Seven “Uncluttering Rules”
Here are several “uncluttering rules” that I try to live by. No, I don’t always keep these myself, but they are goals to be attained. The good news is that the more I follow these rules, the less time it takes to get back to a completely clutter-free environment.
Whether you want to declutter your life because you want to create a more inviting chi energy to flow through your home, you want to land that big contract at work or (and this is the goal of most of us!) you just want to walk through your house without tripping, then this article was written just for you.
Unclutter Your Life Rule #1:
When it doubt, throw it out.
This is the simplest – yet the hardest. We’ve all experienced it. We finally throw out that widget that we haven’t used in literally years. The very next day someone needs it.
And that’s the horror story we recall every time we reach for an article and begin to pitch it. My counter-argument to this: suck it up and get over it.
If you haven’t used it in a year – or more – the odds are that it’s just not that important in your life. If you find yourself tripping over it more than using it, then it’s probably serving no useful purpose.
And if you just discovered it in a box in your garage with other “stuff” you haven’t unpacked from your move five years ago… guess what? Odds are you can live without it quite nicely! After all, you have been up until now, haven’t you?
This not only applies to books, newspaper articles and magazines, but seriously consider this when encountering that old electric sandwich maker and even that newer, but seldom used George Foreman grill.
Unclutter Your Life Rule #2:
Store Objects In The Most Efficient Spaces.
Perhaps you don’t use an object because it’s not stored in a spot that’s easy to access. It’s easier to show you what I mean than to take the time to explain it. We all do this quite naturally when it comes to the “efficiency” of our kitchens.
And I do this most when it comes to my morning coffee. My coffee pot is placed on the counter that is immediately below my coffee cups. My coffee beans are not stored too far from that, and my coffee grinder sits on the same shelf as my beans.
If I were to place my coffee grinder on the opposite side of the kitchen that set up wouldn’t serve me well. Two events would likely occur. First the coffee grinder would never get back to its proper home across the kitchen. Or I’d give up grinding coffee and switch to using grounds (No, I would never give up drinking coffee!)
As you can plainly see “efficient storage” means nothing less than placing the objects you do intend to use in the most accessible places. Did that George Forman grill land under the sink because you never used it? Or you just didn’t know where else to store it?
If you really want to give it another chance, try storing it where it’ll be handy for you to use.
Another useful tip along these lines is to store similar items together. For example, if you have several flower vases, store these together. The next time you reach for a vase, you only have to visit one location to find all of them. There will be no going to the first place, only to realize that the perfect vase is hiding under the stairs in the basement.
Unclutter Your Life Rule #3:
Recycle! Recycle! Recycle!
Did I make myself clear enough? When you think recycling, though, think along creative lines. Take books to booksellers that sell used books or to libraries for their book sales. Recycle newspapers and magazines.
Clothes? Think about taking these to consignment shops or donating them to thrift stores where they’ll be sold at low, affordable prices to families who not only are in need of the clothing, but appreciate the cost as well.
Even a yard sale is a form of recycling if you think about it. Don’t want to go through the trouble of holding your own? Maybe your neighbor wants several of your pieces of old furniture, or some of your unused kitchen gadgets to sell.
There are even trade services that you can access online where you can swap CD’s, video games and kids books.
Churches may also be looking for saleable items for their rummage sales. Schools usually hold annual fundraiser sales and you wont believe what one of the hot items is – used trophies! Ask around. You know what they say: One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.
Decide right now to get rid of what you are clearing within 3 days of the time it is removed from circulation in your home. In other words, if donating to a specific charity is too time consuming, simply take your items to the nearest highway charitable drop off. Do not let your castaways clutter your garage because they cant make it to the ultimate charity. Release and let go. The best possible action you can take it to place your donations in your car the same day they leave your home, not the garage! Capiche?!
Unclutter Your Life Rule #4:
Do The Words Filing Cabinet Ring A Bell?
Got papers? Get a filing cabinet. Make sure it is a good quality file cabinet with sliding drawers that do not stick. You wont want to file if you have to fight with the drawers, and trust me, you want to make filing as easy and effortless as possible.
