7 ways to move through your clutter from the inside out

Woman in painWhen it comes to clutter, many people think it is just being messy. You can hear them while watching an episode of Hoarders: ” why can’t they just tidy up and throw things out?”

In many cases it is a lot more complicated than this and it has to do with the mental and emotional road blocks which the person in question is facing, resulting in the clutter being a by-product rather than the underlying problem.

A recent article on the website Houzz gave some great tips to move through some of these road blocks:

Our relationship with our home, and the things in it, is charged with emotion — it’s not so easy to let go of things when something as simple as a rusted tackle box or a worn photograph can bring memories flooding back.

Below, find eight ways to move through your own mental and emotional roadblocks to work through your clutter, from the inside out.

 1. Come to terms with whether you’re naturally organized or not. Glossy magazine spreads featuring perfectly organized spaces with nary a stray paper or lone shoe out of place may be fun to look at, but they are not right for everyone. The fact is, some folks are more inclined to be neat and orderly, while others feel more comfortable with a lot of stuff around. Instead of fighting against your nature, learn from it and work with it.

2. Face your fears. This is what stands between you and the refreshingly clean and neat home you wish you had: fear of making a bad choice, fear of tossing out something and regretting it later or fear that a family member will make you feel guilty for getting rid of something. We are all experts at coming up with excuses for keeping things we really don’t want anymore. Confront your fears, and you may find it easier to let go of possessions that have become a burden to you.

3. Tackle your top problem area. What’s the one thing in your home you find it hard to even consider decluttering? Think about starting there. For some it may be books; for others, china or clothes. Find the one thing that would make the biggest impact if you could streamline it, and start your work there. Use tip number three (face your fears) and dig in.

4. Get and stay motivated. Find your motivation by imagining what a clutter-free home would feel like. What would it allow you to do? Why do you want this? Keep your answers in mind as you start decluttering. Once you have gotten the ball rolling, stop yourself from backsliding by developing a few key habits: for every new item you purchase, get rid of a similar item, and when you see something that needs to be cleaned, put away or returned, just do it.

5. A special note for parents. Having kids in the house, as any parent will tell you, can ramp up the chaos in even the most (formerly) orderly homes. Luckily, as parents, we do have control over a great deal of the stuff that enters our homes, including toys. For starters, rethink how many toys and games your child needs — an overabundance of playthings is less appreciated, harder to clean up and more likely to get broken or wasted. To get a crazy-cluttered family home back in shape takes some work; there is no doubt about that. But the habits you form to manage the kid chaos will pay off in sanity at home, and you will be passing those good habits along to your children.

6. Get help if you need it. If you are still feeling overwhelmed or if the job seems too big to take on alone, you can get help! Call a really organized friend and bribe him or her with free food in exchange for decluttering advice or physical help. Or call in a pro. Professional organizers have seen it all, can help you sort out even the most cluttered space, and can teach you systems that will help prevent your overstuffing your home in the future.

7. Take it to the next level: Simplify your life. Once you have been working on paring down for some time and are feeling good about the progress you have made, consider taking things a step further. Downsize to a smaller, easier-to-maintain space, go paperless or challenge yourself to get rid of things you don’t use.

Read the entire article here.

Image courtesy of: scentsandmoods.wordpress.com

How to declutter your life

It's time to start...

It’s time to start…

When it comes to decluttering your home and your life, there are many excuses not to start and many road blocks that hamper you along the way. If we let the overwhelm consume us, it is a lost cause before we have even begun! But it doesn’t have to be that way. Zen Habits had a great blog recently that shared many of my favourite tips. So take a read and see if they help you in your organizing endeavours:

Declutter Your Life

There was a time, about 8 years ago, when my life was cluttered. I had too much stuff, and it kept coming in all the time. I had too much to do, and didn’t know how to simplify my schedule. I was in need of some decluttering, and I knew it.

The question became, how to go about it? How do you start when you’re facing a mountain of clutter, and another mountain of commitments, and piles of files and mail and email and other digital information?

The answer became clear, as I got started: start simply. Keep it simple as you go. Simple, each step of the way.

That said, I found complications that made things harder at every turn. I’d like to help you with some of those here, briefly, in hopes that you’ll be inspired to start decluttering.

Start Decluttering

How do you get started? As simply as possible:

  • Take just 10 minutes today to sort though a pile, or declutter a shelf or table or countertop.
  • Put everything into one pile, and start with the first thing you pick up (no putting things back in the pile).
  • Ask yourself: do you really need this? Do you use it regularly? Do you love it? If the answer to any of these is no, then recycle, donate, or give it to someone who might want it. Put it in a box for these purposes.
  • Put things back that you need/use/love, with space between things. This is their “home” and you should always put them back there.
  • Stop after 10 minutes, continue tomorrow for another 10 minutes, and so on, one small spot in your home at a time.
  • If you want to do more than 10 minutes, go ahead, but be careful not to overdo it in the beginning or you’ll think it’s difficult and not want to continue.

