I have found myself with extra time on my hands and I thought I would use this time to have a bit of a sort out at home. I don’t have a great deal of storage space, most of my previous homes also lacked storage. Whilst I am by nature tidy, I do need to be quite organized, as I often work from home and despite my best effects do still have too much stuff. I set up The Holding Company in London, with Dawna Walters of The Life Laundry, where we sold useful storage and items to help you get organized, I still use many of these today. When clutter starts to gather in my home, I begin to feel stressed. When I have dealt with said clutter, I feel much calmer. The way we feel about our living space has a big impact on our state of mind, so I guess it’s no surprise that when our home feels cluttered and chaotic, we feel the same.
A place for everything and everything in its place, what a wonderful idea! More and more studies are showing that a clean, organized living space is an important factor in our wellbeing. Clearing clutter from our homes is an important step towards creating that clean, organized space. Now many of us don’t have huge amounts of spare time for decluttering and organising our family homes. But there some great books and websites, like Pinterest, with helpful tips that can really help you to make a start.
If you’ve been putting off decluttering your home and your life, chances are there’s a lot of work to be done. Don’t let that pile of junk overwhelm you, start small and tackle it one bit at a time. Set yourself a daily task of one box or bag per day and if that still seems overwhelming, try setting a timer for 30 minutes and do whatever you can in that amount of time.
Clutter is anything that is no longer useful in your life, if you have any of the following it needs to go: broken items, worn out items, things that don’t fit, aren’t used, are no longer loved, aren’t played with or don’t suit your lifestyle anymore. The Four-Box Method is a great technique to use to declutter any space. Get four boxes: rubbish, give away, keep or relocate. Consider each item and place into one of the four boxes. Carefully storing the items you are keeping is vital so that clutter does not built up again. Lots of high street shops like Ikea have afforable storage systems.
Donate things that can be used, and feel good about sharing your items with others who might truly benefit. Sell items that have value and make some extra pocket-money, eBay or Vinted are low cost and easy to use. De-cluttering is different from tidying. When you tidy, things are put away, that are out of place. When de-cluttering you are removing things from your house and life. It’s a positive step that can be taken towards improving our well-being.
Before you begin the de-cluttering process, think about why this task is important to you? What is the end vision for your life and your home? What goals would you pursue if your clutter wasn’t blocking your way. The idea of living a simplified, uncluttered life with less stuff sounds attractive to many, myself included. The benefits of owning fewer possessions are: less to clean, less debt, less to organize, less stress, more money and energy for things you are passionate about.
Remember, clutter isn’t just about stuff. It can be the outward symptom of an internal struggle, stemming from grief, loss, fear, self-image or even depression. Many people who suffer from compulsive hoarding have built literal walls around themselves. They are comforted by being confined by all their stuff. We can have a lot of things that don’t make us feel happy, by holding onto clutter because of the guilt of letting it go. Stuff guilt is a big obstacle to living clutter- free. We feel guilty about getting rid of stuff; because of the cost, we don’t want to be wasteful or because someone gave it to us and we don’t want to be ungrateful. Sometimes it represents all the things we said we were going to do, then didn’t like starting a new hobby. As an artist and crafter, I often have unfinished projects, these can really weigh me down. Now I finish the project or get rid of it, why torture yourself with lots of things that are half-finished.
Growing up we might have been faced with times of hardship when we struggled. One of the reasons we become so attached to items is because of the idea of scarcity. My Grand-parents lived through the war-time period and they saved all kinds of items: paper, packaging, out- of- date foods, newspapers etc. All because they knew what it was like to have nothing. Similarly, if you’ve gone through a traumatic experience, you might hold on to an item that identifies with a happier time. Or we may believe that holding on to items will somehow shield us from the pain of loss or grieving. But memories and stuff are not the same. This can be one of the most difficult things to work through when it comes to letting go of stuff. When we’re holding on to emotional baggage, it can literally become physical baggage we carry around with us. The reality is that at some point, it is no longer practical or healthy to hold on to things we don’t need simply because you’re trying to hold on to a memory. Don’t forget that you can take a picture of something you want to remember. How about a digital memory book? What about a creative way to deal with sentimental clutter and find a new use for an old thing? Upcycle or recycle your treasures into something you’ll use. (I will write a blog post about upcycling)
Whatever the reason for keeping it, hanging on to stuff causes a kind of guilt, the guilt that comes from feeling like our lives are cluttered and out of control. It causes you to feel totally overwhelmed physically and mentally, you can waste a lot of time looking for things, you can be too embarrassed to let visitors into your home, cleaning can take so much longer, so it doesn’t get done as well and important items get lost. It’s so much easier to function when you have a house that is well- ordered and free of clutter. It’s a happy, healthy space where you and your family can thrive.
There’s no doubt about it, once you deal with your clutter, you’ll feel more relaxed and in control. De-cluttering will also help relieve negative emotions such as guilt and embarrassment. Feelings that prevent you from living the life you want to live. De-cluttering will help relieve the stress and anxiety around those negative emotions, and help you move intentionally toward the life you want. Any progress, big or small, is a great mood booster. The feeling of lightness you’ll get from removing the things in your life that are no longer serving you is wonderful. ( This can apply to people and habits)
Over-buying, is addictive, when we buy, we feel great at first then feel guilty, often hiding things in cupboards with the tags attached, it’s very tempting when spotting a bargain even when money’s really tight, many of us can’t stop shopping. Believe me, most of the stuff we buy is making us miserable. Try and get into the mindset of buying and having fewer things, but make them the best quality that you can afford. Who wants to fight through a wardrobe overflowing with clothes, that don’t fit, don’t flatter you and you don’t even like that much. Only buy what you love and wear it, don’t save it for best, enjoy it now, life is too short!
Books and media can be problematic. It feels lovely to have a book collection, but be honest, there is no reason to keep all those books we have read, unless they are first editions or heirlooms. Do you keep piles of old magazines? Instead just keep the recipes or articles you want and get rid of the magazines. These pages can be put in a file or scrapbook. Get rid of old planners and notebooks just take out the pages with the stuff you want to keep. If you have stacks of CDs you can trade these in and go digital. The same with photographs, store on your computer and back up to cloud.
If you work from home, once you’ve de-cluttered, and everything is in its place, you’ll be able to find what you are looking for so much more quickly and easily. And you’ll be less likely to lose things, how frustrating is it when you just can’t lay your hands on something. Distraction is one of the biggest obstacles to being productive, clutter is a visual form of distraction. It draws your attention away from what you really should be focusing on, impacting on your ability to make decisions and process information. Check through your supplies and see what you have unnecessary duplicates of, what is broken and what you don’t need. Been creative it’s hard for me to not look at everything as something I can use later. In my studio space, I try to only keep things that I have a specific use in mind. Donate to a craft centre instead where old supplies can be put to good use.
If you are temporarily working from home, putting everything you require in a box and get it out when you are working. This is far better than leaving your work stuff laying around as well as more productive.
Its always hard to let go of stuff that may have been important once, but why not let someone else benefit from what no longer serves your need. I am not a hoarder but I am also a long way off living a minimalism lifestyle. I think having things around you that you love and use is just fine as long as you can find everything when you need it. So if you put things away after using and have a home for everything all is good.
To quote -William Morris- Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.