Clutter

I admit it.  I’m FAR from a neat freak.  Need proof?

How does this to relate to my health?  Two ways actually.

First of all, a lot of the reason I don’t worry about clutter is because of time.  Lack of time causes stress and there is just so much I’d rather do with my time than clean.  Cleaning itself also just tends to irritate me.  If I kept clutter down, in theory I wouldn’t have to spend so much time cleaning and therefore, I would stress less.  In theory…

However, I know that not only does clutter increase the amount of dust in our small abode, which irritates my allergies, but it is also mentally distracting.  In every room and in every corner, all I see are piles of things. I’m working on my thesis currently and really don’t need any other distractions.

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So one of my recent goals is to reduce clutter around me.  Yes, perhaps it is my brain trying to focus on *anything* but doing the work I should be doing, but it certainly will not go away on it’s own.  By reducing the clutter, I expect magical things to happen in my home… cleaning should take less time, moving will be easier, I will make money, I will breathe easier, we will win the lottery. Maybe a tad bit unreasonable, but I want zen people, and that can’t happen with clutter.

My three pronged strategy:

  • Tackle one area at a time.  I have cleaning ADD.  As I’m picking up something or putting something away I get distracted.  Sometimes it helps me to condense everything into a box and then go through the box.  Somehow having an uncluttered area around me helps me focus on the task at hand.

  • For every new thing that comes in, get rid of something.  And no, it isn’t fair to trade a used tissue for a new book.   A simple way we’ve found to do this is through a site called http://www.swaptree.com.  You put up a list of the movies, books, and games that you no longer need and post a list of some things you would like to read or watch.  Only cost to you is the postage to send the item (Tip:  If you are sending something like a DVD, game, or paperback, don’t use their printed label system.  It is often significantly cheaper to get your own postage at the post office).  Although we just started last week, we’ve been excited about getting some new reading materials and movies that we haven’t been able to find at Goodwill or other used sources.  Plus, it is fun to get mail and recycle at the same time 🙂  Some of our trades have included:

-Disney ThinkFast Wii Game (we no longer have our Wii) for Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

-A Pilates DVD for Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser

-Coraline DVD for A Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy DVD

We also have this whole box of things up on our “have” list and are building up our “want” list.  Anything that we don’t find a match for, we will donate to Goodwill before we move.

  • Take time to evaluate what you really need in your life. Also a challenge for me that I’m continually working on.  As my husband says, I’m a hoarder waiting to happen.  When I evaluate getting rid of things, I can rationalize keeping nearly anything:  it was either a tool that we might have use for again, a gift from someone we love whose feelings we don’t want to hurt even though we haven’t used it, I can use it to make a craft, or it might be something our children could use one day.  I have used these excuses on everything from cardboard boxes to a teflon pan that belonged to my grandmother, but the teflon started flaking off. There have been studies showing that when you touch things, you get emotionally attached and it is harder to get rid of them the longer you touch them.  It can be an emotional thing to get rid of even the smallest, disposable of things and so I’ve been reading some minimalist blogs for inspiration, like this post by Miss Minimalist on 100 things she doesn’t own and why she doesn’t own a couch.  I don’t agree with everything on her list (or blog), but the general idea serves as inspiration.  I also turn to self motivation, reminding myself of the space (when giving away) or money (when selling) or new object(when swapping) we will gain by sacrificing an old one that we don’t currently use.  Another point of inspiration is this quote from this month’s Whole Living magazine:  “Clutter is the by-product of indecision.  Make sure everything in your space is there because you choose to keep it.”  Smart words I’m trying to keep in mind.

What are your clutter tackling strategies?  Have they been a success?

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