Each week in October, the Living Space column will be devoted to clutter because I believe that clutter and disorganization makes you frustrated and wastes your time and money. It also makes home a less enjoyable place to be, taking your home, your sanctuary, from a living space to a “I want to pull my hair out” space. I hope you’ll join me in
de-cluttering this month.
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.
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.
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.
The first thing in 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.
Your goal for decluttering this week: Analyze your role in creating clutter this week and try to make a change to your habits like going shopping during lunch or letting junk mail stack up instead of throwing it out. Try to change one habit a week.
Next week in Week 3 of Bust Clutter Month: Many homes look cluttered, but they’re really just disorganized. Learn some strategies to help you handle clutter and get organized.
Online clutter and organizing resources:
Real Simple Magazine Clutter Articles Index:
HGTV clutter-busting videos and articles
Organizing articles from DIY Network
Better Homes & Gardens organizing and storage articles