Facing Clutter: Tips and Techniques from the Trenches

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It’s probably bold of me to write this considering that I’m living in piles of clutter right now. I’m braving it for two reasons.

First, I know I’m not alone. If people weren’t struggling with clutter, then there wouldn’t be so many books, websites, TV shows, consultants, etc. making money off the problem.

Second, I know that experience is valuable even if mastery hasn’t been obtained. Any naturally neat person can write a book. However they often don’t comprehend what the world looks like from the eyes those who don’t come by those skills easily.

When you’ve lived your life moving clutter around, you figure out some things along the way.  So even though I’m not there yet, here are some of the things that have moved me in the right direction.

Keep a donation box handy
I keep a box that is always ready to accept a thrift store donation. When I see something I don’t need anymore it goes in there. When it is full I document it for my taxes and donate it to the thrift store.

Know how you are wired
There are a ton of organization systems available out there and plenty of advice being handed out. Most of that is coming from people who are naturally neat and who are much more linear thinkers. If those things are working for you, then you are probably one of those types of thinkers.

For those of us who find this to be a struggle it is helpful to know that there are other ways.  The more right brained person doesn’t think in lines. We think in seemingly random clumps. Well, maybe constellations is a better word. It’s what makes us so good at brainstorming. We make connections and see the potential in everything. We can pick up pretty much anything and figure out a minimum of 3 ways to use it. It’s a blessing and a curse.

If you fit into this category, then filing cabinets do not work. It is out of sight and out of mind. A more visual filing system is better. That’s why you hear of people with piles of papers on their desk yet they know where everything is. The books  Organizing for the Creative Person and Organizing from the Right Side of the Brain teach some interesting things about how organizing is different for creative types.

Focus on maintaining (and maybe a little more)
This is a new one for me. I got so overwhelmed with the clutter because I wanted it all gone. I was trapped in an all or nothing cycle which usually ended up as nothing. It was actually paralyzing me from doing anything. I decided I should first make an effort to maintain it and prevent it from getting worse.My approach has been do what is necessary to maintain things and maybe a few steps more more. This helped me take the pressure off and get out of the all or nothing mindset. It also opened the door for me to create some systems.

Go with your current habits
I learned this one from organizing expert Julie Morganstern. She says that if you already have a habit of leaving something in a spot, don’t try to go against your habits, just create a better way to organize that spot. For me that meant putting a coat tree next to the arm of the couch and putting a shoe shelf in the bathroom.

Understand your limitations
Are you working, homeschooling, driving kids this way and that, dealing with health problems, active in church, involved in projects in the community, etc.? All of these things take a piece of you in the form of time and energy. We need to weigh these things in our lives.

When I took a part time job my home suffered. I had no idea how much I was actually getting done. Every little thing we do takes something from us. We may have to give up something to have the resources we need to focus on our home.

Determine your acceptable level of clutter
Figure out what level of clean you can accept as a minimum for your lifestyle. Some people work all day, have no kids at home and want their house to look like something in a magazine. Others use theirs 24/7 and are always working on projects that require stuff to be front and center.  Make your focus about getting your home to the level that you and your family need in order to feel at peace.

Again, I’m not the poster child for an organized home, but these are some things that keep it from being worse than it is. I can admit it because I know I’m not alone in this.

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One Response to Facing Clutter: Tips and Techniques from the Trenches

  1. Pingback: My Clutter Mantras | The Scholarly Redneck

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