Keep Going

Once you’ve gotten the ball rolling, here’s how to keep going:

  • Keep decluttering in small bits. Pick an area to focus on each week.
  • Don’t worry about perfection. Just get it simpler. You can always declutter it more later.
  • Put your box of donation/recycling/giving away in your trunk, to get rid of next time you’re out. Email friends/family to ask if they want things — often you can find a good home for perfectly good things you don’t really use (that workout equipment).
  • If you’re on the fence, use a Maybe Box (put things that you think youmight need in a box, mark it with today’s date, put a reminder on your calendar 6 months from now to check on the Maybe Box. If you haven’t used it in 6 months, you probably don’t need it and can get rid of it.
  • Get help. Sometimes you just can’t bear to part with yourself, but if you can get an outside person to make the decision (friend or family member), they are usually much more dispassionate and ruthless.
  • Enjoy the space. Once you’ve decluttered an area, really focus on how much you love the simplified space. Once you’re hooked on this simplicity, you’re more likely to keep going.

Read the entire article from Zen Habits here.

Image courtesy of http://www.getorganized-stayorganized.com/

New uses for the humble laundry basket!

What can I be today?

What can I be today?

I love it when people come up with novel ways to use everyday items. Take the laundry basket. The organizing magazine Real Simple came up with four ways that it can become a multi-tasker during the summer months.

  1. Have a beach picnic. Tote items to the shore in the basket, then flip it over and use it as a table. Hose the basket off when you get home and its ready to go back to wash day duty.
  2. Serve drinks al fresco. Line the basket with a trash bag and fill with ice to make a cooler for impromptu parties.
  3. Tame the sprinkler. Store a coiled garden hose in a basket; stash sprinklers, nozzles, and other attachments in the middle of the coil.
  4. Protect plants. Place a laundry basket upside down over delicate plants during a heavy rain or hail storm (or a unexpected frost!)

See more great ideas from Real Simple. 

How Clutter Affects Your Brain…

Which sides looks greener?

Which sides looks greener?

When we have finished decluttering at a clients home, I always get the same response: “I feel so much lighter now!” And it is true – decluttering your physical environment also declutters your thinking and emotions too.  Here is a great article I found on Lifehacker.com that goes into this phenomenon in a bit more detail.

How clutter happens

You collect things for a number of reasons–maybe you think you’ll need to use it later, it has sentimental value, or you spent good money on it so you feel you need to keep the item, even if you haven’t touched or used it in weeks, months, or years. You might be holding on to that book you bought a year ago that you swear you’ll read or those killer pair of shoes that you’ll bring out for just the right occasion. But the reality is, you probably made a mistake in buying those things and it literally hurts your brain to come to terms with that fact.

Researchers at Yale identified that two areas in your brain associated with pain, the anterior cingulate cortex and insula, light up in response to letting go of items you own and feel a connection towards: This is the same area of the brain that lights up when you feel physical pain from a paper cut or drinking coffee that’s too hot. Your brain views the loss of one of your valued possessions as the same as something that causes you physical pain. And the more you’ve committed emotionally or financially to an item, the more you want to keep it around.

When you introduce new items into your life, you immediately associate value with these items, making it harder for you to give them up in the future. This psychological connection to things is what leads to the accumulation of stuff.

Clutter’s Impact on Your Brain

Whether it be your closet or office desk, excess things in your surroundings can have a negative impact on your ability to focus and process information. That’s exactly what neuroscientists at Princeton University found when they looked at people’s task performance in an organized versus disorganized environment. The results of the study showed that physical clutter in your surroundings competes for your attention, resulting in decreased performance and increased stress.

A team of UCLA researchers recently observed 32 Los Angeles families and found that all of the mothers’ stress hormones spiked during the time they spent dealing with their belongings. Similar to what multitasking does to your brain, physical clutter overloads your senses, making you feel stressed, and impairs your ability to think creatively.

Clutter isn’t just physical

Files on your computer, notifications from your Twitter and Facebook accounts, and anything that goes “ping” in the night competes for your attention. This creates a digital form of clutter that erodes your ability to focus and perform creative tasks. Mark Hurst, author of Bit Literacy, a New York Times best seller on controlling the flow of information in the digital age, put it best when he said: When you have to-do items constantly floating around in your head or you hear a ping or vibrate every few minutes from your phone, your brain doesn’t get a chance to fully enter creative flow or process experiences. When your brain has too much on its plate, it splits its power up. The result? You become awful at:

  • filtering information
  • switching quickly between tasks
  • keeping a strong working memory

The overconsumption of digital stuff has the same effect on your brain as physical clutter.

Read the entire article here.

The Habits That Make You Happy

You too can jump for joy!

You too can jump for joy!

I just love this post from Zen Habits. It outlines a few things you can do each day that will increase the happiness in your life. And none of them are hard or take up much time.

