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/

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.

Feng Shui’s No. 1 enemy: clutter!

My Chi is definitely choked!

My Chi is definitely choked!

You know that feeling what you arrive home and it just feels stuffy, heavy or depressing and you don’t know why? It could be your home’s Chi! Chi (the Feng Shui term for energy) needs to be fresh and flowing, not stale and stagnant. The number one reason for this could be staring you in the face – your clutter!

Clutter is the No.1 enemy of Feng Shui as the Chi can’t flow easily around your stuff and so it becomes stagnant – and hence why you too will feel this way, like you are stuck and can’t move on.

Kathryn Weber from Red Lotus Feng Shui has a great blog post on this topic that I think you will enjoy:

Having an uncluttered, organized home will repay you in time and money — and will return your peace of mind — and in just a few short weeks. Besides being a serious re-charge to your life and vitality, decluttering is good feng shui.

Everything you are surrounded by exerts an influence on your life.

If you’re surrounded by clutter and disorganization, it’s a serious energetic drain on your mind, your emotions and your physical body.  Too much stuff quickly turns a home “yin” and that makes energy turn negative. Once that happens, the circumstances of life start changing, too. You could say that clutter becomes the sticks and mortar that dam your life and stop the opportunities that flow to you.

Let’s get started with the basics.

What is clutter?

Clutter is anything that you don’t regularly use, things that you don’t like or enjoy or that are broken, or items kept out of guilt and obligation. Clutter includes items like old clothing, unused toys, mismatched dishes, or stacks of magazines. One of the worst sources of clutter is paper. Newspapers, mail, magazines, old greeting cards, and various paper items all clutter up our coffee tables, desks, and refrigerator.

What clutter isn’t

Clutter isn’t anything you truly love or use regularly. Clutter also isn’t a valuable collectible. Some things shouldn’t go in a landfill or in a garage sale. Your grandmother’s Fostoria crystal isn’t junk and shouldn’t be treated that way.

Ebay, local antiques or consignment stores are resources to help sell your collectible items. One woman made $15,000 off her clutter. Every week, she sat at her computer with five to 10 items she wanted to sell and in six months, she had made an extra $15,000 by selling her clutter on Ebay. Too much trouble to sell? Give special items away as gifts to someone who’ll appreciate them.

Clutter sources

There are a number of reasons for our over-accumulation. One is that we’ve moved from a disposable society to everything’s-a-collectible society and if everything is valuable, then you can’t throw anything away then, can you? We’ve also moved from a buy-it-as-you-need-it outlook to a buy-it-in-bulk mindset – and if we buy in bulk, we have to live in bulk.

Lastly, recreational shopping creates an overload of unused, unwanted household items. Hitting the mall every weekend just packs your house and empties your wallet.

Staying present. The difficulty with clutter is both past and future.

Too often people are tied to items because of the past (it was a wedding gift, it was Uncle Frank’s) and the future (what if I need a shoe buttoner again?). Yet clutter causes you problems in the present because you can’t find what you’re looking for or you have things you don’t really need or want. Other problems from the past include items we’ve inherited.

Many people feel like they have to keep everything passed down from their loved ones. It’s a tremendous burden of guilt. Remember that things are not people and it’s okay to let things go. To feel like you have to hold on to the possessions of your loved ones who are no longer around is to have to build your own life and hang on to their lives, too. It makes for a crowded house. Keep just a few items that you especially love or that you’ll use on a regular basis. My favorite item from my grandmother? Her cast iron skillet that stays on my stove to this day and gets almost daily use.

Go ahead, be wasteful

Have you ever heard the Depression era stories about being so poor that coffee grounds were dried in the sun and re-used? Well, it’s not the Depression anymore. It’s okay to throw things away. You have my permission and encouragement to get rid of stuff. There will be enough and you can always get more if you need it.

People hang on to so many things because they don’t want to be wasteful; like holding on to a shirt with a stain that won’t come out. The stain won’t come out the longer it hangs there, so why reach for it and then put it back on the rack? Throw it away once and for all.

Your role: The first step to getting control over clutter is recognizing your role in creating it.

Do you overshop? Do you keep things out of guilt (it’s Aunt Mary’s!)? Do you have to buy in bulk? Are you afraid to throw things away? Taking a hard look at how and why your house has gotten cluttered helps you get it under control and from becoming cluttered in the future. So recycle when you can, and throw away, donate, or sell the rest — and at every opportunity.

The physical symptoms of clutter

Clutter stops the flow of energy. When energy stops flowing, there is a negative impact to our bodies, spirits, and energetic life flow in the form of money, opportunities, love, and enjoyment. Clutter manifests as excess weight, constipation, inability to think, feeling stuck in life, low vitality, and poor personal growth and movement.

Once you begin decluttering, you may find yourself unburdened by heavy emotions and will begin to feel lighter, more at ease and have a greater sense of happiness and personal well-being. Clutter holds us back, like a giant weight, and creates blockages in our lives and spirits. Feel yourself feel unencumbered by lifting  the burden of clutter and watch the increased flow of your life to start again.

Read the entire article here.

© K Weber Communications LLC 2002-2010

Kathryn Weber is the publisher of the Red Lotus Letter Feng Shui E-zine and certified feng shui consultant in classical Chinese feng shui. Kathryn helps her readers improve their lives and generate more wealth with feng shui. For more information and to receive her FREE Ebook “Easy Money – 3 Steps to Building Massive Wealth with Feng Shui” visit http://www.redlotusletter.com and learn the fast and fun way how feng shui can make your life more prosperous and abundant!

