This week in the blog you'll find Tips from Kondo (& Me) on Dealing with Clutter. It’s no secret that I believe clutter is one of the barriers between your life as it is and the kind of life you desire to create. That’s because clutter of any sort – be it calendar, physical, mental, or spiritual – will distract you from not just actively pursuing the kind of life you deeply desire, but your ability to find pleasure in even the tiniest moments of any ordinary day.
I say this because I know from experience that all of that my clutter helped keep me stuck and prevented me from being fully engaged. The physical clutter, specifically, meant that walking into my house was rarely a joyful experience. Although I would love to tell you that all the clutter was because of my partner or the kids, that not all of it was mine, that would be a lie.
I was the cause of a good portion of that clutter. It was formed from my piles of paper and my stacks of books. My clothes were the ones crammed into the closet, and my shoes were scattered on the floor. I was the purchaser of the toys and the clothes the girls wore.
I was the one who, from the time I was a small child, shoved stuff under the bed to get it out of the way, and never could seem to manage keeping things straight enough to avoid the inevitable moment when my mother would come into my room and clean it to her level of organization.
I have never been one of those “born organized” people. I never will be. Despite this, I can’t stand the piles and the disorganization. However, since being tidy doesn’t come naturally to me, having a clean desk and clutter-free living room is a victory. I function at my best when my surroundings are neat, clean and organized.
My darling, each and every day can be a challenge to keep even a modicum of order around here. And during those most challenging times, when the piles once again get out of control, I feel frustrated at myself and shamed for others, even JB, to see how “messy” I am.
So, over the years, I’ve developed a variety of tricks and systems to manage my stuff.
If you’ve read anything on managing clutter lately, you’ve probably come across “The Kondo Method” based on Marie Kondo’s runaway bestseller, The Magic Art of Tidying Up. It has some great tips for an orderly home, like only keeping items that “spark joy” and a crazy fantastic way to fold clothes.
In many ways, though, the Kondo Method works best for those who are more naturally organized and are challenged by too many belongings or have an emotional attachments to heirlooms and their children’s things. For someone who doesn’t possess that ‘organization gene,’ to completely declutter an entire house without stopping can feel overwhelming.
But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some jewels in that book that I loved and connected with:
Be Methodical. Choose one type of thing to declutter or one room to whip into shape. If you feel overwhelmed on “organizing it all,” choosing a small focus can help.
You Can’t Organize Clutter. If your closet and drawers are crammed, you have to ditch some of the clothes in there. Same goes for linens, dishes, books, and more.
Keep Only Things That Spark Joy. When I moved from Texas to Ohio, my mantra as I packed was: do I love this enough to (a) pay to move it or (b) pay to put it in storage? Not much passed that inquiry.
Every Item Needs a Place. Without having a place for everything, you will always fight staying organized.
And now, for some tips that aren’t part of the Kondo Method:
Set a Goal Date with Associated Reward. Without deadlines, many of us can’t get things finished. So, set a goal date of clearing one area or type of clutter – say like your closet – and an associated reward. Write it down in positive terms. For example: “When I declutter and clean my closet before Thanksgiving, I am going to reward myself with meeting my girlfriend Sally for a pedicure.”
Be Kind to Yourself. If you let guilt play a part in the de-cluttering process, you’ll feel stressed and overwhelmed. Sure, you bought things you didn’t need or love. Yes, you kept things you should have ditched ages ago.
Set A Non-Negotiable Standard for De-cluttering. Like we need standards for our life, you may need it to get your clutter under control. Maybe you set a standard to remove one item from your home you don’t love a day or clean one drawer each week.
- Apply Compassionate Discipline. De-cluttering brings up all kinds of crappy feelings. Yes, I already mentioned kindness and stress and guilt. And those feelings are enough to halt many of us mid-step. So, yes, apply compassion to yourself but be disciplined about your goals.
Make It a Game. I dislike unloading the dishwasher, so I race the brewing of the coffee pot each morning. Sometimes, I set a timer and clear out a drawer or closet before it goes off.
Create a Drop Zone & Launch Pad. It’s easy to walk into the house at the end of the day and dump your purse, briefcase, jacket, and travel mug on any available flat surface. To remedy this, have a drop zone for incoming items, like mail and only drop the mail in that spot. Same goes with needing a drop zone for each family member, where each person drops their things as they come in the house. This spot doubles as a launch pad for quick morning getaways, meaning no more searching for keys.
Let’s face it, being organized isn’t a natural state for everyone, and unlike that Ultimate Organizer, Mary Poppins, most of us don’t count a magic carpetbag among our tools. But like Mary’s spoonful of sugar, and Kondo’s suggestions are the ‘spoonful of sugar’ that makes the ‘medicine’ of de-cluttering go down a bit easier.
I know that if I can do it, so can you. Because after years of under-the-bed boxes, there’s nothing under any of the beds in my house now. That’s a statement I never could have made even five years ago.
We’ve all seen the meme which reads, “a clean desk is the sign of a sick mind,” but, darling, let’s get some perspective. The reality is this: A clean desk (or house or whatever) is the sign of a productive, stress-free mind.
And let’s face it: less stress = happier living. And happier living allows you to pursue your dreams.
I’d love for you to join me clearing clutter and getting spaces in order. My 30 Days to Clarity: Clutter Busting course begins Sunday, October 25th. Each day you are assigned simple task that takes less than 30 minutes to move towards less clutter and less stress.
You can sign up here.