Coping with clutter is rarely easy. There's more involved than just catching up on overdue housework, and staying focused and motivated over the weeks or months it may take to get the job done can be one of the biggest challenges. Here are some tips to help you stick with it until it's done:
1. "How do you eat an elephant?... One bite at a time!" That's a good way to approach clutter clearing: one "bite-sized" task at a time. An entire house, or even a room, of clutter can be overwhelming. Instead, focus on a single small area - one shelf in a bookcase or one drawer in the kitchen, for example - before moving on to the next.
2. Don't expect to get it done in a weekend. It probably took a long time for all that stuff to pile up, so make peace up front with the fact that getting rid of it is going to take some time, too. Plan to do a little bit every day over a longer period of time, rather than waiting until you have a large chunk of free time available to devote to clutter-clearing (which may never happen!).
3. Set time goals, not task goals. If you've decided to declutter the kitchen cabinets on Saturday morning, for example, but it's really an all-day job, you've set yourself up for failure. Instead, set a goal to work on the kitchen for three hours on Saturday. That way, when the time it up, you'll have met your goal even if the task itself is not entirely completed.
4. Use a timer to get over the "don't-wannas." Tell yourself you only have to focus on clutter for 5 minutes. Pick your bite-sized target (one drawer, one shelf, or one pile of paper) set your timer, and go go go for five minutes. When the timer chimes, you can stop? or keep going, now that you've established some momentum.
5. If you just can't make a "keep or toss" decision about something, put it in a "for now" box and plan to return to it later when you are feeling more decisive. Items that you do wish to keep, but that have no "home" in your home, go in a separate box with other things you need to make space for. This way you end up with pre-sorted boxes of stuff you still need to deal with, rather than leaving things where you found them (which is not where they belong, or you wouldn't have a clutter problem).
6. Be prepared to make more of a mess before things look better. You can't do a thorough job of clearing out a closet, for example, unless you begin by removing everything that's in there. That means you're going to create a big heap o'stuff while you are sorting and purging. Don't mistake the temporary mess for lack of progress; just keep doing a little bit at a time until you've gone through it all and made decisions about what to keep and where to keep it.
7. Get rid of the excess first, before you think about organizing and storage. One of the most common mistakes people make is to buy more storage containers before they've decluttered. Eventually, they end up with a home cluttered with boxes and bags and bins of other clutter. Sort and purge first, then tackle storage.
8. Reward your accomplishments, both great and small. Finished the hall closet today? Good for you; now make an appointment for that manicure you promised yourself. Plan in advance what treats you will earn as you reach your clutter-clearing milestones; knowing you have a specific reward coming will help you stay motivated to stick with the process until it is done.
Of course, the biggest reward of all is the joy and convenience of living in a home that is free of clutter. Don't wait another day to get started!
? 2005 Stephanie Roberts
GOT CLUTTER?!? Reclaim your space and your life with Stephanie Roberts' highly-acclaimed Clutter-Free Forever Home Coaching Program, which includes the Clutter-Free Forever ebook, weekly lessons, membership to an online support group and bonuses. Find out more at ClutterFreeForever.com.