There is clutter, and then there is clutter. Some clutter is deep rooted, emotionally charged, and physically intimidating. Taming it demands an investment of time and energy. Surface clutter, the clutter that piles up on a day to day basis, mostly the result of procrastination, can be significantly reduced by implementing a few simple clutter-busting behaviors.
There are two simple steps involved in eliminating surface clutter.
Start by training yourself to notice things that are out of place. One way to do this is to routinely scan a room to identify items that have strayed from their proper home. As you practice scanning, make a mental note of the kinds of clutter that tend to pile up. This will give you a sense of where systems are needed. In particular, be on the lookout for common contributors of clutter – dishes, mail, clothing, etc.
The next step is to begin turning clutter-building habits into clutter-busting behaviors. It’s easier than you might think. To help you get started, I’ve identified five common problem areas and suggestions for building clutter-busting behaviors. These simple habits can significantly reduce the daily buildup of clutter. Consistently do these five things, and I guarantee you’ll notice a difference in the amount of surface clutter in your home.
The bed is the focal point of the bedroom, and as such, it has the power to dictate the mood of the space. A rumpled, unmade bed is an invitation to be messy. Clothing, shoes, and other articles strewn lazily about look perfectly at home with an unmade bed. On the other hand, a neatly made bed communicates order and inspires tidiness. To toss things about sloppily in such a space creates a sense of discord and unease. In essence, the space feels at odds with itself.
A made bed communicates something to its owner as well. It says, “I care. I’m invested in my space and myself.” Simply making the bed starts each day off on the right foot. Before leaving the bedroom, you have accomplished something productive and set a positive tone for the day.
It’s tempting to toss dirty dishes in the sink and walk away, but like an unmade bed, a sink full of dirty dishes sends a message that order is not a priority. It also serves as a nagging irritant. Those dirty dishes are a constant reminder of a thing that requires your attention. The fact that you’re not dealing with it can lead to feelings of guilt. The more dishes that pile up, the less appealing the task becomes, and the more you’ll feel like procrastinating. The longer you procrastinate, the more dishes pile up and the more time consuming the task becomes.
Before you know it, a few dirty dishes can lead to a whole lot of [unnecessary] stress. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Try these tips for controlling dirty dishes – so they won’t control you.
Clothing, whether dirty or clean, can be a major culprit in contributing to clutter. The funny thing is, it only takes a few seconds to hang up or put away a single article of clothing, barely more time than it takes to dump it on the floor, the bed, the furniture, etc. If, however, it’s left to pile up over the course of days, the time required to put things where they belong increases significantly. The key is to set yourself and your family up for success.
This can be achieved by simplifying the process as much as possible. Here are some examples:
For many people, there is something truly intimidating about mail. Mail requires decision making, and we often encounter it at a point in the day when we’re tired of making decisions. So, we leave it to deal with later, and before long, it has become an overwhelming pile. On the other hand, if you’re only dealing with a single day’s mail, it only takes a few minutes (sometimes less) to complete the task.
The secret to preventing pile up is to develop (and utilize) a system for dealing with the mail. Designate a spot for opening the mail each day. Make sure there is a pair of scissors or letter opener nearby. It’s also useful to have a bin handy for recycling junk mail. As soon as the mail enters your house, sort it according to type: things to be recycled (put them directly into the bin), things to be shredded, things that require immediate attention (to do now), and things that require action but can wait (to do later). Have a place for each type of item, and immediately put items in their proper place. If you have time to deal with an item that requires action, do it.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but a lot of clutter collects from people walking in the door and dumping whatever they're carrying. The best way to prevent this is to have a place for things like purses, keys, coats, and shoes, and put them in their place as soon as you enter.
If you’ve made purchases, put them away. If you’re carrying the mail, deal with it. Most things can be put away in a matter of minutes (or less). Not putting things away leaves the home feeling cluttered and invites buildup over time which requires significantly more effort to be dealt with.
Try implementing these five suggestions for conquering surface clutter. I think you'll find that it helps a great deal with controlling the overall clutter in your home.
