How to Tackle a Huge Clutter Problem in 4 Steps Without Getting Lost and Overwhelmed and Giving Upby Ginni Stiles on 08/21/13
Maybe you can handle organizing the pile of papers on your desk with ease, but then there's the basement... or the attic... or the garage... or “The Junk Room” that once was a home office or guest room and now looks like a self-storage unit after an earthquake. It's been years that you've know those places need attention, but it might be years more before you can bring yourself to face them.
No longer! That junk isn't paying part of your rent or mortgage, is it? Why should it be taking up all that square footage of your space? Maybe you're even paying to heat and air condition the space where that clutter is squatting. That's YOUR space – take it back NOW! (Hint - It's actually not as painful as you think it's going to be when you follow the tips I'm about to give you.)
If you made this project happen, you could pull your car in the garage, or put away the holiday decorations where they really go instead of leaving them on the stairs to the attic. You could work efficiently from home with everything you need at your fingertips and keep your dining room table open for dining. You could have a guest overnight (wine and Scrabble, anyone?)
Or you could just let the clutter keep creeping and squeezing you into less and less of your own home until you're walking down a path through each room and eating your meals on your lap. (It's your choice; I won't judge!)
Why is clearing clutter SO HARD?!
It's just a bunch of junk, why do we hate to go through it? Why do we feel drained when we look at it? Clearing clutter forces us to impose structure on a whole lot of random things that are hard to think about. Our mind has to jump from one though to another as we pick up one thing then another and think about each one. And we have to make decisions. Deferred decisions. Making decisions is extremely mentally tiring.
Gathered from years clearing the worst clutter nightmares side-by-side with my clients, I've compiled a set of techniques that will help you tackle your “shame room” without developing post-traumatic stress disorder. These are tried and tested tips that you can use to succeed in taking back the territory you lost. I call it this set of techniques...
Clearing Advanced Tactical and Survival Skills:
Notes from the Trenches
1. Schedule the time with yourself
Anything we want to accomplish has to get scheduled. Why do we only keep appointments with other people and not ourselves? Keep the appointment with yourself to clear out your clutter. Set aside a few hours if possible, or just a little bit at a time. Be consistent and schedule plenty of time to get the project done. Schedule according to what time of day you are best at doing this type of work. Some people do this better in the mornings, some in the evenings... follow your natural rhythms and you'll be more efficient. If the temperature has a strong impact on the area where you are doing the clearing (attics, garages, etc.), pick the appropriate season to tackle the project so that you will work comfortably.
2. Set the stage
When you are getting started with your session, designate and label a place (bag, box, pile, etc.) for the following: TRASH, RECYCLE, DONATE, GIVE TO SPECIFIC PEOPLE (INCLD. GIFT/RE-GIFT), KEEP SOMEWHERE ELSE, KEEP HERE. Have plenty of trash and recycling bags handy to keep moving. Keeping a marker, labels, and tape handy is also a good idea. You might have a designated basket or box for clutter clearing supplies that you keep in the room you're working in.
3. Create Atmosphere
Set a time to take a break and set some sort of timer. Playing a CD gives you a natural break timed at the end. Play music, or talk radio. Avoid having a TV on because the video will distract you and you will stop working to watch. Burn incense and/or candles. Turn on lights. Open windows if the weather is nice. Make the space as pleasant as possible for you to work in.
4. Get Started
Pick a target. Maybe you are going to work on the paint area, or the area to the right of the door. Whatever your goal, make it small and manageable, and something that you can focus on to keep from getting lost in the mess. Pick up one thing at a time and make a decision about which pile it goes into. If you really get stuck, don't stand there holding the golf clubs for 20 minutes. Put that item in a REVIEW pile and move on. [When you are done for that session, you review the items you were stuck on earlier. Once you see what you got rid of and what you have left, you will have a more clearly defined context for your decision and it will be easier to make a decision on that thing.]
Knowing that you have that undone project looming drains your energy and pushes you to escapist activities: watching TV, drinking, overeating, going out of the house all the time. What would your life look like if you had that spare room back? If you came home to an organized, clean garage instead of a landfill? If you knew your memorabilia was stored safely and in a way that you could find it when you wanted it? What would you do with your life if you no longer had that clutter monkey on your back? Would you play guitar? Write poems? Start a new business?
Go get started! Discover for yourself the energy you will unleash when you no longer have the “someday” clutter project casting a shadow over the rest of your life. This set of techniques might be the key for you to unlock the potential that awaits you.
If you find that you need more help, I'm here. Email me to set up a complimentary Clutter Release Conversation where I take you through a process over the phone that will give you a specific realization that brings total clarity to the situation and a new mindset that will help you feel differently about feeling organized and in control of your life.
Now go grab those trash bags!