Clutter has an insidious way of sneaking into our homes. You clear a counter, turn around, and BAM there it is again. Something has made its way back onto that clear counter. Getting rid of clutter is something all my clients want to accomplish for a variety of reasons.
Remove Clutter, Reduce Stress
Clutter can stress us out. Too much stuff piled around creates visual chaos. Conversely, clutter free spaces can be calming. We used to be able to walk out the door and forget about the mess while we were out. Now, we rarely leave our homes.
During this pandemic, our homes serve multiple purposes. They are where we do everything. It used to be that we spent less time in our homes and more time elsewhere. It’s the opposite now. We spend almost all of our time in our homes and as little time as possible (unless you work outside your home) elsewhere. For some homes are also a daycare, a school, and a summer camp.
Getting rid of clutter and concentrating on having only the things which support our lifestyle in our home makes it easier this place to be where we live, work, play, relax, and socialize virtually.
How to Recognize Clutter
Sadly, there is no magic potion to get rid of clutter and have it always stay away. Clutter comes and goes. The trick is to recognize it when it comes in and then to know how to remove it.
There are two steps to this process. The first step is to clear the clutter. The second step is to put boundaries or rules in place to make it easier to get rid of when it reappears. Next week I will talk about creating boundaries and rules.
Here are My 5 Tips for Getting Rid of Clutter
- Open your eyes and pay attention. I know that sounds silly. We walk around with our eyes open, but we do not always pay attention to the objects we see. We grow so accustomed to our surroundings that we anticipate what we are going to see in certain places in our homes. Open your eyes, pay attention to the things on the surfaces. Clutter gathers on flat surfaces.
- Don’t put it down, put it away. We often put things down on flat surfaces intending to deal with them or put them away later. Later is not a time. When we tell ourselves we will do it later we are giving ourselves permission to ignore it. Get rid of clutter on flat surfaces by putting the book back on the shelf, the scissors away in the drawer, the clothes in the closet, and the list goes on.
- Create a pending box. One of the reasons clutter gathers is because we don’t know what to do with whatever is hanging around. Take a box (a small one) and use it to contain those items. Plan to look in the box at least once a week and figure out what to do with the contents. Limit yourself to one pending box and empty it as often as you can.
- Have a donate box. In addition to a pending box, have a donate box. Often things waiting to be donated are the things cluttering up our flat surfaces. Take them off the flat surfaces and put them in a donate box. When the box is full take it to the donation site of your choice.
- Continually re-evaluate what you keep. Some people say clutter is the result of delayed decisions. We hang onto things that we aren’t using because we think we may want them someday. I’m here to tell you that we don’t have a day called someday. We have Monday through Sunday – no Someday. So, if you’re telling yourself you may want this item someday take a minute to re-evaluate that item. Ask yourself if you can replace it easily and if it is relatively inexpensive. If the answer is Yes, donate the item. If the answer is No, find a place to put it away.
As our habits change, the things we use which support those habits change also. We can call those things clutter because they no longer serve a purpose in our lives. Instead of letting those things linger in cupboards and closets, taking up valuable real estate, re-evaluate them. Get rid of that clutter if no longer supports the way you are living your life. Click here for a guide to help you declutter your home room by room.
If getting rid of clutter from your home or organizing your belongings so that its easy to put them away is difficult for you send me a message to schedule a time to talk.
Diane N. Quintana is a Certified Professional Organizer®, Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization®, Master Trainer and owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC based in Atlanta, Georgia. Diane teaches busy people how to become organized and provides them with strategies and solutions for maintaining order in their lives.
That idea of having a donation box is surprisingly powerful, especially if everyone in the home is aware of it and feels comfortable using it. So many times we just put something back that we don’t really want or use because we don’t know where else to put it. We tell ourselves we will just deal with it later, but then we inevitably forget. Terrific tip!
Yes! When we know where to put stuff – even things we don’t want any more it empowers us to deal with it.
Recently, I was on a training call, and one of the other students said that where she lives, in Australia, as the country started reopening, organizers’ phones were ringing off the hook. It’s for the exact reason that you described. Being confined at home during the pandemic, more people were “opening their eyes” and noticing the clutter. Not only did they see it, but the clutter was causing them stress and anxiety in a way that they hadn’t previously experienced. They want help to declutter and make their homes feel more peaceful and calm.
Exactly! I think we are realizing that our homes are serving so many functions now. It’s best if we make good use of the space available instead of cluttering it up with stuff. Having only the things we truly use and love makes us feel calm and reduces stress.
I do find that we get numb of the clutter in our homes. Being home more often has made people more aware of the clutter they did not want or need in their homes. It is lovely to see the people in our development we are a part of getting rid of stuff and improving their home. It just increases the value of everyone’s house in the neighborhood. Thanks for sharing these reminders.
Numb is a good way to describe the feeling, Sabrina. I agree, it’s lovely to notice people taking more of an interest in having only the things they really use and love in their homes.
During this pandemic, I’m finding myself dealing with the clutter of two children and a husband home practically 24/7. I think they’ve become ‘clutter-blind’ to it but their mommy has not! We cleaned our house and went through school papers over the weekend but this week we’re going to have what I call a ‘find-your-flotsam-a home’ day. If that doesn’t work, I’m printing out your #1 tip from above and reading it to them!
I know! My son and his wife have a darling 2 1/2 year old little girl. They have become truly vigilant making her put away one toy before taking out another because, until recently, they were working full time as well as caring for their daughter. It’s a tough road when you have your entire family home 24/7. Let me know how it goes.
“We don’t have a day called someday…later is not a time…” Those are truly words to live by, Diane. I’ve also heard a fair number of “just for now”s which are never just for now. You’re so right, cluttery chickens have come home to roost as we all spend so much more time at home.
Thank you, Lucy! I’m adding ‘just for now’ to my collection of things not to say when talking about time.