Clutter is a byproduct of choice. With every advance in technology our choices increase, and with those increasing choices comes an increase in clutter. There are several reasons why this is true.
In some cases, advancing technology produces products we’ve never seen before but are sure we need to improve the quality of our lives. Sometimes, a newer, nicer version causes us to feel dissatisfied with our existing product, so we go out and by a replacement. Instead of actually replacing the outdated item, though, we hold onto it because “it’s still good” or “it might be worth something”. Thus, clutter is born.
People think the answer to their clutter problem is more space, but in reality, the answer is almost always less stuff. A surefire way to control clutter is to limit your choices. As a bonus, controlling clutter by limiting choices can actually lead to increased happiness. Studies show that the fewer choices we have, the more satisfied and content we feel.
Lauren Migliore explains it this way in her article “I Can’t Decide! Why An Increase in Choices Decreases Our Happiness”:
If too many choices lead to unhappiness and too much stuff leads to clutter, then a simple approach to this problem is to place limits on how much stuff we keep. The key is to make mindful decisions based on naturally (or in some cases self) imposed constraints. Such constraints can be spatial in nature, or they can be numeric.
Spatial constraints result when you let the available space determine what you keep. For instance, if you’re a book lover, but you only have space for one bookcase in your apartment, then the number of books you keep should be limited to the capacity of your bookcase. Books that don’t fit on the bookcase become clutter, and as such, they lose their identity, becoming part of the landscape.
If you are a crafter and you have a large closet available for storing craft supplies, then you must limit your craft supplies to what can be contained within that closet. Find ways to maximize the space and then minimize your supplies, keeping only those things you know you’ll actually use.
Young children are natural hoarders. They are unable to assign realistic value to things. In their eyes, the cheap plastic toy that came with their lunch is as valuable as the $50 building set they got for their last birthday. Value is directly linked to ownership. I own it, therefore it’s important to me. If left to their own devices, children’s rooms can quickly become overwhelmed with school papers, personal artwork, completed coloring books, birthday party favors, happy meal toys, bits of erasers and pencils, old greeting cards, etc.
A great way to compromise with your kids while simultaneously containing their clutter is to assign them a keepsake box. You determine the size of the box. They determine what goes inside. When the box starts to get full, it’s time to reassess its contents. This is the responsibility of the child. It is the space, and not the parent, that is limiting what they can keep, so you don’t have to be the bad guy, always threatening to toss things out. In addition, the child learns several important skills to include decision making, evaluating the true value of things, and self-limiting (because no matter what popular culture implies, we can’t have it all).
When there are no inherent restraints, you must create your own. Learn to limit yourself by deciding in advance how many of something you will own (shoes, handbags, kitchen gadgets, tubes of lipstick, video games, coffee mugs, etc.). Just because you have four functional pizza cutters in your kitchen drawer, that doesn’t mean you need four pizza cutters. Pick your favorite and part with the rest.
In order to remain within the numeric limits you set for yourself it will be necessary to purge regularly. When you find a black sweater you can't live without, go ahead and get it. Then sort through the six black sweaters already in your closet and choose one to part with.
Enjoy the Liberating Affects of Constraints
Too often we fret over things we don’t really want or need, or in some cases even like. We limit ourselves by remaining tied to things that don’t speak to our hearts or serve a valuable purpose in our lives. Instead of limiting yourself, I recommend limiting your stuff. Rather than worrying about what you spent, or who gave you something, or whether or not a thing still has value, try focusing on living comfortably within your space. I think you’ll find it tremendously liberating.
Purging, decluttering, downsizing – these are all different ways of referring to the process of pairing down one’s belongings. Whatever you call it, this process is often thought of in negative terms – what must I get rid of? The problem is most people like their stuff and are therefore reluctant to part with it, even if they recognize they have way too much.
Asking “What must I get rid of?” puts a negative emphasis on the decluttering process. This is unfortunate because there are many positive effects that come from reducing the excess in our lives. Reframing this and other questions associated with purging or decluttering can make the process simpler and less stressful.
