Regina Lark spoke at Cancer Support Community-Benjamin Center this past year. The following are Regina's top ten ways to reduce clutter.
I talk with a lot of people about clutter. I hear their stories about how clutter accumulates. Life transitions - birth, death, marriage, divorce, aging parents -- sometimes knocks you off your game. Many say that they just want to wake up one day completely and utterly clutter-free. Some people tell me they would almost welcome a slight house fire or some flood damage, relieving them of the burden of having to decide how to deal with the clutter.
One of the problems of having too much stuff is not knowing how to deal with the problem. A lot of folks feel stuck when it comes to taking action, or, in some cases, waging war, on the mess and chaos that comes with clutter. "Being stuck" has more to do with what you think and how you feel about the clutter, then about the actual pile of papers. Through my experience as a professional organizer and observer of the human nature, I have come to believe that our clutter could very well be the physical manifestation of negative messages we feed our brain. When we tell ourselves we are stuck (or immobile) we believe the message.
We're already at the end of the first quarter of this year that is no longer new. What is keeping you from creating or moving toward your goal? What did you start the year wanting to accomplish and how is the concept of "feeling stuck" going to make the goal elusive? I say it's high time to get un-stuck so you can accomplish what you set out to do!
And so I offer... the Top Ten Tips to help you un-stick from some of the places where you feel stuck!
1. Quiet the mind and take a deep breath. Accept the situation as it is. It is what it is right now. And it is about to change.
2. Understand these concepts: a) You are not your clutter. b) You are not lazy. c) Clearing clutter means that you have to make regular dates with yourself to get the work done.
3. We tend to look at the clutter as a monolithic whole. But it's easier to manage by looking at it in smaller chunks. So... make a list of each cluttered area in your life (be it physical or emotional) as it relates to feeling stuck. Make the list specific: what's the clutter look or feel like? how long have you had it?
4. We need to acquire knowledge about where we are at right now to make sense of how to work out of it. Drill down some more: How do you believe the clutter prevents you from creating or reaching a goal. How does the clutter make you feel stuck?
5. When have you tried to de-clutter? What time of day? How much time did you give to the task? Write about how you have tackled the problem in the past - what worked and what didn't? Do you keep trying to de-clutter the same way expecting different results?
6. Re-define for yourself the words "failure" and "success." I grew up with ideas about the definitions of success and failure. About a year after I started my professional organizing business I experienced months where growth was slow or felt non-existent. Instead of feeling like a failure I decided to re-evaluate what it meant to be a success. And so I decided that for me, a successful month for A Clear Path is the month I don't have to borrow from my dad. So far, I haven't had to borrow any money from my dad. See what I mean?
7. Clutter has a way of muffling sound, it takes up the air, left alone long enough it'll take on a musty odor. Spend quiet time creating a vision in your mind (or cut from pictures and taped to a poster board) of what your ideally cleared spaces will look like, smell like, feel like, sound like.
8. Think of tackling the clutter strategically. For every hour you take to de-clutter, you need an hour to reintegrate the stuff you intend to keep. Look at the list of your cluttered areas and figure roughly how much time you'll need for each project. Once you start the process, you'll know soon enough if you're in the ballpark.
9. Get your calendar and start making dates with yourself to clear the clutter. This is really important. Commit. Commit. Commit. Look at the big picture; be realistic. Do you have a lot of time off in the summer? Are you able to devote 2 hours every Saturday? Once a month? When do you feel most "up?" Are you a morning or night person? Schedule the sessions to give yourself every advantage.
10. Habits: To keep the clutter away you may have to change a few habits. If you habitually drop your clothes on the floor at the end of the day, you may want to change how (or where) you change into your pajamas. You may have piles of mail that's easily identified as trash for recycling. Think about sorting mail near the recycle bin before you even bring it into the space. If mail is dropped through a slot, sort it on your way to the household recycle container.