Copyright Kathryn Weber. All rights reserved

The 5 benefits of a “docking station” in the home.

The perfect docking station

The perfect docking station

This is one of my favourite pieces of advice to give clients – make yourself a docking station! What do I mean by this? A docking station is a place where things land that come in the house – whether it is the mail, your hand bag, the kids school notes etc – to be dealt with so they don’t end up all over the house causing clutter.  It is a sorting place, a communications centre, the hub of the home basically. Unclutter.com wrote a post on the 5 benefits of what they call a “destination station” which sums it up quite nicely:

Here are five benefits of creating one for yourself:

  1. Stay in the know.  A destination station can be a place to stay in contact with family members and housemates even when you’re not all present. For example, you can post a calendar to keep track of joint appointments, parent-teacher meetings, vacation schedules, etc. You can also mount a chalkboard to leave important notes and messages.
  2. Find things quickly and easily in one central location. Skip the scavenger hunt for bills that need to be paid or items that you need to mail or return to the store. Instead, keep those items in the command center so you can quickly put your hands on them when you need to, and use baskets and containers to collect specific items in an organized way. By having them in one central spot, you won’t have to search your entire home to find what you’re looking for when you need it.
  3. Keep track of frequently used items. The command center can also be a place to keep things you use often. This can be a great spot for your keys, daily bag, mobile phone and charger, tablet, sunglasses, or any other items you need before heading out the door. You might even install a hook for your favorite jacket. Again, since the items are kept in one location, you’ll always find your things quickly and easily.
  4. Stop clutter from creeping into various spaces. When the things in your home don’t have permanent storage places, they can often bounce about various rooms and create clutter. It can be tricky to know where to put things that won’t be staying in your house, and the destination station will give you a location to organize and store your stuff until it’s time for the items to leave.

Read the entire article here.

Deciding when to let go of your children’s toys

What stays and what goes?

What stays and what goes?

This is a topic that challenges many of my clients with children. It is more often than not themselves, rather than the children, that have trouble letting go of the toys and games. Unclutterer.com had some great ideas to help with this clutter challenge:

Letting go of toys can be difficult because you may be considering passing them on to younger or future children or you might think that reducing the number of toys means that you’re depriving your children of enjoyment and learning experiences.

How do you decide when it’s okay to let toys go?

Observe your children during playtime

When I was a teacher, I spent a good amount of time observing the children in my classroom. This helped me create lessons that suited their learning styles. Though interacting with them gave me lots of insight, I found that simply observing them when they were “in the moment” helped me to get to know them better. To truly discover the types of toys that your children love (or don’t love), you’ll likely need to do this as well. That doesn’t mean that you need to spend an entire hour with a clipboard in hand ready to jot down what you see. There will be plenty of opportunities for you to figure out which toys they reach for often and which one they don’t pay much attention to. Those that are not as interesting to them anymore are great candidates for donation. And, you can then decide which specific toys you’d like to introduce them to.

Look for toys that do similar things

I once worked for an organization where the motto was, “Each child is unique, precious, and unrepeatable.” Toys on the other hand, are not necessarily unique. You may have duplicates or several that function in extremely similar ways. As I mentioned before, your children will let you know which are their favorites based on their typical play habits. This means you can easily donate or give away the ones they don’t play with often.

Swap toys in/out regularly

Limiting the number of toys that your children have to play with will help you get a better sense of their likes and dislikes, and give them ample opportunities to play with specific things. Having fewer toys to focus on can be less overwhelming for them and they can get on with the business of fully learning about each one (rather than bouncing around from item to item). Rotating toys in and out will also stop them from taking over adult spaces and will make it easier to unclutter and maintain children’s areas in your home.

Once you’ve determined which toys your children no longer play with (and which ones you’ll keep in rotation), you can do a toy swap with friends or donate gently used items to a local charity.

To read more from Unclutterer.com click here.

The Clutter-free Holiday Guide

Foot spa anyone?

This is another fabulous article from ZenHabits.net – he really does hit the nail on the head with this topic don’t you think?

You often see holiday gift guides and the like, but not often enough do we see guides on dealing with clutter during this most cluttered of seasons.

From gifts to wrapping to decorations to cardboard boxes from Amazon and more, the holidays can see more accumulation of clutter than any other time of the year.

How do we deal with it? It takes a multi-pronged approach.

Let’s dive in.

Clearing Existing Clutter

If your house isn’t free of clutter at this point, you can start to make a dent, even with a busier holiday schedule.

Some ideas:

  1. Spend just 2-5 minutes at a time. Get a cardboard box for donations. When you’re in your bedroom, spend 2-5 minutes picking off a few things you definitely don’t need, and put them in the box. Later, when you’re in the kitchen, spend 2-5 minutes doing the same on your countertop. And on your dining table, on shelves when you walk past them, on your closet floor, all at various times as you’re walking through an area. Not all in one day, but in bits each day.
  2. Carve out 30 minutes a few times a week. Put it on your calendar. Spend that time clearing out a closet — just take out as many things that you don’t need as you can in 30 minutes. Put them in the donate box or the trash.

You probably won’t have time to declutter your entire house during the holidays, but that’s OK. Just get the ball rolling, and tackle the rest in January.

Gift Expectations

Probably the biggest clutter problem during the holidays, for many people, is getting gifts you don’t need that will just clutter up your house.

The key here is to manage expectations:

  1. Talk to your friends and family, or send out an email or Facebook post. Tell them you’d prefer not to get any gifts because you’re trying to reduce clutter.

Read more here: http://zenhabits.net/clutterfree-holiday/