The purpose of stuff is to make our lives easier and more enjoyable. Every thing serves a function. In some cases, the function is simply to make someone smile. Often, however, we become weighed down by our things, and instead of adding to our well-being, they detract from it. To truly understand what it is you want from your stuff, you need to look deeper at what you want out of life.
If your clutter is causing you stress, then you’re not living your ideal life. What does that life look like? If your home and life were clutter-free, what would you do with your new-found freedom? What would your environment look like? How would you spend your time? How would your space feel?
The answers to these questions will help you develop a vision for your space and your stuff as a support structure for your ideal life.
Once you have a vision of your ideal life, you can put that vision to work to help you create an environment wherein you can thrive. It can be helpful to generate mental and visual imagery to inspire, energize, and motivate you throughout the decluttering process.
Start by writing a vision statement for your ideal life and/or space. If you’re having difficulty articulating your vision, try brainstorming words that characterize what you’re striving for. These could be words that describe the space itself such as comfortable, classy, spacious, clutter-free, cozy, peaceful, homey, inviting, timeless, open, kid-friendly, rustic, personal, etc. You can also list words or phrases that illustrate how you want to live in or use the space such as relax, unwind, meditate, entertain, create, play, read, watch movies, or exercise, to name a few.
Another way to capture your vision is through images. Look for pictures on the internet or in magazines of interiors or activities that epitomize your desires. Print them or cut them out and use them to create a vision board. Place your board where you will see it frequently. It’s important that your vision board is readily visible without having to open a book or log on to your computer. It needs to be out on display to be truly effective as a source of inspiration.
Please note that the goal here is to embrace a realistic vision for the space you live in, not a 4,000 square foot dream home with an ocean view, game room, sauna, and bocce ball court (unless, of course, that accurately describes your current home). Whether you live in a tiny one-bedroom apartment or a rambling 1960’s ranch-style home in need of renovation, focus on idealizing your space. Keep the dream home as a long-term goal, but make a short-term goal of loving where you live now. Among military families this is referred to as ‘blooming where you’re planted’.
This blog post began with a question – What must I get rid of? When your focus is on positive purging, you ask different questions. Instead of fixating on what you have to part with, your emphasis shifts to what you’re going to keep. Your vision statement becomes the litmus test for determining what things deserve a place in your home. Instead of asking “What must I get rid of?”, consider asking questions such as:
Focus on finding your treasures, those things that speak to your heart and support your needs and desires for your home and your lifestyle. Positive purging is mindful purging – purging with an inspired purpose. When you purge positively, you don’t have to think about how much you spent on an item, or whether it might be useful someday, or who might be offended if you get rid of something. Instead, you concentrate on the lifestyle you want to foster.
Some stuff is junk and as such it belongs in the trash, but many items have value, even if they no longer serve a purpose for us personally. This is, of course, one reason people struggle to get rid of things they really don’t want or need. Positive purging has two facets. The first is focusing on what you want and need to keep to meet your own needs and desires. The second is finding a happy and appropriate home for those things you’re letting go. This can be achieved in a variety of ways.
Many people hold onto empty containers thinking they may come in handy. These include glass jars, plastic containers with lids or shaker tops, empty pill bottles or film canisters, and cardboard boxes in all shapes and sizes. If you do not have an immediate use for these items, get rid of them. If at all possible, please recycle them. Other items still in serviceable condition can be given to others or sold. Knowing your unneeded items are going to a good home can make parting easier. You can feel good about helping the environment and/or helping those whose circumstances are less fortunate than your own.
Taking a positive approach to purging can turn a painful process into an exciting quest for peace of mind, personal satisfaction, and overall well-being.
If you found this page helpful, please share it with others you know who may be struggling with decluttering. Please leave me a comment as well in the section below. I would love to hear from you!
Lessons in Setting and Successfully Achieving Goals
Google defines the word resolution as follows: “a firm decision to do or not to do something”. Every January millions of people around the world make resolutions in a well-intentioned attempt to recommit themselves to achieving their goals. At first glance, the new year seems like an opportune time to reinvent oneself, yet so many of us struggle to see the process through to a successful conclusion.
