What is clutter? It is more than piles of stuff. Clutter is postponed decisions. Clutter is items kept but not used. Clutter is a barrier to living well. “I may need it someday” may seem reasonable at the time. How many items can you keep indefinitely? How much can you keep before the items that once brought you joy become a giant ball of stress?
Clutter affects your brain. Whether it be your closet or office desk, excess things in your surroundings can have a negative impact on your ability to focus. Neuroscientists at Princeton University found when they looked at people’s task performance in an organized versus disorganized environment. The results showed that clutter in your surroundings competes for your attention, resulting in decreased performance and increased stress.
A team of UCLA researchers recently observed 32 Los Angeles families and found that all of the mothers’ stress hormones spiked during the time they spent dealing with their belongings. Similar to what multi-tasking, clutter overloads your senses, making you feel stressed, and impairs your ability to think creatively. This is the same for electronic clutter as well.
Clutter not only affects you but those around you. Have you ever canceled an lunch or dinner with a friend because you felt like you had too many things to do and felt guilty. In extreme cases a person may not let anyone into the home because they are ashamed of clutter. I had a client who loved to have dinner parties but hadn’t had one in a couple of years because she didn’t want anyone to see her clutter. She was depriving herself of her joy because of stuff!
Do you do the daily “panic search” ? As you walk out the door you can’t find your keys, purse, wallet, back pack? Clutter takes precious time out of your day. The more stuff you have, the more time it takes to locate it.
The cost of clutter is not only more stress and relationships, but money. Many people with a lot of clutter buy larger homes of storage units to hold all their stuff. We buying things we don't really need just because they are a bargain. George Carlin said “ A house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and find more stuff". The more stuff you have, the more you must find a place to put it, and the more you'll have to clean it, repair, and eventually replace it.
Want to beat clutter?. Try these tips:
- Sort ~ Group similar items together in categories. Go through all items and make one of these 4 decisions.
- What to Keep
- What to Toss
- What to Donate
- What to Sell
- Purge ~ Love it or Lose it.
- Assign a home ~ Decide precisely where you will store each category of 3. keepers.
- Containerize ~ Get the right storage to fit.
- Equalize ~ Maintain your new system. It takes time to make new habits. Don't give up!
- As you are moving from space to space keep handy – a donation box, a sell box, trash bags.
- Try to complete one small space before moving on to another. Test out the new sytem in one space before moving on to another.
- Avoid moving from room to room – have a “Evict” box.
- Set small goals, 1 room/1 month, one dresser or cabinet per week, the junk drawer. Be patient. The clutter didn't get there overnight, so it won't go away over night.