Making room for the new isn’t possible without first clearing away the old. Fresh beginnings may seem a faraway possibility when our most personal space suffocates us in clutter.
I shared in a recent post the power there is in creating a supportive environment for our New Year’s resolutions but, if your home is cluttered, the motivation behind those resolutions can lose steam fast. Having to live with the nagging weight of clutter zaps us of the energy we could be devoting to a wonderful new direction in our lives.
Clearing the Chaos
There is value in clearing inner emotional clutter through exercises like the one I mentioned in this post, yet, this feeling of clearing and lightness is amplified exponentially when we do our due diligence in clearing physical clutter.
Stuck in Unmade Choices
It is near to impossible to set up a space to support new ventures when it’s already congested with stuff you’ve put off making a home for. That is what clutter is in my book, unprocessed, delayed decisions about the proper home for an object in your space. A living space that works for you, is ideally two things: 1)comfortable for you and 2)tailored to support the daily activities that make up your lifestyle. Clutter hinders both.
A resolution to eat healthier requires your space to not just put the cookies in a difficult spot to reach (or not buy them at all) but also to replace them in their usual location with fruit and also add new locations. Making the fruit super accessible increases the odds that if their in your face they will go in your mouth. But what if the locations are cluttered?
Crowding Out A Better Choice
How effective will that fruit bowl placement be when it’s competing for your attention with the stuff around it? Will you be easily reaching for that piece of fruit when hungry or will your eyes glaze over in being overwhelmed when you see the looming clutter?
Quietly Taking Over
Clutter can be like an insidious, slowly growing fog of chaotic confusion that blankets your daily activities and before you know it, it’s grown to such a size that that clearing it takes more energy than living with it.
Possessions Not Possessing Us
I’ve come a long way in creating a healthier relationship to stuff. I have plenty to work on of course, yet the 10 following lessons have helped me create new mental habits of defining, on an ongoing basis, what is truly important. They keep in check how we as a family collect possessions and have helped preserve the comfort and spaciousness in our home.
1)Every Object Has a Care Tag
Every object that enters your home requires some amount of your time and energy, even if you don’t interact with it.
I have some books that were lent to me a few months ago and although I am done using them, the person that lent them to me has not requested them and they remain in my space. Every time I pass them by, although my mind may be on a train of thought worlds away from those books, my mind is rerouted to the frustration of having yet not returned them. It will take a minute or two to return to where I was before I saw them and push aside the tinge of anxiety created in those moments.
Those moments spent processing the presence of those objects, drained my energy and took time that could have been spent on something else. A few seconds may not seem like much but those same few seconds every day, add up to a habit of behavior and thinking that over time derail choices from what they would of been, had my home been clutter free.
2)Every Object Needs a Home
An object’s home is a place where upon needing it, is easily retrieved from and returned to when done. When everything has a home, there is a structure, a system, that keeps clutter in check. When tidying up your space there is no-brainer choices in picking things up because you know where they officially belong.
My son brings in art that he makes from school, I have two places that they go, either in our hallway gallery or in a folder in our bookcase. It frequently happens that once every other week he brings home a pile of things that had been collecting in his classroom and it ends up on my coffee table.
Having a folder is a way to manage them without thinking about it too much. My mind automatically knows that if it’s not going on the wall, it’s in the folder. I put the art in it’s place and move on with my day.
3)Clutter Begets Clutter
As if the subconscious mind says “Oh this is a place where things are being ignored? great! I’ll just skooch this one item in there and deal with it later”. Clutter sticks together like dust bunnies and grows in the ignored corners of your home.
4)Clutter Sabotages You
Having clutter can hold you back from being able to look forward to new possibilities. Because it’s so personal and up close, it can be hard to be objective about it and its effects.
There was a time when I would reject invitations to hang out with friends because in my mind “I really needed to organize my stuff”. Eventually I realized that life giving experiences are more valuable to me then maintaining my stuff. Managing my stuff silently ate away at the energy I would of been devoting to new activities and ventures.
5)Donating Stuff Lightens Your Mood
A monthly habit of mine that I have made as a tool on my list of mood lifters is to let something go. This ranks right up there with other happy habits such as exercising, meditating, cooking wholesome foods, listening to music and talking with a friend.
Even if it’s just one object, the relief is palpable! If I need to run to the grocery store, I will check my donation container(more about this later) with giddy excitement in knowing that the book, shoe and clothes donation bins outside the grocery stores will be there ready to accept it. The act of dropping that object off and driving away has me feeling lighter and relieved every time.
6)Every Area Needs a Zone of Activity
I have looked at my home in the same way grocery stores have sections for items. Baking items zones house the oven trays, sugar, flour, frosting, edible decorations etc. Items are not just hanging around out of place there and if they happen to become out of place, they end up in carts ready to speedily be moved back to their proper place.
An example is my bathroom cabinets that house toilet paper, extra soap and shampoo and a section for cleaning that has a small hand sweeper, dustpan, natural cleaning spray bottle for wiping things down, rags, a bag of baking soda, scrubs and garbage bags for the waste basket. The cabinet is the area that takes care of the bathroom needs easily by not needing to go anywhere else.
7)The “Does It Fit?” Rule
When considering a purchase at the store I ask myself “When I take this home, where will it fit?” If my home doesn’t have the sufficient space to house an object then it’s not brought in.
This has helped in toy management with my son as well. He has zones in the home that house his toys for daily play while the basement is a storage zone. When he wants to bring up a new toy from the basement he knows that the rule is that the toy he brings must replace a toy of the same size. The toy he is replacing then must be returned to the basement or be given away. He has to make that choice.
There have been times when the sizes don’t match up and he has had to exchange many toys for one. This has been a great exercise in space management because he has needed to rearrange his toy space to accommodate.
8)Give Up Something to Bring Something
When we bring in new items to the house there are times where the space is not there and so something must be given up. A recent example is with our books, if our bookshelf is already full and we just have to have this new book, then an old one must be given away.
9)Permanent Donation Bin
Having a permanent donations container makes it easy to let things go. Before I’m about to get out the door I take a quick check to see if anything is in there and drop it off. The bin makes it official that this is something we do regularly in small doses as part of our lifestyle. It is usually filled every month particularly around birthdays and Christmas.
10) Space as a Decoration Itself
It took time for me to see that a spacious home is its own decoration. It’s not just about the objects chosen to be in a space, but about the space that surrounds those objects. A side table that has a beautiful framed picture cannot be visually appreciated if it’s crowded on that table with other things. In contrast if it’s one of the only things on the table then I’ve done it justice in displaying it.
Clearing The Slate
In the same way that doing a life review clears our mental and emotional slate in preparing for resolutions, it is equally powerful to take inventory of our home. To what extent does your home actually reflect who you are now? Does your home have the space for welcoming the things and activities you want more of?
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As always thank you for stopping by!