I confess, I am among those who routinely make well-intentioned commitments to improve myself each year. Unfortunately, I am also among the millions whose enthusiasm for change quickly wanes with the passing days and weeks. This year, instead of starting strong and petering out, I have struggled even to get moving in the right direction. Already February is nearly behind us and I am really only beginning to make progress on my resolutions.
As I have pondered the reasons for my sluggish attempts at personal betterment, I have discovered a few truths (and created some resources) that I have found useful in motivating and inspiring me to stick with it. I hope they will motivate and inspire you as well.
We often get this backwards. We assume that we must motivate ourselves to take action. In reality, motivation is a byproduct of success. As we experience success, we feel motivated to continue. The real key to success is action. We just have to do it, whatever it is. Taking action will yield results. Those results will make us feel good. The more results we achieve, the more motivated we become to continue our efforts.
My husband is in great shape. He has been our entire marriage. He works hard to stay that way. Despite all his experience and accomplishments, I have had little success trying to implement his ideas of a good workout regimen for me. This is because no one, no matter how well-intentioned, can determine your goals for you. Others can give advice and offer support, but to have any hope of succeeding, goals have to come from within. They must reflect your most sincere desires for yourself.
Most of us are intimately familiar with that little voice inside our heads that regularly reminds us of the myriad ways in which we fall short of our own expectations and potential. It’s our inner critic, and its main purpose is to keep us safely and securely within our comfort zone. Kerri L. Richardson explains it this way in her book What Your Clutter is Trying to Tell You (affiliate link):
Overcoming the negative influence of the inner critic is a two-step process. First you have to determine what it is about your goal that intimidates you. What are you afraid of? Next, you have to convince the inner critic that the benefits outweigh the risks. One way to achieve this is by breaking your goal down into manageable parts that you can easily wrap your head around.
As humans we value immediate rewards. The problem is, most goals require long term effort in order to experience the full payoff. To stay motivated until the goal is achieved, it’s helpful to manufacture rewards along the way. This can be done in a number of ways. One method is to establish milestones throughout the process and reward yourself when each milestone is achieved. Another approach is to pair things you enjoy with tasks you dread, like listening to your favorite music, audio book, or podcast while exercising.
James Clear, author of Atomic Habits (affiliate link), explains the process of getting your Present Self to do the work your Future Self needs you to do in his article “Procrastination: A Scientific Guide on How to Stop Procrastinating”.
I recently took a business class in which we chose ‘action partners’ and made weekly commitments. An action partner is someone who follows up with you to check on your progress and offers support and encouragement. In this case our action partners were classmates, and we were all working on similar goals. Outside the classroom, the principle can still be applied with friends or family members who may or may not be working on similar goals. I loved having an action partner. It was fun rejoicing together over our accomplishments, and it was nice to know that someone was rooting for my success.
Each week as part of the commitment process, we would sign a page in our books on which our commitments were written, and our action partners would sign the page as well. Something about signing my name made the process more meaningful. I felt accountable and invested.
I came to realize through this process that there is real power in making and keeping commitments. And the person who most needs your commitment is you. If you're not committed to yourself and your own well-being, you're really no good to anyone else. One of the printables offered below reflects this truth. It's called Commitments to Myself, and it's purpose is to help me (and hopefully you) look at goals in a new way - as a personal commitment to move closer to becoming the best version of myself.
When setting goals, it’s usually pretty easy to determine what it is you want to achieve. Equally important, though, is the why behind your desire to make a change in your life, learn a new skill, or replace a bad habit with a good one. Your "why" is your foundation. It’s the basis for your motivation, and it can fuel your determination to continue when you feel discouraged.
Another critical consideration with respect to goal setting is the how – how will you go about achieving your goal? Most goals require multiple steps over a period of time. Determining how you will break them down will help make your goal manageable and allow you to measure your progress over time.
