The following is a guest post by Dr. Christine Li.
No one ever starts out wishing they were drowning in clutter without an end in sight. At least I don’t think so. At least I didn’t. Yet there I was 12 years ago, drowning in clutter in my very own home.
The one day, I made a resolution: I refused to be a victim of my clutter any longer.
Then, one day in October that year, I resolved to stop being a victim of my clutter. Here are 8 of my simple decluttering resolutions to help you start the New Year on the right foot:
- Read the book Sink Reflections by Marla Cilley. It is a decluttering classic. It is also the book that got me started on the long road to a saner, less-cluttered life. The book is a totally non-judgmental guide towards revising how you view the items in your home and renewing your love for yourself and the home you live in. The book’s core message is that clutter can never be organized. It must, therefore, be thrown away. We are inherently more organized when we possess less stuff.
- Create one place of calm in your life. When we live with clutter, so often our clutter is everywhere. First the clutter creeps in, and then it takes over all of our living space. Amazing, that clutter. Since clutter is such a forceful foe, we need to claim a position against it. So pick a spot – any spot – to reclaim as your own zone of calm. If you are too overwhelmed by the clutter in your home, start with your car. Start with a junk drawer. Or a utensil drawer. Or an exercise clothing drawer. It doesn’t matter where you start, only that you do.
- Have faith that decluttering will help you feel freer and more “in flow.” I don’t know if this is some natural law of physics, but I would bet my bottom dollar that everyone who has put their efforts towards doing a real decluttering process has experienced a positive change in their emotional state. Unnecessary stuff does really weigh us down. Remind yourself of this daily, to create motivation.
- Find pockets of time to declutter. Use your “in-between” time to really give the clutter the heave-ho. You know, those 5 to 15 minute periods when you are waiting for the doctor, waiting on the phone for the next agent, or about to fill your car up with gas. Clean the car. Toss the melted gum from your purse. Give it a go.
- Challenge your own need to hang on to things. Are you holding on to that stuffed elephant to maintain a sense of nostalgia? Just in case you’ll need it someday? Because you don’t want to hurt someone else’s feelings? Know that parting with stuff won’t kill you. However, keeping everything just because you think you ought to might just kill your spirit.
- Throw things out every day. This is the best trick I learned from the book I spoke about in Tip #1. We collect clutter when we fail to purge items in our home as quickly (or more quickly) than the rate at which we bring items into our home. It is a basic law of stuff accumulation. Try to reduce the emotional attachment you have to any particular item. Then evaluate if you really want to be living with that item. There was a time in your life when you lived just fine without that particular thing – do you really need it now?
- Set a deadline to focus your decluttering efforts. A decluttering trick I have used in the past few months is to schedule pickups by agencies like Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Salvation Army so I can give my unneeded stuff a good goodbye. These hard-working agencies will send people and a truck to your home so you don’t have to work too hard to have a tidier home. Schedule a pickup date for about two weeks out and then gradually begin tossing items you’d like to donate into bags or boxes for the pickup. Remember to ask for a donation slip so you can note your charitable donation on your next tax return too. It always feels like a win-win when I make donations in this way.
- Drop your perfectionism. In tune with the message in Tip #7, I’d like to you to feel open to starting now and to starting anywhere. Just beginning is such a huge part of getting out of a cluttered lifestyle. Your home doesn’t need to be like your neighbor’s, or anyone else’s for that matter. Purge the belongings you don’t want, need, or love, and then begin to make the home that you want, need, and love.
I have to confess: I still live with clutter and lots of it. But even though that is my current situation, I feel emboldened to continue my efforts towards an uncluttered life because I have experienced that “in flow” point I mentioned above. I know in my heart and mind that living with less clutter is a tremendous plus for my well-being. It has saved me money, time, and aggravation and has allowed me to be more mentally and emotionally available to the work and the people I care most about.
I can’t stop now. I won’t stop now. I’ve come too far to turn back! I wish you the best in your own journey, whether you are starting it or knee-deep in. Just remember: this is worth it.
Christine Li, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist who specializes in the area of helping people who struggle with chronic procrastination and provides advice on her blog Procrastination Coach. Feel free to follow her via her blog or through Twitter.