Don't ask me how it happens, everything is fine for a long time, and then suddenly, there's a mess. It might be mounds of paper growing on the side of my desk; unfinished projects longing for me to get back to them; extra platters, books, and utensils sitting on the spare bed; and a pantry that looks like wolverines have been looking for lunch.
The month of January, with its sense of bright, new beginnings, is often a good time to clear clutter that's accumulated over the past few weeks or months. Traditionally, January is the time of year when hardware stores focus on selling storage and organizing tools; shelving units, plastic tubs, totes and baskets are now front and center where singing Santa Clauses stood just days earlier. How often have I joined the masses, also filled with resolution and optimism, to go and stock up on these 'saviors', determined that this is the year we will get and stay organized!
I have learned something over the years -- we don't always need to get more shelving or organizing units. It's more about knowing what it is that is actually filling up our spaces, and then determining whether we really want or need it still. I ask myself the question: Does it enhance my lifestyle or is it getting in the way of what I aim for in my life: simplicity, peace of mind, order?
Four Main Areas of Clutter
Years ago I found an article in which the author identified four areas that created clutter in her own life. What she said resonated with me. I adopted her short list as a guide to help me to identify what's causing my own clutter.
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. Too 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 will help to bring about a sense of peace, order out of chaos, and turn your cluttered corners into something more beautiful!