Let’s talk about clutter. This word conjures up images of piles of stuff and brings up feelings of dread and despair for so many people. So why is it such a problem for so many of us? Why do we have so much trouble letting go? This topic has fascinated me for years and I would like to share what I have learned about tackling it. The motivation to declutter boils down to one thing for me - having nothing in my home that I do not find to be useful or beautiful. It's a stretch goal for sure, but that's what keeps me in check.
Everyone’s tolerance level for clutter is different. What one person considers clutter, another would not. What one person would consider a cluttered room, another would not… and so on. The common theme across the board is that feeling of helplessness and being trapped by one’s STUFF that so many of us experience. I think it’s fair to say that most of us have felt overwhelmed by our stuff at some point. Maybe it was when you had to move across the country. Maybe it was when you decided to do home renovations. Maybe it was when your workplace’s office flooded (this happened to me and just having to deal with all the crap in my desk was a massive pain). Maybe it was when your mother-in-law decided to drop by your house with 30 minutes notice and you were embarrassed to let her see the state of your home. Maybe it was when you spent an hour looking for a pair of shoes for a party.
I used to be a pack rat. I’d form sentimental attachments with pretty much everything I owned. It was getting ridiculous. I can’t say I had some epiphany and changed overnight, but I am happy to say that I have been making a conscious effort to declutter my life for a couple of years now. To me, decluttering is about making space for the stuff you really do care about. I always feel much calmer when I am not drowning in clutter. Once I got rid of some low-hanging fruit, I felt energized and wanted to continue. Some weeks I’d get rid of (donate/give away, trash/recycle, sell) a lot, other weeks I wouldn’t. There is no perfect way to manage clutter, but I find consistency helps. It’s certainly an ongoing process, but it thankfully gets much easier with time. Once I started to consciously declutter, I also made a decision to be more mindful of what sort of things I brought into my home. Replacing clutter with more clutter defeats the purpose.
What is clutter?
This is a tricky one because you can’t always easily recognize clutter until you really think about it. To me, very simply, clutter is anything that is taking up space in my home that is not there for a good reason. Deciding what a good reason is – now that’s the tough part!
I would like to point out that just because you have a lot of something does not make it clutter. If your hockey cards collection is a prized possession then great! If you treasure all 56 of your mugs then that’s fine too. I am not saying at all that you need to part with any item you truly love.
Why is clutter so bad?
-Even if you have the space to store it, you know it’s sitting there, unused… or worse, getting in the way of your daily life
-For many people, physical clutter also makes the mind cluttered (i.e. you feel stressed)
-It costs time, money, and effort to maintain. This can mean so many things. An example could be a cluttered nightstand that you dread dusting because you have to move everything first. A more life-altering example could be that you are procrastinating on downsizing your home because you feel like you have too much stuff but don’t even know where to begin.
I have found that decluttering has many benefits:
-You spend less time cleaning, meaning you have more time to enjoy life
-You can find stuff quicker e.g. you don’t need to dig through that junk drawer during a power outage when you need to find a flashlight or you don't end up buying duplicates of things you own but can't find
-You spend less time and money organizing – it takes care of itself for the most part
-You become more conscious of what you buy – this saves you money
-The stuff you do have stands out more and is easier to enjoy e.g. I no longer have to dig through a pile of earrings to find ones I actually want to wear
-You feel better knowing that someone is getting use of an object you gave/donated – it’s no longer sitting in a box somewhere
-You get that feeling of being lighter
Where does all this stuff come from?! I used to ask myself this almost every day. Sometimes it felt like a mystery. Of course it takes time to accumulate stuff. Birthdays, Christmases, sales, combining households, friends and family who give stuff to you… LIFE basically creates stuff. Decluttering is like losing weight. You did not gain it overnight, so you won’t lose it overnight either! You also have to maintain the weight/clutter loss. It’s not a one-time thing, sadly.
So… now that we have an idea what clutter is and why it’s bad, where do we go from here? If you’re new to this and interested in starting the decluttering process, I would begin with the easy stuff and set yourself targets (like spend 15 min decluttering one small area of your home). You can read more of my articles on decluttering here.
What are your reasons for decluttering?