Discover what's stopping you from breaking free of your clutter.
O.K. so you’ve read various posts, maybe taken part in a ‘decluttering your home’ challenge, or watched Marie Kondo work her magic; still, you’re surrounded by clutter. Why isn’t it working for me? Can it really be that hard? Everyone else seems to be able to do it, what am I doing wrong? And how can I fix this? Are the questions you keep asking yourself as you continue to live with your clutter chaos.
Mind Over Matter
What you need to know is that when it comes to decluttering your home it’s a case of ‘mind over matter’, quite literally, and that’s where most of us have our biggest struggle.
The truth is, if you don’t mind that your home has a lot of ‘stuff’ in it, then it really doesn’t matter. The purpose of decluttering your home shouldn’t be to conform to someone else’s idea of how you should be living.
But when you do mind it matters, it matters a lot! Living with clutter is responsible for triggering the production of cortisol in our bodies, the stress hormone that affects our thinking, behaviour, mood and overall general health: more clutter=more cortisol.
Clutter is like Kryptonite
If you don’t know about Kryptonite, it’s the toxic substance that robs Superman of his superpowers, and that’s what clutter does in our homes and to our minds.
I meet so many ‘superwomen’ (and you’re probably one of them) whose superpowers are slowly eroded by the clutter in their homes. The ability to multi-task, organise everything, be there for children, partners, colleagues, family and friends becomes increasingly difficult. Attempts at decluttering your home results in failure and frustration; the very thing that’s causing the problem is making it almost impossible to deal with the problem.
Decluttering Your Home – Where Do You Start?
This is the question that I’m asked most often by women who are overwhelmed by clutter. They’ve understood the theory but have tried and failed to put it into practice. That’s understandable when you consider the impact clutter has on our thinking. My response is to get the person to talk me through their situation.
Speaking with someone who understands and is non-judgemental is a great place to start. Often friends and family have tried to be supportive, but as someone living with clutter knows, it’s difficult not to feel judged when those closest to you offer advice and solutions. If you’re dealing with a severe clutter problem, and one in four Australian homes are, then seeking help from a professional is the best use of your time and money and will guarantee your success.
However, if you’re determined to go it alone, the following information should help you clarify and focus your thinking.
Keeping Things In Perspective
The infographic gives you some not-so-fun facts that should help you declutter your home – like we don’t use 80% of the things we keep. And on average each person is throwing-away 32kgs of clothing after only wearing it seven times.
You’ll see the cortisol research mentioned, as well as the fact that once you’ve decluttered your home, you’ll spend 40% less time doing housework. So if Frank Sinatra’s words don’t sway you, maybe that fun fact will.
Last but not least, our homes are bigger and come with garages, but often there’s not enough room in our garages to park our cars. If you want to see how things have changed over recent years and the negative impacts of clutter check out the TED Talk on this link.
In conclusion, you would be right in thinking that the clutter in our homes is a waste of space, time, energy, effort and money. Decluttering your home, on the other hand, is an excellent use of all those things. Check out what my clients say after working with me on decluttering their homes and minds.
Focus Your Mind & Efforts On Dealing With The Troublesome 10
A word of caution, please done try and tackle them simultaneously; it’s likely to result in overload and overwhelm. Instead, pick the categories that most appeal to you because you think they’re easier or they bother you the most.
It’s also vital that you have an exit strategy when decluttering your home. If you don’t all you’re doing is relocating your clutter. Decide as you sift and sort is it, recycling, donation, rubbish, gifting and if you’re keeping it, where is its place in your home. Leave time to remove the clutter from your home (putting it in your garage doesn’t count!)
Remember Frank Sinatra’s wise words – do you really want your possessions to possess you?
The 10 categories of things you should probably get rid of on your decluttering journey
Items you were given for free, but you haven’t used.
What they are will largely depend on you, your lifestyle and whether or not you have children. When I was travelling a lot, these items consisted of sleep masks, socks, inflight snacks and colouring books. What you need to understand about these items is that often they’re not good enough to use, but you feel they’re too good to throw away. That’s when they become clutter. ‘Freebies’ are usually branded promotional items that ordinarily you wouldn’t use; if you thought of them that way it would help you let them go. The same applies to leaflets, promotional flyers and samples. If you want to stop them coming into your home in the future, practice a new approach of saying ‘thank you, but no thank you’, you’ll be glad that you did.
Long gone are the days when you could repair your electronics, most are sealed units because the manufacturer wants you to buy a new one. I had a modem that cost over $200 ‘die’ after just 24 months. Typically electronics last for two years, either because that’s how they were designed (inbuilt obsolescence) or they’re updated by new technology; this is particularly true of ‘phones. When we buy new equipment, like T.Vs it often comes with cables we’ll never use but keep ‘just in case’. The collective term for old electronics is ‘e-waste’.
Recently when I was decluttering a home, the client had four sat-navs sitting in a box, along with two phones, various chargers and cables. Once we’d established they’d been there for years, without ever being needed, it was an easy decision to send them to be recycled. Left to their own devices my clients would have continued to store this stuff. This is an example of when having a conversation and working through the clutter with an objective third party can help with decluttering your home successfully.
