The Art Of De-cluttering

It's getting close to New Year's resolution time so I thought I'd talk a little bit about clutter. I've been working this week, which is a quiet time in the office (particularly in Britain where people get much more holiday). I've been disappointed, however, with the amount of work I've actually had to do because I was planning on doing a good desk de-cluttering.

I'm not saying it's my greatest thrill in life, but it may be close. Nothing gives me an instant pick-me-up like getting something de-cluttered. Even if it's only a drawer or one bookshelf, getting rid of the non-essentials really helps me to get focused and centered. Whenever I feel overwhelmed it's often because there's mess around. It makes everything seem worse than it is.

So I wanted to share my two top tips for getting rid of stuff.

First, you've got to do it constantly. When I was young I used to embark on missions to clean out my room. As a natural hoarder (my Mom used to call me Oscar the Grouch) things would get out of control quite frequently – from the numerous shoe boxes under my bed storing every letter/card ever received to dusty knick knacks littering my bookshelves.

The 'clean out' would always end quite badly, either with a meltdown of tears at the mess I had created or with my Mom bailing me out by helping me to at least get everything back into livable shape (stuffing the shoe boxes back under the bed perhaps?). I think what I failed to comprehend was that cleaning things out had to be done more than once a year.

These days I try to keep up a constant attack. When it's quiet at work I take 20 minutes or so to clear out old folders or stacks of papers that have surreptitiously piled themselves up on my desk. I will often tackle just one kitchen drawer or cupboard at home. At the end of every clothing season I try to do at least a quick clear through. I find I actually enjoy it – particularly when the task is very small. A basket of toiletries in the linen closet here, a nightstand drawer there. And no matter how sceptical you are that there's anything in there you need to throw away, you will always find something to get rid of. Promise.

But the second tip I have is probably the more important one. You have to shift or de-clutter something in your mind. For me, the hardest part is worrying that I'm going to get rid of something that I will need at some point. Whether it's a dress that doesn't fit and I don't wear anymore (and it's probably not even in style!) or a cardboard box that may make a good container for something.

So I have a mantra: be brutal. I think about how nice it is to have clear space and how there are charity shops out there that need my old things and clothes. Again, I remind myself how less is more and that if I need something in the future I will get it somehow.

I don't want to live my life in constant fear, needing things just in case.

And, when I have a clear workspace, a clutter-free kitchen counter top and a closet where I can actually see my clothes and shoes, my blood pressure seems to fall a notch and I feel much calmer. It's well worth it keeping Oscar the Grouch in his trash can where he belongs.

How do you tackle clutter? Or does it not bother you?

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