January 3, 2014

Simplify Your Life by De-Cluttering

Information from University of Illinois Extension

Do any of these statements sound familiar?

• I’m afraid I’ll need something right after I get rid of it.
• I can’t get rid of this because it’s special.
• I can never find anything after I put it away.
• I want less clutter but I just can’t figure out how to get started.

No one goes through life without accumulating stuff. Too much stuff contributes to clutter and disorganization. It can be a cause for stress in our lives and conflict in our relationships. Managing clutter saves time and money. Clutter can also be unsafe if you have so much sutff that you can’t safely move around the house. (Let’s distinguish clutter from hoarding, which is a popular topic right now. Hoarding is a medical condition that needs to be addressed by a professional.)

It isn’t always easy to know how to tackle our clutter, but having a realistic plan can help you get started. So, where to begin? You could choose to attack the area that causes you the most anxiety and then move on to the next area according to your priority. Or, you could choose to go room by room, clearing out closets, shelves, and drawers as you go.

As you are clearing clutter, ask yourself these questions:

• When was the last time I used this? (Decide upon your own acceptable time frame – 1 month, 6 months, etc.)
• How often do I use that?
• Where do I use it?
• Do I have more than one; do I need more than one?
• Is it usable? If so, will I ever use it again?
• If I didn’t have this item, would it even impact my life?
• Could someone else use it?
Now look at sorting your items. Make it a priority to have no piles remaining at the end of your de-cluttering session. Have 4 piles (boxes), one for each of these:
• Pitch any item that is broken or is a project you never finished.
• Donate/Sell/Recycle/Gift – have a plan for the items to give away or sell and then DO IT. Otherwise you just created another clutter pile.
• Save and put away. Store items near where they will be used.
• To be determined (TBD). You may have to keep sorting through these items a couple of times in order to make decisions on the pile. Don’t let your TBD pile become the slightly smaller clutter cluster.

Once you have worked so hard to clean out your clutter, here are some tips for staying on top of those areas.

• Spurt strategy-Take 5-15 minutes sporadically during the day to pick up and put away any stray items.
• Prompt put away – If there are any tasks that can be completed immediately, do not put it off. For example, hang up your coat, put your keys on the hook, etc.
• Castaway container – If you find something you will no longer use, place it here immediately for donation/resale. Once the container is filled, take the necessary steps to move these items along. Otherwise, this can become a secondary clutter issue.
• Good riddance routine-Doing de-clutter maintenance on a regular basis. This means taking a look through your clutter clusters

Doing any one or a combination of the above four strategies will lessen the chance that clutter will build again. In the words of Peter Walsh, “No matter how large or small, a home should be about the quality of life you want, not the quantity of stuff you can acquire.”

If you want more information about this or any other family life issue, please contact Cheri Burcham at (217) 543-3755 or cburcham@illinois.edu.

Filed Under: Personal Growth