A final point worth pondering is how you will respond to discouragement, disappointment, or burnout. I have found it useful to determine in advance a statement of affirmation that I can use to remind myself of my why when my enthusiasm starts to dwindle. There is space allotted on my Goal Setting Worksheet printable (available below) for recording an affirmation statement.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I've developed a few resources to help me create and stick to my goals. Click on the image below to gain access to my free printables library which includes these, as well as many other pages, for download.
If you found this page helpful, please share it on social media. Please leave me a quick comment as well in the section below. I'd love to hear from you!
Earlier this week I was talking with a new client who needs help decluttering so that she can clear some space to 'set up Christmas'. It got me thinking, and it occurred to me that the holiday season is actually the perfect time to do some purging!
My client identified one reason this is the case. But there are many other good reasons to declutter prior to Christmas. For one thing, many people have house guests for the holidays, and having people in your home is always a good motivator for cutting the clutter.
If setting up Christmas leaves you wondering where you're going to put stuff, consider doing a pre-Christmas purge. Prime candidates for purging this time of year include the following:
A quick and easy way to clear away a ton of visible clutter is to do a surface purge. Declutter your kitchen and bathroom countertops, dining room table, coffee table, and any other surfaces where papers and other junk collect. You'll be amazed how much less cluttered your home looks and feels!
Another excellent way to quickly and effectively reduce clutter is by thinning out your entry closet as well as any surfaces or storage areas located in your home's entry. These areas tend to become dumping grounds as family members hurriedly rush in and out. Take a few moments to toss out and tidy up and everyone entering your home will feel the positive effects. This is a good time to donate coats and other outerwear that no longer fits anyone in your family (or that never gets worn). Also look for gloves with holes or that are missing their mates and any other items that have outlived their usefulness.
Christmas is a great time to purge clothing. The change in seasons means a change in wardrobe. As you pull out those sweaters and long sleeves evaluate whether or not they're actually going to get worn. Maybe they're a little too well worn, and it's time to toss them out. Also take a moment to evaluate your warm weather wardrobe. Are there pieces you didn't wear at all this year? If so, consider getting rid of them instead of storing them.
Whether you're expecting house guests this holiday season or not, it's a good idea to sort through all your extra bedding and get rid of anything that is worn out or excess. Two sets of sheet per bed is plenty.
I'm embarrassed to tell you how many table cloths inhabit my linen closet. Let's just say I speak from experience when I say that this is a good time of year to evaluate how many table cloths, cloth napkins, table runners, place mats, etc. you actually need and use. The rest can find a good home elsewhere and brighten someone else's table. Unless, of course, they are permanently stained or otherwise damaged, in which case they shouldn't be taking up space in your closet or cabinet.
A lot of people have special serving pieces that they only use during the holidays. An equal number of people have special serving pieces they never use... ever. Don't feel obligated to hold on to your great aunt's soup tureen unless you know what a soup tureen is for and have an actual use for one. Clear out any unused serving and bakeware you do not use.
While we're in the kitchen, it's a great idea to declutter the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer and make space for all those delightful holiday foods. Identify items that are expired and toss them out. This includes mystery items in your freezer or items that are crusted over with a sheet of ice. Also look for non-perishable foods that are still good that you simply aren't using, either because you don't want them or you have a bigger surplus than you can reasonably use. Donate these items to a food pantry and help others have a happy holiday season.
Purging toys prior to Christmas accomplishes a couple of valuable goals. First it clears away clutter and frees up space for whatever Santa may bring. It's also a great opportunity to teach children about the spirit of giving by helping them choose toys to donate to others.
Clear off prime shelf and cabinet space by decluttering unused books, movies, and games (including video games). This is an area where you can frequently find ample candidates for decluttering. Look for books no one has read, movies and games your family has outgrown, games that are missing essential pieces, and video games from outdated systems.
Instead of holding onto those half lit strings of lights, toss them out. Do you have decorations that sit in your attic, basement, or garage through the holiday season, never seeing the light of day? Give them up. As you put up your holiday decorations, get rid of any that no longer appeal to you or have gone unused for one reason or another (missing pieces, broken, etc.). Think how lovely it will be to have less to put away and more space in which to store it!
