UnStuff Your Life

Why do we hold on to things we don’t need? A guide to clearing clutter and forming new habitsAndrew Mellen


As you develop new skills and until these new habits become second nature, it’s possible that you may continue feeling disjointed or awkward in your mechanical efforts to shift your behaviors around your accumulated stuff. It is almost guaranteed that as you deal with historic clutter, as you sift and sort through piles of things trying to sort them into smaller distinct piles, that just touching certain things will bring up various feelings and thoughts. And without a clear mind and an open heart, you may easily become overwhelmed. The need to be mindful is critical if you’re engaged in forming new habits while tackling historic clutter.

Once you have some practice at recognizing the stories that you’ve created for your objects, you’ll be able to examine the items surrounding you with some energy and a fresh vision. You’ll be free to evaluate each item and understand your relationship to it while asking yourself if this object currently satisfies any of the following:

• Is it beautiful?
• Is it practical?
• Does it offer you comfort?
• Does it offer you convenience?
• Do I already own something similar that either works better or I prefer?

If the answer to the first four questions is no, or the answer to the fifth is yes, then objectively there isn’t any reason to hold onto it.

As you begin to dismantle accumulated clutter by separating each item from its random neighbors, as you apply the Organizational Triangle and the five questions above to these things, you’ll want to allow adequate time for the process so you can stay effective and focused for each session without overextending yourself. This is where a timer comes in handy. Each time you sort through historic clutter, you’ll want to set the timer for a reasonable amount of time—no less than fifteen minutes and no more than three hours. A timer is an excellent tool to use for all sorts of projects, from getting organized to paying bills or physical exercise. Set the timer, and while you’re timing yourself, complete a task that previously had you immobilized. The next time you attempt that task, what you’ll experience and build upon is your most recent success—rather than your historic failure.

The gifts of organization
While you may never love putting things in their homes or derive great pleasure from knowing where everything in your space is at any given time, what you may love is all of the free time organization gives you as a gift for your simple compliance. Make no mistake, the goal of getting organized, during springtime or anytime, is not the only goal or even the best goal. That goal is finally having time for all of the things that you say are important to you but never seem to have enough time for since you’re so disorganized. Once the visible obstacles are cleared away and we bring awareness to our habitual cluttering, we get to see clearly if what we like to say is important really is important. And armed with new knowledge of our core values, we’re able to align our words with our deeds with ease, should we discover any inconsistencies.

Roll up the blinds, open the windows, grab your timer, and dig in to your piles of stuff. There is no better time than right now to kick the clutter habit and expand your life beyond misplaced cell phones, a single earring, a broken mug. Your coffee table will thank you, your desk will thank you, and your heart will thank you.

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