If you have a home office, it’s imperative at some point – even with the age of digital forms and cybersaving sites – that you purchase a “real” filing cabinet. I don’t care what anyone says, the “hard copy” of many documents, magazines, warranties and the like, will never totally disappear from the face of this earth.
Don’t overlook the fact that every major appliance you buy comes with some type of operating manual. From that hot water tank to your refrigerator to your car, there are papers to be saved from each of these purposes. It’s best to have them all saved together than strewn across the floor and drawer space of your home.
Unclutter Your Life Rule #5:
Get Zen With The Space.
Okay, so this rule is a little cryptic. But it’s still useful. Instead of focusing your mind on all the clutter you currently have, start visualizing your house as clutter free. Seriously. Visualize it as clutter free. You’ll discover as you go about your day that you’ll not only become more aware of the clutter, but you’ll slowly do something about it!
This particular rule may take some adjusting to. But I’ve tried it for myself and for my clients– and it works. After a while, you will have an image of your house as it should be: clean and without useless stuff strewn around. And the next thing you know, you’re taking steps — sometimes just baby steps — towards your vision.
Unclutter Your Life Rule #6:
Do It Now!
Aha! Now we’ve hit the nail on the head. I can tell by the way you cringed when you read this rule. A lot of the clutter accumulates in our homes simply because we refuse to deal with it “in the moment.”
We can take another tip from those Zen masters who always encourage us to “live in the moment.” Now, we can add to that “live in the moment to avoid that clutter.”
This rule is best illustrated by the daily mail. Every day your postal carrier drops mail off in your mailbox. What exactly do you do with that mail? If you’re like most of us, you look through it and set it aside. “I’ll deal with it after supper,” you say, as you hurry into the kitchen.
However, you forget all about the junk mail and instead read a good book while you’re watching television.
The next time you find that particular sales flyer for your local grocery store is three weeks after the sale has expired. If it didn’t get buried under a mound of other junk mail, it fell under the couch.
Oh, yes, I do understand the nature of clutter.
Instead of putting everything aside, you could have dealt with this in a more efficient matter. You could have taken the few moments to separate the bills and placed them on your desk in a small vertical container, where you’ll sit the next time you pay them.
Take the junk mail and begin to prioritize that. Mail that doesn’t appeal to you at all, throw out immediately. Flyers you may want to look at later – like for your trip to the grocery store – set in another basket, preferably one close to where you sit in the evening. In this way, their presence triggers you to at least glance through them.
Now at least you know where it is when you decide to check out this week’s shopping list.
Unclutter Your Life Rule #7:
Do you have your objects stored in bins? Instead of opening them every time you want to view what’s in there, why not just label them?
Bins with the Christmas decorations can be labeled as such. You can even buy bins in the colors of the season. That way when you’re looking for that Halloween costume from three years ago, you don’t have to go through those particular bins.
In fact, labeling bins can help you pinpoint with amazing accuracy exactly where the item you’re looking for is really hiding!
Don’t limit this labeling system only to bins, though. Look through that garage. Should certain tools or garden equipment be in specific locations? Don’t be shy about putting a sign on the spot. If you have tools hanging on pegboard, label the space that you hang your hammer as “hammer.” If you have to (and for some family members this might work even better) outline the shape of a hammer in this spot! This way every member of your family knows where to hang that rake. No excuses.
I have some clients with large families that even do this with their kitchen cabinets. That way they all agree on where to replace the clean dishes and cups.
This is only the beginning of how you can start — with a little determination — the “de-clutterization” of your home. It’s something everyone grapples with every day to one extent or another.
When you see a home that’s clutter free, ask yourself this question: What did it look like 48 hours prior to this, before this family was expecting company?
Then ask yourself the next logical question: Did Mom, acting like a Gestapo, enlist the help of every person in the house to “de-clutterize” it?
The odds are the answer to the last question is a resounding: You bet she did!
Don’t be too hard on yourself because you’ve let clutter get the best of you. Just hunker down now that you’ve decided to get rid of it and stick to your guns.
Because you can de-clutter your house… enlarge your enjoyment of life… and breathe freely once more!