Is this stuff helping you live the life you want to live?
That’s one of the central questions I tell my students to ask themselves as they are evaluating their possessions.
Most of the time we keep things in our home for other reasons:
- It was a gift.
- I need to own it because of my profession.
- I feel guilty getting rid of it.
- It belonged to a family member.
- ______ wanted me to have it.
- I paid a lot of money for it; I can’t just get rid of it.
- I might need it someday (just in case!)
But none of those reasons have anything to do with how you want to be living your life.
Spend some time thinking about where your life is headed, what you want to be doing differently in 5 years and how you want your life to look.
What things are you passionate about, where do you want to spend more time?
Don’t try to organize things until you’ve gotten rid of most of it.
The reason for clutter: we don’t have room for it.
When you bring something new into the house, and you are not sure where to put it, what happens? It gets set on a counter or other surface, and you tell yourself you’ll figure out what to do with it later. But do you?
Well, probably not; there is most likely something already taking up space wherever the new do-dad needs to go.
You can’t organize your way out of a clutter problem: you need to eliminate most of the items.
Once you’ve de-owned all the non-essentials, it’s brilliantly easy to organize the rest.
You don’t need a magic hanger in your closet so you can hang 10X the number of clothes in your closet. Instead, get rid of all the clothes that you don’t like or don’t wear –
- The fat clothes
- The skinny clothes
- The I-bought-this-on-sale-but-have-never-warn-it clothes
- The ones that make you feel frumpy or snobbish or just aren’t the right color.
Eliminating all the clothes that make you feel like less of a person (when you keep the clothes from that list, all you feel is a sense of shame – “I should lose weight, I should work out, I should wear this since I spent money on it…”
Getting rid of all that is also getting rid of all those ill-feelings. You’re not just unburdening your home, you’re unburdening your mind and emotions.
When the clutter is gone, it’s easy to organize what’s left.
Sure this depends on your space.
But do you need 10-20 different pots? Or can you make do with 4?
Do you need three sets of mixing bowls? Or will one be plenty if you wash the dishes regularly?
Do you need an espresso machine, a Keurig, a french press, a Chemex and a drip coffee pot? Or can you make do using the one that you like the most?
And then get rid of the coffee mugs you don’t use and all the beans, teas and creamers that you avoid but left in the cupboard and suddenly your coffee cupboard only has a hand-full of items that need a home.
Develop a cleaning rhythm.
I enjoy reading habit and productivity books. They remind me that I’m capable of doing things that I want to do. Recently I read Mini-Habits, and this theory applies perfectly to a daily cleaning routine.
When people want to simplify their home, it’s typically an overwhelming thought. Where do I start? How do I start? How will I keep other areas from getting worse when I’m working on a different room?
—–Don’t worry about it. Just wash the dishes.—–
When we look at everything all around us, yes, it’s overwhelming. But you can do the dishes today. You can throw away the trash on the kitchen counters. You can wipe the stove off after dinner.
That is all you need to do.
After you do the dishes, you’ve already won: you did your required task, and you accomplished your goal. Now, sometimes you will think “That was quick… I could sort this pile of papers and get it off the counter.” Or you may be inspired to get rid of the extra Tupperware-type containers or acknowledge that you don’t ever look at 99% of your cookbooks and decide to let them go.
Everything beyond the dishes is a bonus.
In Stephen Guise’s Mini Habits, he talks about how exercising for 30 minutes seemed too daunting. His mind thought through all 30 minutes of it and talked him out of taking action. So he decided only to require one push-up of himself. Once he did the one, he thought “I’m already here, I might as well do a few more” and then “I could do one pull-up as well.” Which turned into a 20-30 minute workout session, but he only required one push-up.
It’s the same with a simple routine; if all you require of yourself is to do the dishes and clean the counters off every day, it doesn’t take long before you see the other things that you could do quickly. And then you have more motivation to get it done, without your brain thinking about ALL-THE-THINGS that need to be decluttered.
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