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Declutter and Prosper

We are moving to number 8 of our 12 Daily Intentions. I think you would agree that number 8 has driven a lot of ink over the last few years. This is the topic of “decluttering.” The art of decluttering has even progressed into very intentional ways of life, such as "minimalism" and other lifestyles. If you are interested in digging deeper into this intention, there are a number of outstanding books and experts that can help guide you in this journey. My explanations and suggestions regarding decluttering are combined with organization and are limited to this brief article and this blog post.

To start with, I have to admit, though I am not a hoarder by any stretch, I am a bit of an “accumulator.” I believe like many people over time, we accumulate things that we no longer have much need for. Having an idea of why we tend to "accumulate" is the first step in making some major shifts in our lives. To start with are several reasons why some of us tend to hold onto so many things and begin to create clutter:

  • Items have out-served their usefulness. Everything from clothing to electronics has a lifespan. Though it is oftentimes hard for us to recognize this fact and it is even more difficult to identify how long that lifespan actually is. Some of us tend to hold onto these things for years without ever using or gaining any benefit from them.

  • Items have sentimental value. Many items such as photographs, furniture, and jewelry have been passed onto us through our relatives and friends. It is difficult to separate ourselves from the emotional attachment to these items.

  • Items have an emotional attachment. This emotional attachment is often exhibited because of a control issue. People sometimes feel they are controlling things by holding onto these possessions even though these items have no practical value. Ironically, rather than these items serving us, they actually do the opposite as we begin to serve them. It can also work in reverse, some people, when losing control of other areas of their life, hold onto “items” because everything is out of control. The clutter is simply a reflection of these other areas of their life.

  • Some individuals have no systems in place. The accumulation of "stuff" is a result of not having any sort of plan or system. Ironically, if there are no systems, items begin to accumulate and grow into clutter. Years ago I read something that has stuck with me and it has really seemed to assist me in this area of incorporating systems. The phase that I am referring to is “everything has its place.” This is definitely an organizational strategy but also is helpful with the simple act of decluttering. Identifying what that space is limited and making sure the items get where they belong is a big step in this process.

There are certainly other reasons for the over-accumulation of "stuff" but Identifying why we tend to accumulate clutter is a significant and important first step in the process of actually decluttering. The 2nd step in the process is to locate where the items of value need to be placed. An example of this is that clothes closets are for clothes. Adding other items such as electronics, broken pieces of furniture or other items only adds to the clutter. These items either need to have their own space or be eliminated.

I have learned over time and with experience that cleaning out or decluttering only one area of your home or office at a time can lead to only “shifting the clutter” from one area to another. Though there is value in starting projects and creating momentum, this can become a "shell-game," and leaves us with little real progress. Having a larger plan that includes elimination and organization provides much more traction.

Here are a few tips that I have found useful in moving the needle when it actually comes to decluttering/organizing my space

  • Having a vision of what you would like your “space” to look like, can be motivating. Check out magazines or look at some images on the web that are clutter-free spaces that you would like your current space to look like in the near future.

  • Set aside 10 minutes every day to declutter or organize any particular area that you wish. Understand that decluttering is a continuing process. It is not necessarily an outcome that we someday reach and celebrate that we are “clutter-free.” Having the mindset and devoting a small amount of time each day to is crucial. It is truly a mindset that you develop over time.

  • Another very useful tip, especially after you have cleared space is to consider gifting a like item if you bring a new one. In other words, if you receive or purchase a new clothing item, then give one away or eliminate one from your space.

  • One of the most difficult areas to declutter is often the sentimental items that we are trying to organize or declutter. My suggestion is to start with an area such as loose photographs and possibly do one of two things with them. Either put them in albums and organize them by any means that fits your personal needs. The second option is to create a digital album that is easily within reach to you. Knowing that you can access these at any moment is additionally reassuring and comforting. For items other than photographs that are sometimes larger and bulkier, consider downsizing altogether or combing things such as awards into a single trophy or plaque. Just making a decision on the real value to you is important.

  • Clear out and eliminate storage areas altogether. This is especially valuable if these are items that you have not used in the last twelve months or if you have no current plans to use them. This can also be a tremendously large cost saving you. As Americans, it is estimated that we spend approximately $38 billion annually on storage units alone! Don't fool yourself into believing that there will be a day that you will sometime need a particular item if you haven't used it in the last 2 years.

  • Not all decluttering has to do with physical items. Decluttering is a valuable tool when it comes to letting go of emotional baggage and mental limitations. These could be major relationship distractions, jobs that are destroying your mental and physical health, or any other thing that is holding you back from reaching your full potential. Exercising some of our other previously discussed “intentions” can help with this process. In particular, meditation and breathwork can help us declutter our lives of negative and self-defeating beliefs and emotional baggage. Please refer to earlier these discussed intentions

As I mentioned previously, there are countless resources that are available that can help us in the process of decluttering our lives. Here are just a few that you might consider:

  • Decluttering at the Speed of Life by Dana K. White

  • Decluttering for Dummies by Jane Stroller

  • Organizing for the Rest of Us by Dana K. White

  • Organize Tomorrow Today by Jason Selk, Tom Bartlow, and Mathew Rudy

Additionally, there are many short video clips on YouTube and other media outlets that provide outstanding tips to help you organize and declutter your life.

I want to emphasize the importance of simply setting aside 10 minutes each day to focus on an area that you choose to declutter. Making this a priority and one of your 12 daily intentions is incredibly powerful and can add tremendous value to your life. The greatest reward is that by decluttering and organizing, you are opening up time and space for those things that are most enjoyable and will serve you and your healthy lifestyle.


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