Clutter, that is. I confess I am a bit of a pack rat. Ask anyone who helped me move. I paid a junk removal company $500 to haul off my trash as well as items that could be donated to the needy, or repurposed (don’t you love that word?). I wanted a fresh start in my new home and I had roughly the same square footage to fill. I did an adequate job of streamlining, but, four years later, I am once again faced with the prospect of more decluttering.
For inspiration and advice, I turned to professional organizer Peter Walsh and his book “It’s All Too Much!” This easy read delves into the psychology of pack ratting and offers great tips on “how to” declutter. I could be the poster child for Mr. Walsh’s #1 excuse for clutter keepers: “I might need it one day”.
Sounds logical, even responsible, doesn’t it? Waste is wasteful. So here’s what I do. First, I put it in the junk drawer in the kitchen. Later, when I’m in an organizing/purging mood, I move it to another spot, grouping like objects together. Finally, the day comes when I need “it”. I frantically rummage through my 5 or 6 “safe” places in search of the elusive now needed item. Darn it! I can’t find! So I go out and buy something else. Then, of course, a week or a month later…
What’s your excuse?
Here are the main excuses for decluttering-avoiders, according to Mr. Walsh. See which one(s) may apply to you or someone you know:
- “I might need it one day”
- “It’s too important to let go”
- “I can’t get rid of it, it’s worth a lot of money”
- “My house is too small”
- “I don’t have the time”
- “I don’t know how I got like this”
- “It’s not a problem – my husband/wife/child just thinks it is”
- “It isn’t mine”
- “It’s too overwhelming”
- “…………………..” insert your own personal excuse here
If you find yourself focusing on excuse #9 as an avoidance technique, I can relate. The truth is, you need to be ready – physically, emotionally, spiritually – to start learning to live with less. Don’t do it because your spouse is nagging you. Do it because you want to. Maybe because you want to buy something new but you have nowhere to put it. Implement the “out with the old-in with the new” rule – for books, kitchen gadgets, outfits.
What’s your motivation?
Motivation is a personal thing. Find yours. I recommend the book because Peter Walsh displays good insight into the emotional reasons some of us hold onto some things. You will know you are ready when the pain of remaining the same exerts greater pressure than your fear of the pain of change.
I am a very practical person (lazy, too). So my approach can be summed up in this proverb: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. In other words, start small. Pick a room, a closet, a cupboard, a chest of drawers. Do a little bit every day instead of trying tackle everything over the weekend (been there, done that – and it did not work for me).
Donate it or sell it – if you can
I confess, I have wasted a lot of things over the years. Time. Money. Opportunities. Resources. There is no “undo” button in life. No “do over’s”. And living in the land of regret is counter-productive (though it can be comfortable). Once I gave up my citizenship there, I picked myself up, brushed myself off, and started. I formed 2 piles: stuff to donate, stuff to sell.
The donate pile was bigger. And do you know what? It felt good, giving away clothes I no longer needed to an organization that helps women re-entering the work force get some quality outfits. Goodwill is not a derelict junk stop; it can be a great place to find bargains. I feel good donating to them too.
Organize a swap meet with friends or some group you belong to. Have everyone bring quality stuff they no longer want or need and swap. Give away the leftovers.
Sell it on eBay or kijiji, or go to a consignment store. There are a lot of options; surf the Net and find what works best for you.
Rooms with a purpose
Develop a vision for your home. Go room by room; decide what you want in them and what you don’t. Visualize your ideal kitchen, bedroom, living room, etc. Peter Walsh’s book has some helpful checklists. Then, develop an action plan to create rooms with a purpose that you will enjoy living in and using.
I know, I know. Advice is cheap and easy. But I know I have kindred spirits out there. And I feel your pain – the stress of living surrounded by clutter. Once you bite the bullet and do it (declutter, that is) you will feel like you just finished a detox, lost 20 pounds and have tons of energy.
Still not convinced? Check the TV listings and find the show “Hoarders”. Watch a few episodes. Need I say more?