This is a tough one for most people. Despite the fact we know we don’t want them, we feel under an obligation to keep them. One of my clients had stored a bible and a tea set, both unused, for 15 years. She couldn’t remember who had given her the gifts but had felt unable to permit herself to let them go. After we spoke, she felt good about donating them in the hope that someone else would value and use them. She found that breaking her rule of always keeping gifts, whether she wanted them or not, was liberating. You can be grateful for a gift, but that doesn’t mean you have to keep it. When decluttering your home, it’s good to keep this in mind.
Clothing You Haven’t Worn In Years
When I talk with my clients about clothes they haven’t worn in years, there’s always a reason. Sometimes one piece of clothing that’s taken up space in their wardrobe for years will spark a whole bunch of reasons: “I’m not sure about the colour’, ‘It’s uncomfortable’ and ‘I still don’t know why I bought it’, yet it remains. We wear 20% of our wardrobe 80% of the time.
If you haven’t worn something in a while, they’ll be a reason, and that will reason will persist no matter how long you keep it. It’s also worth noting our tastes change, so even if you’re keeping it until it fits you again, you may not feel great in it when it does. My advice is to donate clothing that’s in good condition, but you haven’t worn in years. Decluttering your home often starts with the wardrobe because that’s where so much time and space is wasted. It can take hours, so prepare for a long haul, but it’s worth it.
Useful Items In Great Number
I watched an episode of Tidying Up With Marie Kondo where two people had 24 mugs. Those mugs were taking up a great deal of space and were surplus to requirements. The same is true of duplicates of other items including saucepans, crockery, cutlery, baking tins, storage boxes and containers. Most of us know the things we use regularly and the things we keep ‘just in case’. If they’re gathering dust, or have become a permanent resident at the back of a cupboard for months or years, let them go, someone else might appreciate them.
We’ve all bought items that we’ve later realised were a mistake, the trouble is we then compound the error by holding onto them. Not only have we wasted money on the item, but we’re also spending time and energy reminding ourselves of the mistake and beating ourselves up about it. Why? Because discarding these items involves confronting our regret. I had a client who made the difficult decision to donate a coat she’s bought for $185.00 (the tag was still on it) but never worn. Although she was filled with buyer’s remorse, when she decided to let it go, she no longer saw it as a failure; instead, she saw it as a lesson learned. She’s since gone on to change her shopping habits and no longer buys impulsively or out of habit. You too could adopt the same mindset. Decluttering your home and confronting past mistakes could stop you from repeating them.
Items That Expired Before Use
It’s strange but true that the longer we hold onto an expired item, the harder it is to let go. It could be because it’s expired you can’t donate or regift it, so you feel it really is a waste. The critical fact to remember is the item has expired; it cannot be used; therefore it is clutter. Try and learn whatever you need to learn about why you bought it but didn’t use it, and move on.
Items You’ve Kept Out Of Habit But Don’t Need
Some people habitually keep things but don’t know why. It can be used envelopes, movie tickets, elastic bands or the plastic tie from the bread bag. One of my clients had multiple zip-lock bags full of grocery receipts faded beyond recognition. When we spoke, I discovered that her father used to run a grocers shop and always kept the till receipts as a record of the business she realised where she’d got the habit. She also realised that she didn’t need to continue to keep and store her till receipts; just having the conversation shifted her thinking. You may have developed habits during your life that are contributing to the clutter around you. When you begin decluttering your home, this may be quite confronting for you, but acknowledging them and rethinking your behaviour can be liberating.
Manuals And Instructions For Household Items
In theory, this should be an easy category to clear. Printed manuals and instructions for kettles, T.V.s, microwaves and other household items are available online. The bonus is that they’re easier to read! By all means, keep warranties, but there is no need to keep the manuals and instructions.
Items That Bring Back Bad Memories
This is a little like buyer’s remorse but often associated with a relationship, or event and therefore more complex and challenging. In the mind over matter scenario – which is where we started – this can be the most challenging of all. When decluttering your home solo, this can often stop people in their tracks. I’d, therefore, advise if you’re doing this on your own that, just like this list, it’s left until last. Hopefully, some of the decisions you’ve made and lessons you’ve learned dealing with some of the other categories will help prepare you for No 10. Remember, if you can’t let a possession go, then it possesses you, you don’t possess it; in the case of objects associated with bad memories most would agree this is not a good thing.
Decluttering Your Home – It’s Probably Harder Than You Thought
I sincerely hope that the information shared in this article has helped clarify your thinking, and let you know what you’re up against. For people severely affected by clutter books, challenges and T.V. shows just seem to make a bad situation worse. What you need is help in person, or online to help you work through your clutter. I’ve helped scores of women declutter their homes and minds and I know I can help you.
If you’d like to discover what working with me is like click this link.
If you’re interested in decluttering your home with professional help check out my services.
For more information about me, how I do what I do and why click this link.
And if you’re determined to go it alone, I hope you take advantage of the information and links shared and use it as a resource to help you with decluttering your home successfully.