Originally from Matt Baier’s Organizing Works Newsletter, October 2006
WHY IS CLUTTER LIKE A VAMPIRE?
“80 percent of what we keep we never use.” -Barbara Hemphill, Agency Sales Magazine, 4/1/03
Most of us hang on to much more stuff than we need, but few of us want our homes and offices to LOOK that way. So what do we do? We get to a point where we can’t take the clutter anymore and we make it go away. No doubt the idea is that you will get to it later when you have the time, but of course that time never comes, given your busy schedule. Eventually a collection of make-it-go-away bags and boxes come back to HAUNT you, as your hidden storage spaces swell to overflowing. You suddenly find yourself without options and no one likes that way that feels!
OK, so I used the word “haunt” but what’s this vampire connection all about? Well, like a vampire, clutter is dangerous and frightening in the darkness (of your boxes, bags, and closets), but it is vulnerable when exposed to the light of day. Don’t believe me? Try this experiment. Clear off a generous amount of surface space, a dining table will do, pull out one box (or bag) of stuff from your closet that you haven’t seen in a while, empty it out on your surface, and spread it out. Break it down, sorting like with like. There’s that charger for your cell phone you replaced 3 years ago; there’s a pile of grocery receipts from the 1990’s; there’s a stack of outdated magazines; and there’s that large candle you were given that smells awful. You had a good reason for saving all these items at the time, but that time has passed. If they continue to lurk in your closet, they deny you the space you need, but spread out on the table like this they’re not so scary, are they? Now DON’T shove this junk back into your closet. The only silver bullet you need is your friendly trash can. If you are happy to see the space that has opened up then don’t let me stop you from slaying more vampires!
1. Sort Like with Like. It may sound obvious, but I can’t stress the importance of this first step enough. By SEEING the full quantity of stuff you have accumulated- whether it’s staplers, straws or stereos- it becomes much easier to part with the excess than if you are assessing them one at a time.
2. Have A Plan For Your Closet. If your closet simply stores indecisions then it very quickly becomes a useless Black Hole. Start by deciding what’s important to keep. For example, in one closet you may decide it’s important to keep just four categories: off-season clothes, camping equipment, tools, and back-up kitchen supplies, a reasonable burden for one closet. So if you then find yourself wanting to make a box of magazines go away, DON’T look to your important closet, look to your recycling bin.
3. Circulation is Healthy. With every breath of air, you breathe in, you fill your lungs and you exhale. This simple act keeps you alive. To stay organized involves a similar process: you bring new items into your environment, you use/ process them, then you let them go when they no longer serve you. If there is an obstruction in your lungs that prevents you from exhaling and you choke. Similarly, if you are obstructed by your clutter you can find yourself choking on it. Even if you decide you aren’t sure about parting with an object, at least put it in a dated box with similar objects and see if you still miss it when that date has passed (6 months, one year- you decide). This facilitates purging and it moves the process forward because you can SEE an established a plan, instead of ignoring the problem.
4. LOOK As Organized As You Are. They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but of course we all do. While this honesty may not fly in public, it is useful in your personal environment. Don’t you feel more in control of your day if your bed is made first? Don’t you feel more capable of taking on the world if your desk is cleared for take-off? These visuals contribute toward a sense of control.
5. Isolate the Important. You may pull out a miscellaneous bag of junk and have no idea where to start. Start by selecting the most important/ interesting stuff first. Now spread out what’s left and ask yourself “What would be the worst thing to happen to me if I just dumped the lot? This is an easier decision to make if you SEE that you have preserved the most important items FIRST.
6. Reveal, Don’t Conceal. The best way to slay those clutter vampires is to prevent them from emerging. Store things in CLEAR plastic boxes and CLEAR Ziploc bags. This demystifies the contents, rendering them powerless. No, you can’t get the clear solutions for free like the supermarket bags and boxes, but the results are priceless.
7. Know Your Options. If you are aware of all the options that are available to simply tossing your unwanted items then it becomes much easier to SEE your way clear to user-friendly storage, as opposed to Black Hole storage (see Tip 2).
Got an out-dated computer taking up a lot of space in your closet? Did you know there is are organizations that will pick up your old unused computers, refurbish them, and ship them to needy children? You can get a tax write-off thereby converting your loss into a spatial, financial, and spiritual GAIN. This is just one good option for something you no longer need. A Professional Organizer can help you with many others.