Say you are presented with an exercise where someone asks you to draw a map of your home. You would likely start with your front door, or maybe a simple outline of the framework of your house. Once you divided the space with walls, doors, and rooms, you would start fleshing out your map with furniture, maybe starting with your bed, and even adding a bit of character and color. However, what would be missing from this map, no matter how much time you spent, are the pockets, or possibly mountains, of clutter that exist in your house.
We all conveniently edit clutter out of the presentations of our homes and tend to overlook its physical and psychological significance, but it is worth noting, as well as transforming. The late comedian George Carlin once made the observation that “a house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff.” This idea, while humorous, is a pretty resigned, if not cynical, view of how, and what, we consider to be our home. While stuff is an inevitable part of existence, there are helpful and effective ways to approach and consider the clutter that makes up our life.
Effectively decluttering, or engaging in an all-out house cleanse, has as many strategic approaches and methodologies as you can imagine. Andrew Mellen, organizational expert and author of Unstuff Your Life! has created a simple, three-tiered approach to organizing your home that serves as a guiding principle to taming the chaos of your belongings. But at the core of Mellen’s approach is the idea that if you get rid of clutter, everything in your life will open up. This concept of opening up is key to understanding how bringing, not just organization, but also a real consciousness to your space can yield something far greater than a well-kept home.
Your home, whether you live in a 650 sq. foot apartment or a 6,000 sq. foot mansion, is a great space for working on all manner of problems and difficulties.
Maxwell Ryan, CEO and founder of Apartment Therapy echoes this sentiment and says, “If you work on your home, it filters through nearly every aspect of your life.”
But too often we don’t develop a real awareness of our surroundings. Instead, we move into a level of acceptance about the relative chaos that we choose to live in, and we allow our clutter to keep us in a state of arrested development. This sort of chaos can have a substantial negative impact on all of our relationships. Clutter and general disorganization create a haze of overwhelm and stress that leaches into our dealings with others, manifesting in resentments as well as arguments. That hall linen closet that has been colonized by old magazines, boxes of photographs, and your old hair dryer is doing you, and possibly your partner, a greater disservice than you may realize. When you take the time to really acquaint yourself with your space, create a simple system of organization, and weed through those packed drawers, closets, and boxes, you cut your ties with all the physical and symbolic items that no longer serve you and may even serve as a barrier in your psychological and emotional health. Accomplishing such a task will reverberate into every aspect of your life, including your work-life and relationships.
There are as many ways to approach the task of clutter clearing as there are ways avoid it, but if you approach it with a sense of honesty, purpose, and consciousness, you will likely come out on the other end victorious, or at least a lot less stressed and far better organized. Here are a few takeaway tips toward decluttering with consciousness.
Visualize What Your Space Can Be
Instead of seeing your state of disorganization as a vexing problem, try to envision your space as a place of untold, but reachable, potential. Walk through your home and try to visualize it as a functional realm, where you are able to feel a sense of accomplishment and order. Maybe create a simple sketch where you map out the ideal, but attainable, set up. You can use this as a jumping off point to realize the best working and living environment for yourself, your partner, and your family.
Resist Looking at Your Clutter With Judgment
While it may be easy to see your accumulated collection of old magazines as a character flaw, which might cause you to delve into a pit of self-despair, trust that you have arrived at this point for two reasons:
1) You desire a change.
2) All this stuff is an extension of what may be going on inside of you.
Do not be rash or harsh in your desire to purge. Approach the task systematically, with reason, and lacking the harshness and abandon that may lead you to just throw everything in a garbage bag. Be kind, be aware, and be resolute with your intention to bring some order into your life.
Let Go of the Stuff That No Longer Brings Value to Your Life
So much of what makes up our clutter is the stuff of former value; everything from a movie ticket stub to an old phone charger. It is important to separate the truly valuable from the vaguely dear, but relatively worthless. We tend to rationalize our need to hang on to various items out of a projected need or potential need in the distant future. A very practical method to distinguish what is worth keeping versus what may be necessary to discard is to set up an “out box” by your door and deposit any item that strikes you as uncertain for up to a week. Set aside a time to revisit the contents of the box and reconsider. Taking that time will offer some perspective and allow you to make a more informed decision.
Don’t Create Garbage
Much of where people tend to get hung up in the process of decluttering is the act of creating more garbage. While it can be liberating to clear out your space, creating piles and piles of garbage that you are ejecting out into the world never feels good. This can also be especially hard if some of what you desire to shed still holds some value or use. There are several ways to alleviate such guilt and provide a second life for much of your stuff. An easy solution is to give some items of note to friends and family who may want them, or have a real use for them. You can also turn the organizational act into a social opportunity and hold a swap or sharing party. There's also the possibility of donating items directly to charity, selling items online, or simply giving stuff away using any number of eco-friendly websites, like ecobees and freecycle.
For more decluttering tips, see Declutter With Feng Shui & Vastu.
© 2014 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies