Declutter Your Life: Reduce Stress, Increase Productivity, and Enjoy Your Clutter-Free Life

Declutter Your
Life

 

Reduce Stress,
Increase Productivity, and Enjoy Your Clutter-Free Life

 

 

 

By Michelle
Stewart

 

 

 

 

Declutter Your Life: Reduce
Stress, Increase Productivity, and Enjoy Your Clutter-Free Life
/ by Michelle
Stewart

 

Copyright © 2012 by Michelle
Stewart
,
LifeIteration.com
. All Rights
Reserved. Published in the United States by Unique Vision Press. First Edition.

You are welcome to use a short
excerpt of this book for review or critique purposes.

Table of Contents

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Clutter-Free Life Starting Today

A friend of mine recently lost her husband in a tragic accident. Her friends and family rallied around her, but she was reluctant to let people into her home so they could assist her. People offered to cook, clean or simply visit with her, but she was very selective with the offers of help and many people did not know why. It was only weeks later that I learned that she were ashamed of the state of her house. There was clutter throughout the home and outbuildings and it would take her months to go through it all.

Perhaps you have a similar situation. If you are reluctant to invite friends for dinner or scared to look in your own closet, then you might have a problem with clutter. You should not be ashamed, however. Clutter is a very common problem and can occur in almost any area of our lives. The key is admitting to the clutter, creating a plan for dealing with it, and taking immediate and consistent action to guard against clutter in the long-term.

The Truth About Clutter

Often, we think of clutter in terms of physical stuff. We see books and magazines spilled across the coffee table, extra dishes stacked on the counter, and clothing draped over the dresser, the treadmill and any other available surface in the bedroom. The truth is that clutter can also be an emotional, mental and social issue. If you have trouble getting to sleep because your mind is crowded with competing thoughts or you are exhausted by jam-packed weekly schedules, then you may need to deal with clutter of a different sort.

To define clutter, first you need to know what clutter is not. Clutter is not dirt. You can be the best housekeeper in the world when it comes to mopping the floor and scrubbing the tub, but still succumb to clutter on your shelf and desk.

Clutter is not hoarding. Hoarding involves a specific and often unhealthy process of keeping unnecessary amounts of stuff. Clutter generally involves an unintentional collection of items throughout your space or home. Hoarding may require outside intervention while clutter requires a commitment to organization.

Clutter is not necessarily the same thing as a collection. My husband’s aunt collects odds and ends from around the world. She displays them in cabinets or on shelves. Although her house is full of collectibles, it does not have a feeling of clutter. This is because she has an organized manner of displaying her items and she does not keep them in walkways or areas of common use like kitchen counters or the dining table.

The Origins of Clutter

Before removing clutter, it is a good idea to find out its origin. You would not scoop rising water from your basement without first closing off the source of the leak. Clutter comes from every person living in a home. Kids create tons of clutter by leaving toys out, dragging home small goodies from parties or kid’s meals, and collecting sets of toys like Barbie’s and Legos.

Adults generate clutter in a similar manner. We often think we are too busy to put something in the proper place, so we set it on the dining table for later. Those things add up and before you know it, a small pile is growing. You might also gain clutter through junk mail, catalogs and magazine subscriptions.

The key to organizing your clutter is recognizing that you play a role in creating it. Often, families never make it through a declutter process because they are too busy blaming each other for the problem. By admitting that every person plays a role in the clutter, you can move forward to finding a solution.

The Cost of Clutter in Your Life

Whether or not you realize it, clutter has a price in your life. It could be costing you in areas of productivity, finances, emotional well-being and physical health. Everyone deals with clutter in his/her own way and each person’s clutter threshold is different. For example, when I was a teenager my mother would say, “You have got to clean that room! It is a mess and there is stuff everywhere!” What was chaos to her ended up being a couple of pairs of jeans thrown over furniture and several books scattered on the floor. On the other end, my husband had a small office in our home. For several years, you could not even reach the farthest wall due to stacks of paper and boxes of electronics. His clutter threshold is obviously higher than my mother’s, but there is a happy medium between absolute order and reigning chaos. It is in that happy medium that most people will find the best state.

The Cost in Productivity

One of the most common costs of clutter has to do with productivity and time. If you lose five minutes every morning searching for something that is not in the right place, then you are giving up over 30 hours per year. If that does not seem like a lot to you, here are some things you can enjoy or do in 30 hours:

  • Watch 15 movies,
  • Read three to six books,
  • Take an overnight trip, or
  • Earn 30 hours of overtime at your job.

Clutter at your office desk can cost minutes every day and can even result in lost work. Social clutter may cause you to overbook appointments or waste time with poorly made plans. Mental clutter can slow you down and even cause anxiety that keeps you from necessary tasks. No matter how you slice it, clutter interferes with your ability to get things done.

The Cost in Dollars

Clutter can hit your wallet and you never realize it. The kitchen in our home is galley style with minimal cabinet and counter space. My husband repurposed three old cabinets and put them in the basement to act as an overflow pantry. The space quickly became cluttered, mostly because I did not feel like going into the basement to check on our canned good needs every time I shopped or cooked. Additionally, one of the cabinets was out of my reach and required a stool for access. It was a perfect breeding ground for clutter and we did see a financial impact. I often bought items we already had and used things out of date order. The result was that we threw away expired food on several occasions before we reorganized our food storage.

Other ways you might see a cost in dollars include buying replacement items for those that you cannot find or that are damaged in the clutter. If you do find an item that was part of a pile or unorganized shelf, you might find that it was damaged and need to pay for repair costs. However, the cost of clutter is not only related to the accumulation in your home or office. It can also generate from the actions that lead to clutter in the first place.

Buying items that you do not need, do not have a place for or are purchasing on an impulse can lead to clutter. They also cost money that you could spend on things you really need or save for a rainy day. Retail establishments play to our impulses by creating attractive displays at the end of aisles, putting things on sale and using a variety of proven psychological methods to increase the amount of items customers bring to the check out. One of my weaknesses is buying things that are on sale for a great deal. If an item is regularly $20 but is marked down to $11, I think I save $9. My husband is quick to point out that we did not need the item or plan to buy it. Thus, instead of saving $9, we spent $11.

The Cost in Physical Health

Some people suffer physical ailments due to clutter in their living space or office. Clutter causes an accumulation of dust and other particles, leading to problems with allergies. Excessive clutter provides a breeding ground for rodents, insects and other pests. You may not realize that pests are building nests or leaving biological waste throughout your home, but your lungs will eventually catch on. In addition to diseases that can be carried through insect or flea bites, excessive clutter may increase the chance of developing or aggravating respiratory problems like asthma.

Even if you do not have clutter to an excess that would allow pest problems, there is still the potential for injury. My husband collects vintage home audio and video equipment. At times, this equipment will sit in one of our open spaces while he waits for parts or determines where to put it. I have walked around a piece of furniture and stubbed my toe or banged my knee on a number of occasions. Luckily those injuries were minor, but when clutter expands into the walkways of your home, you increase the risks of dangerous slips and falls.

The Cost in Mental Health

At the beginning of this book, I shared the story about my grieving friend. At a time when she was already under a great deal of stress and emotional torment, the clutter in her home added more. You do not have to be in a tragic situation to suffer mental costs associated with clutter. One of the most common emotional or mental issues associated with clutter is stress. Often, this occurs when you consider having people over but you want to present a nice home. Rallying the family to last minute cleaning can be a difficult and stressful task, lessening the enjoyment of a social gathering.

You can also experience clutter-related stress simply because you are constantly aware of the stuff around you. Perhaps you would prefer a more organized home but you cannot find the time to declutter your space. In these cases, we often enter a dangerous mental cycle. We avoid thinking about the problem for as long as possible. Then, something occurs which brings the problem to the forefront. We might have company coming or the search for a needed item makes us late for work. We resolve to fix the issue but cannot find time. Many people start to develop feelings of guilt regarding the situation and that turns into burying the problem again. As time goes by, such mental high jinx can lead to anxiety or depression.

The Psychology of Clutter

If any of the costs of clutter discussed in the above section resonate with you, then you may want to declutter your space and stop paying those prices. Before you can create a plan for ongoing organization and declutter, you need to understand some things about the psychology of clutter. Understanding the thought processes that lead to clutter will help you stop it from occurring over and over again. After all, clearing away the mess only to allow it increase again meets Einstein’s definition of insanity.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
–Albert Einstein
Why We Keep Things

Physical clutter occurs because we keep items in our homes or offices. One of the key things to conquering clutter is to understand why you keep the things you do. Generally, we keep extra or unneeded items around because we believe we might need them in the future, we have a sentimental attachment to them or we perceive a value in the object that makes it hard to throw away.

A Possible Future Need

It is amazing what we keep because we might need it in the future. My husband keeps all sorts of cardboard boxes and containers. He might need to store something or ship something. I have a problem with hanging on to bits and pieces of craft supplies. I will keep a tiny ball of yarn because I might incorporate it into a future crochet project. It matters very little that I rarely have time to crochet anymore or that I do not like the color. I perceive a possible future use, so I am hard pressed to toss out an otherwise useless item. In our basement at this moment, we have several half used cans of house paint, a stack of old carpet squares and a few odd bits of plywood. We have no plans for using these items in the immediate future, but we still hold onto them.

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