Why clutter feels heavy.
Hello 2019! Firstly, a big “thank you” to 2018 for always being there for me, day in and day out. Another year gone in what feels like the blink of an eye. And the New Year already a week old! So with this new year and all the possibilities and excitement ahead of me, why do I feel so weighed down? (And it’s not just the extra Christmas cookie weight…). Did you vow yet again to not overbuy and overconsume throughout the year and especially during the holidays? Me too. And yet more stuff has appeared and mushroomed seemingly overnight. Physically, all the STUFF we have in our space carries a physical weight to it. This is something we already knew. But what about the emotional and psychological cost of clutter in our lives? New research has shown that clutter actually weighs us down.
How do I lighten up my space and my life?
Check out this great article in the New York Times on “The Unbearable Heaviness of Clutter”. The article outlines the stress caused by clutter and the damage we are doing to ourselves financially, emotionally and psychologically. I am happy to report that there is good news as well. If decluttering and living more intentionally is a goal for you in the new year, new behaviors and choices can have a significant impact. Take small steps daily to reduce your clutter by identifying your biggest “pain point”. Is it the pile of mail or paperwork you’ve been avoiding? Is it your closet that is disorganized and overflowing with unneeded and unused items? Pick a starting point and attack that project. Taking action, even in the smallest steps, leads to creating effective habits. First process, then progress.
Forget resolutions and instead, focus on new intentions. We all have something we can work on and improve. If organizing and living more intentionally is an intention and goal for you, pick a spot and get started. We all have to start somewhere…so get started!
Here are some tips for putting a little more merry and a bit less stress into your holiday season…..here’s to a joyful holiday season and a healthy and happy 2019!
- Track the gift purchases you have made and need to make in a spreadsheet or notebook. Recording gifts as you purchase them gives you a “snapshot” of what you’ve already purchased and what still needs to be done. Seeing the details in “black and white” keeps you from last minute panic purchases and keeps overspending in check.
- Keep “working your calendar” during these busy weeks. Don’t immediately respond to invitations. Review each commitment with family members prior to responding. This will go a long way in not double-booking at both the office holiday party and Aunt Ethel’s eggnog and fruitcake bash.
- Stopping at your favorite coffee shop for a caffeine boost? Now is a great time to pick up gift cards for the bus driver, teachers and babysitter. Everyone loves receiving gift cards. By stocking up on these items now, you’ll have them on hand and won’t be rushing around at the last minute trying to find a gift for Dave the Mailman.
- Stressed about what to get your teenaged nieces and nephews this holiday season? Again, gift cards are always appreciated. Teenagers enjoy hanging out with friends and going to the movies so movie theatre gift cards are always a big hit. Google a theatre chain near their home and either pick up the gift cards there or order online. Add some holiday candy and you have a great gift and look – now you’re the “cool” family member!
- Now is a great time to check on your holiday wrapping supplies from last year. You may have enough paper and bows but you need gift tags and tape – buy these items on your next trip to the store. And be sure to purchase enough for the whole family to use. When your kids and spouse are wrapping on Christmas Eve, they’ll appreciate having enough supplies!
- We all love receiving cards from friends and family but they do pile up during the holidays. To keep your cards organized and able to be enjoyed, frame an interior doorway or two in your home with a wide velvet ribbon anchored with push pins and hang your cards with clothespins on the ribbon. Voila – an instant photo organizer for the holidays!
Why your organized home isn’t like anyone else’s…
As no two snowflakes are alike, no two organized homes are the same. When working with clients, I’m often asked to replicate a system or solution modeled in someone else’s home or in a magazine or often, Pinterest. But like all unique snowflakes, every organizing challenge and therefore its solution needs to be unique. For “generic” organizing challenges, create a simple, easy-to-follow system. Lots of large toys to organize for your toddler? Consider low shelving with easy access and picture labels for pre-readers. Lots of Barbies or Legos and Matchbox cars? Bins, bins, and more bins to the rescue to containerize. Lots of little ones to get out to school in the morning? Create transitional space with low hooks to hang coats and backpacks to make mornings more manageable. To determine your best organizing solution, ask the question – what’s my greatest pain point?
What’s your pain point?
