Don't ask me how it happens, everything is fine for a long time, and then suddenly, there's a mound of paper growing on the side of my desk; unfinished projects are longing for me to get back to them; there are platters, books, and utensils out of place; and a-once-tidy pantry looks like wolverines have been in there looking for lunch.
After the holidays, when I take down all the Christmas decorations, there is something satisfying about following through with straightening and freshening up the place overall. The month of January, with its sense of bright, new beginnings, seems a good time to clear the clutter that's accumulated over the past few weeks or months. It's like starting again with a clean slate: you toss out the old, make room for the new, put everything back in its right place, all the while sorting what you still want or need for the new year ahead.
January is the traditional time of year for hardware stores to focus on selling storage and organizing tools: shelving units, plastic tubs, totes and baskets are now front and center where singing Santa's and lit up Christmas trees once stood. How often have I joined the masses, also filled with resolution and optimism, to go and stock up on these 'saviors' for we are all determined that this is the year we will get and stay organized!
But I have learned something over the years -- we don't always need to get more organizing tools and shelf space and build more cupboards in the basement. It's about knowing what it is that's actually filling up our spaces. And determining if we really need it all. Asking the question, Does it enhance our lifestyle or just get in the way of what we want from our lives?
Four Main Areas of Clutter
A long time ago I came across an article where the author identified four areas that created clutter in her life. It resonated with me and I adopted her short list as a guide to help me identify what's causing the clutter around me and make some headway in clearing it up.
1. Unfinished projects. These not only clutter our desk tops, drawers, and closets, but our minds and emotions for they seem to cling to those thoughts just on the edge of our consciousness. We feel something bugging us and we know something is undone. It saps valuable energy.
TIP: Make a list of every project, large or small, and think about what you can do to complete it. Until you do finish it, find a suitable 'home' in your house where it can be stored -- maybe a drawer or a file box. Somewhere out of sight, but not out of mind. Somewhere away from your current project, so your mind can relax that you will take care of it.
2. Stuff out of place. Example in hand. My husband and I recently came home from a family birthday weekend celebration and a holiday trek away in the mountains. Our clothes and foodstuffs got unpacked right away, but a few other items were piled into the spare room to be dealt with later. My guest room looked like warehouse. And then we had some minor repairs done to the ceiling of our family room, so ornaments, paintings, tables were added to that room. It was quite a pile in there.
TIP: Take time to put it all back where it belongs. Put the ribbons and scissors back in the drawer. Take that turkey platter and put in where it goes till the next time you need it. It's amazing how little time is sometimes takes to just put it back. And, of course the trick is to aim for putting it all away as soon as you finished with it.
3. To much stuff in too small a space. Oh boy, oh boy... there you are on your hands and knees trying to dig out that large lasagna pan from the back of the cupboard, but there's so much sitting in front of it that you have to take everything out to retrieve it. Then you're in a hurry to get back to your cooking, and now everything's in a mess.
TIP: Keep what you use every day close at hand and put occasional-use things elsewhere so it doesn't cause a 'traffic jam'. If you don't make lasagna often, then put that pan in a seldom use cupboard and remember that's where it lives. Also, learn to recognize just how many of one thing you actually use, eg. do you truly need a dozen pie plates? And, a key thing for me has been to recognize is that I don't need -- and I'll never use -- all the cool gadgets out there, no matter which well-known kitchen diva says they can't live without it.
4. Stuff that you've out-lived, out-grown and out-loved. This is the hard part of things in my estimation. Just because I've out-lived something doesn't mean I've out-loved it too. Sometimes I'm emotionally attached to things that I no longer use, but I hate to give it away or throw it out. My sister calls that the weight of sentimentality.
TIP: Think of it as making room for the new. If you keep holding on to things that are no longer beautiful or useful, it will lock you in the past. Any items you do want to keep for posterity or for sentimental reasons, then make a home for them in a proper box somewhere where they can live peacefully until you want to look at them again. They don't need to live in your every day space.
I hope these tips help cut the clutter, bring order out of chaos, and make your corner of the world more beautiful!