A few minutes each day spent purging the unused and unwanted from your home is a great way to prepare for a clutter-free holiday season.
It's that time of year. Holiday decorations are popping up, Black Friday is just around the corner. Time to start thinking about what to give all the people on your gift list this year. As you plan your holiday shopping, consider giving the gift of organization. It truly is the universal gift. Literally everyone, be they young or old, male or female, can benefit from a little more organization in their life.
Here are some of my favorite organization gifts (to give and receive) to help inspire you as you plan your holiday gift list. Note: this post contains affiliate links.
The organizer has 12 total pockets: 4 exterior and 8 interior. One set of interior pockets is removable to allow for larger items.
headphones, flash drives, memory cards, external hard drives, tablets, and other electronic doodads safe and organized for travel. Great for a student, a business person, or anyone who carries multiple electronic devices.
If you're feeling really fancy an even better option is a wireless charging station. Instead of keeping the cords contained in one convenient location, it does away with the need for cords altogether!
In the case of cell phones, it will cause your phone to ring, even when it's set to silent. If you have a habit of forgetting where you parked, place a Tile Mate in your car. Instead of wandering the parking lot looking flummoxed, open the Tile app, and it will lead you to your car.
A quick swipe back and forth is all it takes to conceal personal information (or any information for that matter). I accidentally covered up a code we needed for a recall on one of our vehicles using the stamp. In my defense, the code was printed directly above my address... There was no deciphering the information. I had to call the company issuing the recall to get the code. The stamp works! When the ink gets low, replacement cartridges are available.
Eyeglass stands come in a variety of fun styles. Here are a few more cute options to choose from:
The bottle is insulated, so it keeps hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold for hours. The best part about this bottle is that it makes a great gift for anyone - children or adults.
I recently participated in a vendor show where I was required to provide a raffle prize. I brought an assortment of organizational pads such as you see here. They were a huge hit!
I know at least two ladies who would love such a gift. Now to choose the right one...
I hope this list has helped you to find the perfect organization gift for someone on your shopping list. Or maybe you found an item or two you'd like to add to your own wish list... Whatever the case, I wish you a joyous holiday season and a prosperous New Year.
Twenty years ago my husband came home with this bulky wooden file cabinet. He paid $5 for it at a furniture sale put on by the university where he was working at the time. He's been enamored with it ever since. I, however, have been looking for an opportunity to get rid of it.
When the file cabinet first graced our abode, it was painted what my husband calls OD (olive drab) green - like old army fatigues. To add to it's charm, it was covered in an assortment of free stickers - the kind that come in promotional mailings for things like the World Wildlife Federation and AAA - most of which had apparently bonded with the wood fibers at a molecular level making them nearly impossible to remove.
I hated it because it was big and ugly. He loved it because it was sturdy, it held tons of files, and it would cost a small fortune to replace it with something of equal quality and size. I couldn't refute his arguments, but that didn't stop me from plotting it's removal.
was disappointed with the results would be a gross understatement. Still, it was an improvement.
Fast forward another ten years to the present. Recently we have turned our basement bedroom into my office. As I considered furniture options for the new space, I felt certain the time had come to bid the file cabinet farewell. Of course, that isn't what happened.
When I showed my husband the furniture I had picked out for the new office he wanted to know why I was spending money on a file cabinet when we already owned one that was bigger and better (he left out ten times uglier). At first I was annoyed, but eventually I had to admit that he had a valid point. While the file cabinet I had picked out was lighter and much less bulky, it was also obviously of lesser quality.
The only thing to be done was the thing I had been avoiding for twenty years. I would have to transform the hated cabinet myself, so that is what I did.
What do you think? I painted the top and the trim white (which I already had on hand from another project). Then I painted the drawer fronts and the main body with chalkboard paint. I also replaced the drawer pulls. To be honest, it really wasn't that hard (except for the drawer pulls which didn't quite fit into the old holes...), and I have to confess - I kind of like it.