • Choose a number of things per day/week/month to reduce and stick with it. Keeping a schedule for recycling or sweeping the house for items to donate can be helpful.  Check out the Gypsy Tour blog for inspiration.
  • Make sure every object in your household has a “home.” If your new gadget or knickknack isn’t meant to be displayed on a flat surface, make sure there is a drawer or cabinet for it.
  • Make a clean sweep of problem areas each day. We collect mail, library books, keys and yo-yos on one table.  If we’re not careful, the table is full after a few days!  It feels great to clean it off each night.
  • Keep only a photo. For years I had a prized t-shirt collection that I lugged from home to home, never taking them out of the box. They were well-worn mementos of high school, college, athletic competitions, work: my life. One day I’d had enough. I laid each shirt carefully on my bed and took a picture of it. (I did the same with my trophies, none of which were Olympics-caliber.) I now have a little folder on my computer containing these digitized memories and more space in the basement.
  • Remember that someone else could really use your old suit. I rarely need a suit these days and I had a few older ones hanging in my closest that I finally donated. I hope one of those suits looks great on someone trying to get a job.
  • You don’t have to keep gifts. Hold onto gifts for as long as your enjoy them, then pass them on. Any unused presents can easily be “re-gifted” as housewarming presents or last-minute birthday gifts.  Just remember to remove them from your household quickly or they’ll become clutter.
  • Don’t expect others to keep your gifts. It’s great to have a home in mind for your old dishes, but let your recipients choose how long they’d like to keep them. When you let go, let go for good.
  • Donate toys your child has outgrown. Daycare centers, preschools, churches, homeless shelters and pediatricians often accept previously loved toys.  Some hospitals will take small toys, such as the little plastic ones from fast food meals, so they have something to calm their youngest patients. Call ahead.
  • Keep only what you use. If you have a question about whether you’ll need a piece of clothing or gadget, put it in a box with the date marked on it. If you don’t go after anything in the box for six months to a year, you probably never will. Don’t forget to empty the box and start over.  Clothing that no longer fits and broken electronics are probably just taking up space.
  • Clutter collects dust. Removing the dust increases energy and reduces dust mites!
  • What about scraps of paper with important information? Ask yourself if you can look it up online.  If so, recycle information that won’t be stolen and shred the rest.  Keep an electronic log of user names and passwords — and password protect it.
  • Keep an “impersonal diary” instead of holding onto years of journals. When I’m ready to toss my diaries (almost?), I’ll go through them and record the dates of major events in my life. This life roster can then be saved on a computer or in one small book.  Karen Kingston explains.


Happy Cleaning!

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Photo Credit: Robert S. Donovan on flickr

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