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If you feel sluggish or in a rut, you may not realize that it’s actually clutter that’s causing your energy drain. Even if it lies hidden behind closet doors, in drawers, packed away in boxes, etc., it’s still clutter and it still has an effect on you. I don’t think there’s anything that has produced a more profound effect with my clients, friends and family as taking care of this mischievous foe.

When you’re living in a cluttered space every day, you have no chance to recharge your batteries. You cannot be totally at peace and restful when there are things around you that are draining your energy.

Getting rid of clutter can make a huge difference in your life in many areas … and may even have an effect in the lives of those around you!

If you have a sense of dread because you think about “de-cluttering” as a burdensome chore, I encourage you to be excited instead and think of it as a transformational experience.

A good place to start is to get clear on what clutter actually is. The American Heritage Dictionary defines it as “a confused or disordered state or collection”. For our purposes, let’s define it this way:

*Too many things in a small place
*Anything unfinished
*Things you don’t use or love
*Things untidy or disorganized.

When people are surrounded with clutter, many times they’re too tired to get out of a rut, and don’t know where to begin. They’re probably also experiencing one or more of the following:

*Feel as if they’re wasting time
*Disorganized (can’t find keys, wallet, eyeglasses, etc.)
*Sense of enjoyment is dulled
*Feel out of control
*Feel overwhelmed
*Inability to move forward
*Easily distracted from more important things.

In case you need a clue as to where to look for some of your own clutter (although I doubt it), here are some typical “clutter traps” to think about:

*Your car (a real give-away)
*Your handbag (or wallet)
*Bathroom (cabinets, shelves, drawers)
*Garage/attic (need I say more?)
*Do you have clothes you haven’t worn in years?
*Under the bed
*Kitchen cupboards
*Drawers (although 1 “junk” drawer might be OK as long as it’s emptied regularly)
*Stuff hanging behind doors
*Over-stuffed files

Stop right now and look around. Is there an area that needs to be freed from clutter? How long have you meant to clean it up?

Notice what happens to you next time you have a face-to-face encounter with one of the areas of clutter you've been meaning to deal with. How does it make you feel?

If you’ve identified clutter in your life, the next step is to make a choice: freedom, exuberance, energy and joy or… clutter?

Pretty simple answer, right? The main challenge is probably “where to start”?

Start small, in 15-minute increments if you have to. Do a drawer at a time. Do a small closet first thing in the morning. Next time you go into your car take a bag with you and get rid of all the junk. When you go to get something out of your closet, grab a couple of items you no longer wear and begin a “give-away” box.

When you tackle a closet, drawer, garage, or whatever your project may be, challenge yourself to get rid of more than feels comfortable, otherwise you’ll just be moving things around rather than actually de-cluttering.

When I went on my first major de-cluttering expedition, no matter where I was, I tackled at least one small job. Many of these jobs were done in 15-minute increments. I was on a mission and it felt great! When I sat at my desk, I cleaned a drawer. While in the kitchen feeding my children, I cleaned out several drawers and cabinets. I began picking up momentum, and it was as if I was obsessed for a short period of time till all the major offenders were handled. Within about a month my entire house (and my life) was totally transformed! (But it was still only a beginning…)

Here are some ideas you might find helpful as you begin to de-clutter:

*Whenever you bring one new thing into the house, make sure you take something else out.
*Even if a particular item is nice, if you don’t absolutely love it or need it, get rid of it.
*Make believe you’re moving in a month and get rid of everything you don’t want to bring with you to your beautiful new home (or office).
*If something’s broken, fix it or get rid of it.
*If it has a stain you can’t remove, get rid of it.
*If the best thing about it is that you got a “great deal”, toss it.
*If you’re saving clothes till you get back down to your ideal size, get rid of those and buy yourself something that makes you look great right now.
*Throw out junk mail before you bring it in the house.
*In the office, toss old files/memos/reports you’ve been keeping just in case you need them some day.
*If you need to, save ONE box of sentimental items so when you need an emotional “pick me up” you know where to go to get a quick fix.

Keep only those things you really enjoy. Get rid of the things that no longer represent you or enhance your life. Even if the items are good and in perfect condition, give yourself a thrill by blessing someone else with your “castaways”.

You might even notice that you begin to value the space more than the stuff. In fact you might feel like “stuff” is invading your space. I know I did.

For those of you who may not know it, I have five small children. Our home was the perfect place to accumulate lots of “stuff”, and accumulate we did. Every nook and cranny was filled…. It was neat and orderly, but it was as full as it could be. When I look back and see pictures, I can hardly believe how much “stuff” I had around.

Now we live in the same home, but when people walk in they can’t believe five children live here. They find it hard to imagine how I run two successful businesses out of my office that’s always neat, organized and clutter-free. If they were to open many of the closets, drawers or cabinets (not all of them) they’d find them neat and typically half empty rather than stuffed. In fact, not too many things bring me greater satisfaction than empty drawers and closets! (I guess it’s because it was the extreme opposite for such a long time.)

If you spend fifteen minutes to an hour a day getting rid of junk, you’ll make tremendous headway, and you’ll be amazed how much stuff you’ve accumulated that’s been cluttering your life. If you’re able to give yourself the luxury of designating an entire weekend for your expedition, even better!

If you’re a diehard pack rat, you might need to have someone come and help you. I’ve had clients fly in their mother or a friend because they knew they couldn’t do it without some support.

This de-cluttering process seems to perpetuate itself. Once you realize you can live without so much stuff, it is easier to make a second and third pass and reevaluate objects you wouldn’t have thought of tossing earlier. That’s why it can actually take years for you to be totally “clutter free”. You’ll find yourself able to get rid of more and more each go round….

When you’ve seriously decided to take control of the clutter bug, continually ask yourself these questions: “Is there anything in my house or storage that I do not need?” “Do I absolutely love this?” “Would I value the space more than this item?”

If you feel this is a bigger problem for you and you need additional help, there are entire books written on the subject. You may even want to consult a professional organizer. Here are a few books you may be interested in:

Michelle Passoff’s “Lighten Up!: Free Yourself From Clutter”; Jeff Campbell’s “Clutter Control”; and Karen Kingston’s “Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui”. (I gave that one to my husband for Christmas – remember I said that not EVERY closet in our home is half-empty!)

I am excited for you as you begin to look this gremlin square in the eyes and take control of your life in this area. You’ll be amazed at what happens! Take little steps wherever you can and I know you’ll pick up momentum. If you take this challenge seriously, your life will never be the same. I guarantee it!

Wishing you all the best….

Mary Jo Wehniainen
Your Virtual Success Coach “Helping Ordinary People Create Extraordinary Lives”
All Rights Reserved © Copyright 2001

23,290 Posts
One of the best articles I've read on this.

And you know what, much of our clutter is in our bedrooms, where it should be a place of rest and refuge. No wonder were tired, lethargic, fatigued, easily distracted.

Personally I think thats the room we should start with first before any other room in our home.

Excellant article Sara. I love these articles, they have so much information in them.

10,045 Posts
Very nice article! :thumb:

96 Posts
You wouldn't believe the pile of papers on top of my monitor. :bang: It sorta "framed" the article.:D I like your idea of starting with the bedroom first, C.J.

3,281 Posts
Great article. It's describing me and our home. I really need to get motivated to clear out stuff. :(

2,020 Posts
Excellent article. I am printing it out and sending it to my mom.:smball:
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