Weekly Quick Tips

Organizing from the Inside Out

It isn’t just our homes that are clogged with ‘stuff’. Clutter takes hold of our minds, too! Psychological issues like fear or sentiment can prevent us from giving excess stuff the heave-ho and moving forward. Our solution? Confront the inner forces that stand between you and your clutter. Try these counter-measures, which we discuss in our Organizing Basics Workshop, to release your grip on clutter.

Scarcity Thinking ~ ‘I might need it.’ People with scarcity thinking refuse to part with clutter out of fear that they will not have, or will not have enough of, the items they need at some future time. Deal with scarcity thinking by dragging your fear into the open and staring it down, then move past it to release the hold on your thinking. If a cabinet full of empty yogurt containers (no lids) is confronting you, remind yourself that the world is full of empty yogurt containers. Your belief that they might all disappear is just that, only a fear. Out they go, both the containers and the fear behind them.

Protecting an Investment ~ ‘I paid good money for that. ‘Financial issues often bond us to clutter; a mental refrain of ‘I paid $100 for that!’ can keep us from releasing items that we no longer want or need. Problem is, yesterday’s purchase price no longer has much relevance to today’s value. It’s not what you paid for an item that matters; it’s what it’s worth today, and that is what you must assess. Online auctions such as eBay are wonderful sites in that they will give you a quick real-world value for almost any product. Knowing what something is worth today will shift your thinking and make it easier to part with the item and move forward.

Thrill of the Chase ~ ‘It’s a collection’. Collecting can be fun, but it can also lead to immense clutter problems. In the thrill of the pursuit and acquisition, little else seems to matter, until of course you have to find homes for the new additions to your already crowded shelves. By the time your cherished collection must be stored in the dusty attic or on high shelves, it’s crossed the line and become clutter. To break the bonds of collection clutter, assess your collection with an eye to finding the heart: those three or five or seven items with a true tie to your affection. Only those items with meaning, use and value deserve a place in your home.

Identity Crisis ~ ‘I wore that lacrosse jacket in grade twelve.’ Identity clutter is possessions we no longer use, but hold onto because they symbolize a younger, earlier identity. Identity clutter is easy to spot, because it’s usually branded closely with its time and place. The LP collection from the ’80’s, the macramé wall hanging you made at summer camp…To cut the bonds of identity clutter, remind yourself that you are not your stuff. The memories and the growth are the true gift of these earlier identities. The leftover stuff no longer has a use, except to tie us down and hamper our current richer life, forcing us to live in the past. To retain the memories, save a symbol of that stage of your life, then release the identity clutter. Take a photograph of yourself wearing that lacrosse jacket, write a journal entry about your summer at camp and ditch the dusty macramé, frame two of the LP covers and hang them on a memory wall, and give the rest of the collection to charity.

All in the Family ~ ‘It was my grandfather’s…’ Family: it’s the tie that binds, and binds us to unwanted stuff in the form of ‘heirloom clutter’. Heirloom clutter is any item you don’t want, don’t need, don’t use and don’t value, but which you keep because it once belonged to a family member. We’re not talking true heirlooms that tell a story that you too will pass along. ‘Heirloom clutter’ is more like grandpa’s old sofa; tattered, ugly, you can’t sit on it for fear it will fall apart, but you can’t get rid of it either. Why not? ‘Because it’s an heirloom!’ Learn to distinguish between a true heirloom and heirloom clutter. Ask yourself *what do I know about this item? *do I have a memory related to this item? *does this item have use or value in my everyday life?

‘Not what we have, but what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance.’ ~ Sarah Ban Breathnach, author

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