The new year is a natural time to make new resolutions. Whether your resolutions are goals or habits, these five tips will help make them stick.
It’s very easy to beat oneself up for not finishing tasks like decluttering, but there are usually pretty good reasons for it. Sure, laziness or lack of motivation can play into it, but what makes tasks difficult is not the actions, but the decisions involved. In fact, my favorite definition of “clutter” is Barbara Hemphill’s “postponed decisions.”
It is very common for me to meet with a potential client who can’t decide if she wants to begin with organizing the cluttered bedroom, the cluttered kitchen, or the cluttered home office. For me, it’s always a clear choice: the garage.
I hate clutter because it feels like death. (Can’t accuse me of burying the lead.) Don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about your purposeful collections, piles of laundry, or ongoing project, sprawled across you table. I’m talking about that excess stuff, with no plan for movement.
In the movie, The Untouchables, there is a scene where an assassin comes to kill the Sean Connery character, who (after a derogatory remark) notes that he has brought “a knife to a gun fight.” He then shoots the assassin. I am reminded of this scene, every time a client tells me “You wouldn’t believe how much I have already thrown out.” In the war on clutter, the trash bag is not the right weapon.
There are a lot of reasons for why it is hard to toss our excess stuff, that I have discussed in this blog. For example, there’s clutter from the past that holds sentimental value and there’s clutter for the future that we might need “someday.” Today, however, I want to share a new theory on why we keep clutter, that I don’t believe has ever been addressed before. I call it the check register theory. Here it is.
The modern definition of clutter is a collection of things lying about in an untidy mass, which I find woefully inadequate. It doesn’t address the value of these “things.” The origin of the word clutter, is from the Middle English, clotter, which means to clot. I actually like that better.
This past weekend an article came out in Minnesota’s Star Tribune that featured an interview with organizing guru, Peter Walsh. In it, Walsh states "Clutter isn’t really about stuff at all. Rather, it’s about our relationship to stuff. Clutter becomes a problem when people look for meaning, support and affirmation from their belongings, instead of from other people." I couldn’t agree more. I’d like to describe an approach I take, to illustrate this point.
It’s not uncommon for clients to ask us to work our organizing magic in several rooms in their home—in one day. Our magic doesn’t come from jumping from one stepping-stone to the next, across the house. It comes from building steps and climbing up to the next level.
Last week a woman was giving me a tour of all the organizing challenges in her home and when we came to a closet upstairs, I asked her, “can I see what’s in here?” She said “Oh, I don’t want to show you that. It’s a DISASTER!” After explaining to her that I was in the disaster business, she let me have a look.
One of the questions I get asked most frequently, before starting an organizing project is “What should I buy?” I have a very simple answer: nothing. This is especially true for the big projects we tend to get this time of year, like garages, basements, attics. The reason comes down to this very simple organizing rule: "quantity dictates systems."