Try doing these on a daily basis:

List 3 Good Things.  Tell someone or write down 3 good things that happened to you today. Focus on what you’re grateful for. This can create a mental habit of gratitude that you can use other times in your day (like when you’re focused on the things you don’t like or have). When you feel this, think about something you do have, that you love. Find a way to be grateful, and you’re happier.

  1. Help Someone. When we focus on ourselves, and the woeful state of our lives, we are self-centered. This shrinks the world to one little place with one little unhappy person. But what if we can expand that worldview, and expand our heart to include at least one other person? Maybe even a few others? Then we see that others are suffering too, even if that just means they’re stressed out. Then we can reach out, and do something to reduce their stress, put a smile on their face, make their lives easier. Help at least one person each day, and you’ll find your entire perspective shifted.
  2. Meditate.  Meditate for just 2 minutes a day, and you’ll create a habit that will allow you to notice your thoughts throughout the rest of the day, that will help you to be more present (unhappiness comes from not being present), that will help you notice the source of anxiety and distraction. That’s a lot that can be accomplished in 2 minutes! Sit every morning when you wake, and just notice your body, and then your breath. Notice when your mind wanders, and gently return to your breath. You become the watcher of your mind, and you’ll learn some useful things, I promise.
  3. Exercise. Everyone knows you should exercise, so I’m not going to belabor this point. But it really does make you happier, both in the moment of exercise (I’m exerting myself, I’m alive!) and throughout the rest of the day. Exercise lightly, if you’re not in the habit yet, and just for a few minutes a day to start out. Who doesn’t have a few minutes a day? If you don’t, you need to loosen up your schedule a bit.

There are a number of other habits that also help: mindful eating, drinking tea, doing yoga, socializing with others.

How do you form these habits? One at a time, starting as small as possible, with some social accountability. Set these habits in motion. You’ll notice yourself becoming more present, more grateful, more other-focused. The shift that results is nothing short of a miracle.

Read the entire post here from Zen Habits

Double Duty Furniture Cuts Clutter

Is it an ottoman? Is it a storage chest? No it's both!

Is it an ottoman? Is it a storage chest? No it’s both!

Furniture. It plays an integral role in making your home a cozy, comfortable place where you want to spend time.  Whether you are in a tiny New York City apartment or have just chosen to simplify your life and downsize,  multipurpose furniture plays even a bigger role to combine form and function – especially when it is stylish.

Finding piece that serve more than one purpose saves money. A sofa bed solves three problems – seating during the day and a place to sleep at night and it cuts your costs in half! A sofa bed in a child’s room can transform it into a guest room when needed.

Multipurpose furniture comes in all shapes and sizes. Ottomans with storage compartments offer seating, a place to rest your feet and somewhere to hide the kid’s toys, books, blankets etc. Small stools can work as side tables and seats. Beds can have storage drawers built in underneath.

But before looking for multi-function furniture, define how your family plan to use the space. Do you need storage, function or both? A piece doesn’t have to be used for its intended purpose; use your creativity. I have an antique french dresser as my home office storage and filing system and it looks gorgeous – the mirror even makes the space look bigger. I also use an antique bottle crate I found at a flea market to hold all my smaller bits and pieces in the kitchen. It looks great and is functional storage to boot!

But the main tip – it doesn’t matter what storage you have; at the end of the day make sure every item in your home goes back to the place you have allocated. It is the only way you will keep clutter at bay.

Image courtesy of  http://www.rangkep.com/

Top Tips to Downsize your Wardrobe

All your shirts in a row...

All your shirts in a row…

Downsizing your wardrobe can be one of the most dreaded tasks – you can try and put if off for as long as you can, but reality hits you every morning when you can’t find anything to wear. But it needn’t be!

A recent blog post by Small Notebook highlighted some handy tips for tackling this task:

…I get the general idea that if you haven’t worn a garment within a certain amount of time, you most likely never will, and it’s just taking up space. What’s more important to me is not how long it’s been since I’ve worn it, but why I haven’t worn it.

So if something has remained on the hanger, I start questioning it: Is it the right color? Is it too long or too short? Does it make me look frumpy? Is it worn out? Or do I just have too many clothes?

Understanding why I’m not wearing something helps me make better choices on future shopping trips, and I think that’s smarter than simply tossing clothes just to replace them with more later.

Tips on keeping clothes in other sizes:

• Keep only the clothes that you’ll be happy to see again. Keep the best stuff, not everything.

• Don’t save any clothes that are worn out. The maternity pants that you wore every day during those last weeks because they were the only pair that still fit (and therefore have drops of chocolate ice cream stains on them, not that I’m speaking from experience or anything) can be thrown away.

• You want to keep them in a box in your storage space, not in useful closet space with your current size.

• Go through them every year or so to see if you can size down your collection. Even classic styles can change every five or seven years. (Think how different denim looks now from a few years ago.)

• If you think it’s not likely you will wear them again, don’t save them, but don’t be afraid to set clothes aside in case you can wear them in the future. That’s kind of the whole point of storage space: using it for good, not for clutter.

To read the entire article click here.