Blog: Can We Have Some Order Here?
The A-To-Z Of Getting Organized: D Is For Decluttering
A lot of people think that organizing is about the systems you set up -- having everything color-coded and alphabetized and stored by season. That's certainly part of it, but arranging your places and spaces comes later. You can't effectively organize when you're weighed down. To create order out of chaos, you must lighten the load -- but the tricky part is figuring out exactly what in your life qualifies as "clutter."
Clearing Out Clutter Of All Kinds
So what's YOUR definition of clutter? Yes yours. This is a very personal question, and the answer is different for each of us -- one man's junk is another's necessity. Some classify clutter according to how long it's been since you touched the item (the old "if you haven't used it in 6 months, get rid of it" mantra) -- but that doesn't always work. You may only USE that punch bowl once a year -- but you keep it because you remember it fondly from your childhood, it's so pretty in your china cabinet, and it makes you feel good to pull it out for special occasions. Completely valid. Rather than assigning arbitrary time limits, I see clutter as anything which eats up time, space, energy, or money without serving a meaningful purpose in your life -- realizing that things can "serve a purpose" even if they aren't used every day.
You might keep some things because they are aesthetically pleasing, have sentimental value, or remind you of the places and people and ideas that you cherish most. Fabulous! But you probably also hang onto stuff you haven't touched in years and don't even like for more self-destructive reasons -- usually having something to do with guilt, worry, or fear. Your goal is to make more room for the items in the first category by allowing yourself to cut back on those in the second. My favorite way of accomplishing this is asking yourself, "Is it beautiful, useful, or loved?" It should seem obvious that you wouldn't want to keep things that are ugly, purposeless, and despised -- but you might be surprised at how much of the "stuff" in your attic wouldn't pass this test!
Of course, any physical mess getting in the way of your daily functioning could be considered clutter -- a stack of paper on the desk, a pile of clothes on the closet floor, a garage you can't fit our car into. But you can also have clutter in other areas of your life -- financial clutter (in the form of spending leaks and money wasted on late fees), clutter in your schedule (time lost on low-priority activities and tasks you don't enjoy), relationship clutter (those toxic people and unfulfilling relationships that make you feel bad and drain your energy), even mental and emotional clutter (all that "junk" floating around in your head that litters your thoughts with jealousy, anger, and unreasonable expectations). The good new is, it's easy to rid yourself of any type of clutter -- as long as you're willing to be honest about what purpose "it" (whatever "it" is) serves in your life.
Don't worry if you're feeling anxious about letting go -- it can be hard to clean out, even when you recognize that your life is overflowing. That's because clutter does actually serve a "purpose," just not a meaningful one -- and over time it becomes harder and harder to break the habit. You might use your "stuff" to fill a void in your life, to shield yourself from worries, or as a reminder of your potential (just think of all those unfinished projects in the back of the closet that you're going to get around to "someday"). Releasing these insecurities is a scary but necessary part of getting organized. It's natural to be worried about what might happen when you toss something that's been taking up room in your life, but the only way to deal with these fears is to face them head on -- envision the worst case scenario and ask yourself how bad it would really be. Will the world end if you chuck that extra stapler? Probably not. Are you going to scar your kids for life if you clean out the toys they no longer play with? I hope not. Will the IRS come after you if you and take away your home and force you to live in a box under the freeway if you pitch that ring binder you haven't used since college? No way! How about if you say "no" the next time you're nominated to chair a committee or asked to work late or tempted to spend more than you can afford on a pair of shoes? Eliminating clutter is easy, once you get clear about your priorities and give yourself permission to let go of the rest.
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posted on: 9/20/2012 11:30:00 AM by Ramona Creel
category: General Organizing Tips
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Can We Have Some Order Here?
by Ramona Creel
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I have been a Professional Organizer for more than 10 years, I am a NAPO Golden Circle member, and I was the original founder of OnlineOrganizing. I have worked one-on-one with scores of clients and have trained dozens of newbie organizers as they got started in the industry. I provide both hands-on and virtual coaching to help clients improve their organizing skills and simplify their lives. I invite you to visit my website at http://www.RamonaCreel.com, and I challenge you to find one new idea that you can put into practice in your life, to help you become better organized, starting TODAY! I am passionate about coaching folks toward a more balanced, productive, and enjoyable life -- and I firmly believe that if I can do it, so can you!
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