Your pain point is that challenge that’s most impeding your ability to get organized. From many years of working with clients, I’ve learned that it’s often not the obvious answer. Do you struggle to get yourself and your family out the door in the morning without a major meltdown? Break down a typical morning into time blocks to narrow down where the greatest challenges arise. Is it when everyone enters the kitchen? Do you have a designated breakfast space and routine? If not, plan one to eliminate that chaos. Does the bottleneck occur before everyone gets to a common space? Wardrobe or closet disorganization is a likely culprit. Can you “grab and go” to get out the door? Are backpacks, athletic bags and workbags in a designated spot and at the ready? Create dedicated transitional space to get everyone out the door quickly.
No two organized spaces are alike. Determine your pain points and address them. And don’t waste time and energy creating elaborate and complex systems. No one needs to be creative before 8 am and it is okay to have the same routine every day…
Why is this system no longer working for me?
One of the first messages I share with an organizing client is that organizing is an intuitive process. It is intuitive to you and your family (or company) and needs to work in the context of your life. From there, we can create systems and solutions that address those individual challenges. But what happens when “good systems” go “bad” and stop working? Even the best systems and solutions need to be adaptive to changing situations, both from a physical sense and a time perspective. Did the awesome filing system you created for your company fail to keep pace with your organization’s growth? The result may be that the filing is now disorganized. Did the great toy solutions you created in your playroom for your toddler fail to keep pace with your child’s more sophisticated electronics? So, how do I know if this system is no longer working for me?
Creating flexible systems…
As the old adage goes, “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater”. If a system or solution stops working, don’t trash it, tweak it. High schoolers’ backpacks don’t fit in the little mudroom cubbies? Move hooks higher in a mudroom or transitional space to accommodate larger items and make the space more usable. Switch up baskets for bins which can hold bulkier items. Is your closet overflowing? Purge the unwanted and unneeded – we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time so there’s likely a lot of unworn stuff taking up valuable real estate. In a playroom, remove small toy bins and open shelving up to accommodate larger toys and electronics. Weed through your files and shred old, unnecessary documents that you can reproduce online. Buy bigger filing cabinets to comfortably hold your necessary files – and congratulate yourself on your company’s growth. Read more about creating an effective filing system here.
Setting up an organizing system is an intuitive process and should be both adaptive and flexible to growth and change. Our situations change so our organizing solutions and systems need to keep pace.
In this day and age, who doesn’t have an overloaded inbox? Even when we have a personal email (or two or three) and a work email, it’s easy to get overloaded. Here are some tips to declutter your inbox.
- Create Folders so you can file away emails to quickly find them in the future. Related to Suzy’s soccer? Just drag anything into the folder and you can always go back and reference the schedule at another time.
- Unsubscribe to email newsletters you signed up with good intentions but that’s not getting the information read. Unsubscribe if you know you can’t prioritize this.
- Create a rule. You can designate a particular folder for certain emails to be downloaded to vs. the inbox. Want anything related to shopping to go into a particular folder? Create a rule so it doesn’t clutter your inbox and your really important emails don’t get lost.
- Don’t just delete, unsubscribe. Yes, it’s quicker just to delete but if you scroll to the bottom of those pesky marketing emails, you’ll see the “unsubscribe” button. Take 5 minutes a day to unsubscribe online and stop unwanted and unneeded emails from arriving in the first place.
- Delete unneeded file folders. Did you create an email file folder for Sam’s 4th grade class info? Great. But now he’s heading to high school so it’s time to delete that folder….
Why clutter is adding to your stress.
No one should feel stressed when she opens the door to her home. Is your home providing you with a place of peace and calm, of focus and motivation? Or is it a major source of stress and anxiety in your life? Clutter in your home translates to more stress and this leads to our life being out of balance. One way I like to describe clutter is “deferred decisions”. I don’t know what to do with something, so I just put it down to “deal with it later”, hence clutter. Being surrounded by clutter does not make us feel peace, the effect is just the opposite.
How do I eliminate the clutter and bring more space and more peace into my home?
Do you want your home to offer you some measure of nourishment and calm? A good place to start is with making decisions about your stuff. When we don’t face the decisions we need to make, we use distractions to keep from having to make the tough choices. Are you over-shopping to insulate yourself? Using food as a reward or a way to “calm” yourself when things are too chaotic? Finding multiple excuses to not be in the home? These behaviors lead to more stuff in the home and an unbalanced and unhealthy lifestyle which compounds the stress we are already feeling.
Your home should be the place where you escape all negative forces in the world. How you live in that home – eat, breathe, sleep and connect with loved ones – should be the antidote to stress, not the cause. Now is the time to make a change that will positively impact your life. Don’t let any more time go by – eliminate the clutter and bring more space and peace into your home.