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De-clutter and De-stress Your Life

Clutter has a habit of wreaking havoc on our lives. I know because I used to be the biggest pack rat. I come by it honestly because both my parents were pack rats. It drove my husband nuts for years, because as an ex-Marine, he knows there is a place for everything – even if that place is the garbage. He had this unwritten rule that if I didn’t do something with the piles soon after he glanced at them, he would. Not wanting to start fights, I slowly learned how to part with the endless piles of paper that consumed our home. So when I offer you these tips, please keep in mind that they work and they can transform the messiest of people into the neatest. The thing about clutter is that it can pile up at the workplace or in your home, easily affecting your ability to be organized and able to meet your goals. Clutter can slow you down, cause significant distractions, and make your life feel extremely chaotic. But clutter does not have to dominate your life, even if it has for many years. Understanding the effects of clutter, making specific changes in your living, and knowing which tips to follow for the future can allow you to enjoy a cleaner and more productive life.

Effects of Clutter

In more ways than one, clutter can be a mess. Stacks and piles that litter your house or work area can cause myriad emotions. You can easily become depressed from merely looking at the clutter that surrounds you. Over time you may lose social connections because having people come to visit you may be extremely embarrassing. It can cause arguments with your spouse, who is a neat freak possibly. Overwhelming frustration can cause you to freeze every time you even think about organizing the clutter so you give up easily, causing a vicious cycle. These emotions can wreak havoc on your emotional wellbeing and keep you off-kilter.

Clutter has this pernicious way of affecting not just your mental health, but your physical being as well. One of the most unusual elements of clutter is that it can be both a cause and a symptom of stress. Although many have been conducted, we don’t need studies to show us that chronic stress can take a toll on us physically. Stress affects us in innumerable ways, which can include headaches, heart problems, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, and skin conditions. It also increases the amount of cortisol in the blood, affecting your metabolism. New research also indicates chronic stress may alter specific pathways in the brain, creating the possibility of dementia later in life.

De-clutter Your Life

It may seem like an overwhelming task, but it is possible to end your mountainous piles of clutter and bring a semblance of order to your life. You know the most important thing you can do is to get rid of stuff, but you may not know how to go about starting this seemingly arduous task. Believe it or not, there’s no rocket science to it. The best way to do it is to simply start. Do not set out with the objective to accomplish everything in one day; you will only burn out and possibly end up more stressed out than you were when you first began. Instead, take small steps, celebrate your accomplishments along the way, and follow several simple tips.

  • Start with a small goal in mind. When you are first starting out, it may be easier to work on one small area or room at a time. Set a goal for what you want to accomplish with that space. Maybe you want your kitchen counters clear, or perhaps you want to your bedroom to feel nice and calm. Wherever you choose to start, decide what you want the space to look like and work to accomplish it.
  • Attack one stack at a time. Instead of focusing on the entire area you are trying to clear, focus only on the stack you first touch. Try not to be any more scientific than that. The first one your hand touches is the first one you work on. Don’t think about it; just do it! Go through every piece of paper and make a decision regarding what you want to do with it. Once you have decided, move the article to its new home.  Plan to use a lot of trash bags and recycling bins along the way. The main point here is that every piece of clutter should be touched once, and you should not move on to the next pile until you finish working on the first one.
  • Maintain sentimental value. One of the most difficult things to face when dealing with clutter is those wonderful possessions that hold sentimental value. The biggest problem is that as we age, we collect a lot of things that fall into that category. So we end up with many things we absolutely cannot part with – or so we think. Now is the time to change the way you look at them. If you are holding onto an item because a particular family member will be devastated if you get rid of it, pass it on to that person. Explain that while you love it, you are making an effort to de-clutter your life. Perhaps you don’t want to phrase it quite that harshly. Maybe you could say you have started to embrace the minimalist look. Indeed, a very plausible explanation is that if stuff hits the fan, and you are forced to bug out, you don’t want to risk leaving anything that means something to you or that person. Take digital pictures to remember them and then you can get rid of the item. Repurposing the piece with sentimental value might also be a good option.
  • Make a decision. As you move through each pile of clutter, you will have to make an important decision about each piece: throw away, keep, or donate. Each item in your house should fall into one of these categories; undecided is not an option.

Stay De-Cluttered

As you have made some progress in terms of de-cluttering and you are enjoying the calm, stress-free environment your home is becoming, this is not the place to rest on your laurels. There is more work to be done! Now of course, the object is to keep your home clutter free. You have worked too hard to get it this way, and you do not want it to revert back to the way it was.

  • Give everything a place. Ideally, if everything in your home has its very own special place, there would be no reason for piles of clutter. Make a habit of making sure an item has a home and then returning it there when you are finished using it.
  • Sort mail immediately. Mail is one of the biggest clutter culprits. It is extremely easy to place it on the counter with the intention of coming back to it later. Of course, later never comes, and the pile stays. As soon as you check your mail, make decisions regarding what to do with it. Keep an in-basket for all bills and other items you need to handle (with the promise of going through it once a week). Throw junk mail away immediately.
  • Start a donation box. Make an effort to purge your clothes and your children’s clothes seasonally. If they are still in good shape but you no longer plan to wear them, put them in your donation box. The same is true for your children’s toys. Once the box is full, you should contact your local donation place and either schedule a pick up or take the box to them.
  • Do a little every day. Now that your clutter piles are either gone or significantly lessened, set your timer for ten or fifteen minutes every day and organize. You should not need any more than this small amount of time and making this a part of your routine will go a long way in keeping your home or workplace clutter free.

Clutter does not have to control your life. Your home or workplace should be a serene and stress free location and keeping it clutter free will improve your emotional and physical health. You will be able to enjoy invite friends over, enjoy quiet moments, and focus on more important issues.

©2012 Off the Grid News

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