Recently, I wrote about the various consequences of overshopping. Days after that post, as I was unsuccessfully trying to locate my shower cap among the jungle of “this and that” inside my bathroom cabinet, I realized I had omitted a huge result from overshopping….CLUTTER! All the stuff we buy must be stored, and often we just continue to shove more things on top of other things causing us to forget what we have or where we put it, and therefore we ultimately buy more.
While I was looking for my shower cap, I started to pull things out of the cabinet. I had four unopened boxes of toothpaste, three different types of large hairspray cans (I rarely even use hairspray), four extra deodorants, three unused cans of sunblock, an entire plastic shoebox size container overflowing with various trial size beauty products, and many no longer used full sized hair and beauty products (too many to bother counting). I became very frustrated trying to move all this stuff out of the way. I was also angry that I had purchased it all and at the same time concerned that I had forgotten exactly what I had in this cabinet. Had I not been searching for the shower cap, I would likely have bought more toothpaste and deodorant on my next trip to Target.
Two days later I found my shower cap behind a stack of bath towels underneath my sink. I had wasted time, energy, got frustrated and felt overwhelmed…bombarded with stuff in my bathroom. I thought about that and started walking around my house to each room noticing where else clutter may have creeped in.
If you walked in my house, you would say it is clean and decorated nicely. You might comment on its historic character or the unique red and yellow toile wallpaper covering the open living space. The only area that clutter might be obvious is the toy ridden section of my living room, but any parent understands that children have “stuff” and we make allowances for a little toy clutter knowing in a few years those toys will be gone and my little one will grow up. I have no desire to rush that along!
What people don’t get to see upon entering my home is all the secret, hidden clutter. Behind each beautiful antiqued, white painted, crystal knobbed door is a mess of stuff…shoved in…piled on…unorganized stacks of CLUTTER. And when I open these doors, the clutter jumps out at me, seizing me. It distracts me, drains my energy…I lose focus of what I’m doing and start to think about the clutter. How did I accumulate all this stuff? Why? And then I’ll start to get annoyed at myself. Bad…Bad…Bad… Clutter!
According to Psychology Today, studies have shown that clutter can cause many negative affects (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201705/5-reasons-clear-the-clutter-out-your-life).
It can lead to added stress, low self-esteem, shame, negative eating habits, poorer mental health, less focused thinking, and decreased energy. I certainly could do without any of those things!
Continuing a quick walk through my house, I discovered clutter is present to some degree in almost every room. One of the worse areas is my bedroom. When I walk in my bedroom I should feel safe, calm…my sanctuary…a place to relax. What I notice is that I don’t feel that way at all. This room makes me nervous. First, my nightstand is covered with TV remotes, 3 different device charging cords, lip balms, hand creams, room sprays, headphones. Much of it should go into the top drawer, but it cannot because the drawer is full of books, and DVDs and who knows what! My husband’s nightstand is worse as it has a stack of books about 18 inches high..and he barely Ikes to read! Next my fireplace place mantle has stacks of DVDs. All these movies and exercise videos and the room does not even have a DVD player anymore. On the floor are piles of more books, magazines, old laptops and iPads we no longer use. On top of all this is my cosmetic vanity which overflows with lipsticks and brushes and face creams. I wish I could wiggle my nose like Bewitched and make it all disappear.
Each room I entered had a clutter story of its own. There is history to the clutter…books started and never finished…piles of fabric from abandoned sewing projects. I actually found a Christmas gift for my nine year old that I had hidden and forgotten about!
On top of all this physical clutter, we have mental clutter as well. Think about how many emails fill your inbox each day. How much time do you waste deleting them or do you just let them continue to accumulate, making it difficult to locate the message you really need? How about all those appointments you continue to make..filling up you life’s calendar…keeping you busy, busy busy! Let’s not overlook the amount of time spent on our electronic devices..checking emails, instagram, facebook, twitter. All of these things are cluttering up our time too and our mind.
I have all sorts of clutter going on inside me and all around my life!
I had no idea how cluttered my life actually was. I was suffocating in denial. I also know I do not want things to continue this way. I can’t magically blink it away, but I can change it. I want to change it and create a more efficient, healthier, more simple, less stressful life. Okay, that is great, but how? Where do I start? It is all so overwhelming.
My immediate thought is to hire someone to declutter for me. There I go again, throwing money at a problem! It might make sense to hire help in getting my basement cleaned up and organized (since that is a huge undertaking), but surely I can tackle the other areas in my home. Doing the hard work myself will be effective in motivating me to never let it get out of hand again. I just need to be patient, and not expect to complete this all in one weekend. I will start out by setting small goals and build momentum as I go along. Here are some decluttering tactics I will use:
For each space I tackle, I will first remove every item from that space. I can divide areas into sections in order to accomplish this. For example, If I’m cleaning out a closet and don’t have the time to complete the entire closet in one session, then I should go shelf by shelf or section by section. I will empty that chosen area out completely.
I will have two boxes or large black bags available….one for garbage and one for donations. I will use a laundry basket or other container to temporarily hold items I am keeping.
I will “let go” of any item I do not use. That pasta maker that has been on the top shelf for 15 years needs to go! Getting rid of things we don’t use is not so easy since we believe we “might use it someday”. We need to let this stuff go and take the chance that if the day should come where we finally actually need that item, then we will just have to buy it (or borrow one) then. I have many kitchen gadgets that have never been used. I also have an entire shelf full of assorted mugs, when I only ever use the same four mugs over and over. I need to let it all go.
Take pictures of sentimental items and then say goodbye to them. There are some items that are very difficult to get rid of because they represent a person we miss or a time in our lives that was wonderful. I personally can not let go of my father’s favorite pair of sweatpants, my mother’s wallet and my childhood diaries. I believe it’s okay to save a few things. I have one plastic bin that I keep which I’ve labeled “my life”. I will allow myself that one bin. But do I really need to hold on to the mounted deer head that hung in the front foyer of my childhood home? It reminds me of my Dad and my childhood, but I will never be hanging that anywhere in my house. It’s time to take a pic and let it go. Also, with four kids, I have piles of art projects and homemade crafts. I have saved them all and therefore I have many bins full of stuff my children have created. This becomes trickier. I know my kids will never want it all back. I think its time to choose a few items to save in ONE special bin, and take pictures of the rest…then let them go.
I will not keep stuff out of guilt. For instance, I have a bathroom cabinet full of hair products that I do not use. I know that I keep them because they are perfectly good products that I spent perfectly good money on. It feels wasteful to discard them, but clearly If I don’t like them why am I keeping them? I must get rid of these products and can give them to friends, or I can donate to my local outreach program. This also applies to clothing. Just because I spent a lot of money on something is not a reason to keep it. If I don’t love it and don’t wear it now then I have to let it go.
If it doesn’t fit then let it go. Holding on to items in hope that I’ll someday fit into them again not only creates clutter, but it can lead to low self esteem since it is a constant reminder that “I can’t fit into it anymore”.
Set a goal and schedule the time. I will set a new goal for myself each week, schedule time into my calendar to complete the task and hold myself accountable to it.
I’m sure there are many other decluttering tactics to use, and certainly other challenges I may face that I haven’t considered yet. I plan on maintaining my accountability to decluttering, by posting my progress and challenges each week. I am going to start in my kitchen and this week my simple goal is to declutter the two “catch all” drawers that I have. I challenge you to join me on this quest to declutter our lives.
If you have been down this road already and have some pointers to offer, please leave a comment, email, or join my facebook group to discuss.