I think there comes a point in everyone’s life where they say that it’s time to make a change. Enough is enough! For many people that change has to do with letting go of all the extra clutter that we keep in our lives. Often, we accumulate things because the act of acquiring makes us feel better in the moment, only to find that the resulting clutter brings us down. When that happens we usually jump straight into decluttering mode in order to make ourselves feel better. After all, when the boxes leave the house you feel like you accomplished something. And you feel good. But it keeps happening and you declutter over and over. Which brings me to Step One: Stop the clutter.
Think of it like this: you can’t keep bailing out a boat that has a hole in the bottom. The water just keeps flowing back in. This is exactly what you’re doing when you keep shopping or acquiring new things while you’re trying to simplify and declutter. Sound familiar? If so, let’s do this together!
STEP ONE: Stop the Clutter!
In order to do this, there are a few steps. Don’t skip them. They are essential to you being successful. Take your time with these steps as they are your foundation for the changes you long to make.
Grab your camera or cell phone
- Walk through your home and take picture
- Take a picture of all parts of each room
- Open the closets and cupboards and take pictures of the inside
Take an honest look at the photos
- If you were seeing these rooms for the first time, how would you feel?
- What parts of these rooms do you like? Why?
- What parts of these rooms frustrate you? Why?
- If you can print the photos onto paper, circle the parts you like and dislike in separate colours.
- If you can’t print, make a list of what you like and dislike
Ask yourself “What are the reasons you brought these things into your home?”
- Do you enjoy shopping?
- Are you a thrifter or a garage-saler that can’t resist a good deal?
- Do you tend to accept or get excited by free things?
- Are you the keeper of the family’s history?
- Does everyone pass things to you because they know you will preserve them?
- Do you feel obligated to hold onto the things that belonged to the people you love?
- Does acquiring these things bring you comfort?
- Are there other reasons why you’ve accumulated these things?
Start Plugging those Holes
The way to stop to clutter is to figure out how and why it got there in the first place. The questions above will give you insight. Once you know why you bring stuff into your home, you can create a plan to stop it. Make a commitment to yourself to plug that hole in your boat by writing down what you need to do to in place of bringing in new items.
For some people this might mean having a conversation with friends, family members or even a therapist to talk about how to replace your need to acquire with a new habit. You might need to set boundaries with people on what you can accept, if anything, from them. If going to thrift stores and garage sales is your regular date with your BFF, you might change that to lunch or a walk to enjoy each others company. The reasons we acquire things are often complicated and entwined with an emotional need. Every person has different reasons for this bechaviour, which is why talking about it with someone you trust can be helpful.
My sister and I recently held a garage sale. She is moving and we are still trying to fit into our much smaller home. I can’t tell you how many things I put in that sale that I acquired at the thrift store with good intentions of upcycling. Or that I bought on sale for a great deal. Or had given to me and I couldn’t resist the allure of free stuff. While I was packing up stuff for the sale, I didn’t realize the magnitude of it all. Looking at everything as we set it out, I was shocked to see how much I’d pulled out of my home.
And I’m still not done. It was an eye-opener for me – both as an avid shopper and as a hit to my wallet. You never get back what you paid for most things. I seriously have to plug that hole in my boat and stop the clutter coming in – something I am currently working on alongside you. I thought I’d done a good job of it, but obviously after a garage sale before we moved and one after, I need to dig deeper.
You’ve probably noticed that decluttering seems to be a part of our current social structure. On Pinterest, Facebook, the TV and even in the magazines staring at you in the grocery checkout, we are bombarded with shows, books and information about decluttering. Everyobody seems to be doing it. The problem is that everyone is doing it over and over. It’s like an endless quest. When you declutter you want it to be a one time job, not a lifetime journey. The best way is to get started is to stop the clutter by not bringing in any new stuff. You need to plug that hole in your boat before you can bail out all the excess.
While there are more steps to come, let’s just take it one at a time. Together.
Are you with me?