Shedding Shame and Mess: Overcoming Clutter

Even if we can’t see it, most of us have clutter. It can take many forms. Maybe you have junk mail and old documents sprawling across your desk. Maybe you have a collection of surplus toiletries “just in case,” taking up space beneath your sink. Maybe you have the infamous “junk drawer” filled to the brim with miscellaneous items. Or, maybe your clutter has been tucked away so long you don’t even remember where you’ve hidden it or what it is. That is, until you have to move. Whatever your circumstance, clutter has a nasty way of overwhelming us, increasing our stress, and causing embarrassment. To overcome the natural tendency to clutter, it is helpful to first understand why we clutter, so we can be more forgiving of ourselves in the process.

Determining What is Clutter

Firstly, for the decluttering beginner, it can be hard to tell what is clutter and what is of genuine value. Items which fall into the category of “someday” are the greatest perpetrator of this confusion. For example, you might have a collection of miniature shampoos and conditioners that you got from various hotel stays. Keeping them might seem like a great cost-saving strategy so you don’t have to buy full bottles in the future, but chances are these little impossible-to-let-go-of bottles are simply being stored, adding to your clutter. Measuring the value of an item based on “someday” might be why you’re cluttering in the first place.

Tips for Overcoming Confusion

  • If you’re struggling to decide whether to toss or keep something, try asking yourself these questions.
  • Do you use it right now? Or do you use it regularly?
  • Do/would you proudly display it in your home?
  • If it is broken, do you use or love it enough to repair it right now? NOT “someday.”

Developing Better Storage Methods

Once you are able to determine what is clutter and what isn’t, it is important to develop better storage methods! Lacking effective organization strategies might be adding to your overwhelming clutter. This is how we end up with junk drawers and piles of miscellaneous items sprawling across our shelves. You might already have items in boxes or storage containers but are still feeling the stress of clutter. Whether you have yet to develop any kind of system or are looking for a new more effective one, here are some tips for clearing your mess with organization!

Tips for Proper Storage

  • When it comes to storage containers, be sure to use ones that specifically fit the items for which they are intended. Using oversized bins simply because they have ample space can lead to a large array and mismatch of items, thus becoming another cluttered junk drawer.
  • In that same vein, store like items together! If you have a large collection of office supplies, place them all together and avoid adding extraneous items like unrelated books or art supplies.
  • Try labelling or color-coding your storage methods. This will make it easy for you to determine the contents. Keeping like items together and purchasing clear storage bins will also help with this!

Overwhelmed by the Mess

Having so much clutter around can be overwhelming. Clearing it all out seems like such a daunting, time-consuming task that we keep putting it off and allowing it to grow. The way in which you tackle your initial decluttering mission can make or break your success. Below are some tips for getting over that initial hump of clearing out excess stuff and keeping a clutter-free home!

Overcoming the Mess, for Good!

  • If you are overwhelmed by the amount of stuff around you and don’t know where to begin, pick one area first. Maybe it’s culling out excess clothing. Maybe it’s finally organizing your office shelves. If you focus on one task at time, the overall project won’t feel so impossible.
  • Work in 15-minute intervals! Cleaning and decluttering for an hour straight can be tedious and disheartening. If you take a 5 minute break every 15 minutes you’ll allow your brain to take a rest and relax from the stress and drudgery of cleaning. Suddenly, this frustrating task becomes easier!

Once you’ve completed your big clean out, it’s time to keep it that way! Try developing a quick daily cleaning routine. It can look something like this:

  1. Make your bed in the morning.
  2. Do a quick wipe down of bathroom surfaces when you get ready for the day. (Yes, including the toilet!)
  3. Put any clean dishes away.
  4. Put away your clothes that you wore that day. (Put clean clothes back in the closet and dirty clothes in the laundry. Don’t allow them to pile up around you)
  5. Don’t go to bed with dirty dishes in the sink.
  6. Make sure you take out the garbage every week so it doesn’t pile up around you!
  • Once you have your daily cleaning routine down, plan on a deep clean once a month!

Be Gentle with Yourself

It is normal to harbor some sort of shame or self-hatred or even think “how could I let my house get in this state?” or “How have I collected so much stuff?” As hard as it may be to avoid such negativity, it is important to be sympathetic and kind to yourself. Self-deprecating thoughts will only serve to make the decluttering process harder for you and make you more overwhelmed and immobilized. Remember that clutter is normal and reward your efforts every time you hit a milestone. Successfully cleaned out and organized the bathroom cabinets? Take a break, go for a walk, watch some TV, or listen to some music! Be kind to yourself and proud that you are taking the steps to declutter and organize.

Jaime Sawyer