Clutter is not just a pile of papers, shoes or magazines. It represents delayed decisions, things that we put off to do another time.
Examples abound: "I plan to read that someday," "Those shoes might work with an outfit for that party next year," "I will file it later." This rainy day mentality causes a "decision pile" to be dealt with later.
What is really at the bottom of the pile? The dreaded "P" word as I like to call it: procrastination.
Procrastination is the putting off of one task for another which may or may not be as important. The tendency to put off till tomorrow what needs to be done today is the biggest obstacle to getting organized. The solution -- to make your decisions right away as to whether you'll keep something and where you'll put it -- is easier than you may think. Understand that putting something off today might provide a temporary relief factor, but that in the end you are creating a much bigger job for yourself.
Recognize the role of emotions
What goes hand in hand with the "I will do it tomorrow" attitude is emotion. People love things -- old clothing that holds a memory, a file of a favorite project, even love letters from an ex! This emotional attachment makes a decision more than a decision, it becomes a feeling-based decision. Recognizing the role emotions play will help us gain control over our things, not vice versa.
Make organizing an emotion-free zone
Organizing is a task to be managed, so make it an emotion-free zone. We often think we can justify our clutter by saying, "I don't have the time," "I don't have room," or, my favorite, "I don't feel like it." These excuses can be flipped to our advantage by realizing that we are in control of our time, that creating space is a product of purging and sorting, and that dealing with the task instead of the emotion can become contagious.
Here are some daily mantras to help keep you on track:
- Take charge
- Avoid judging.
- Don't procrastinate.
Making decisions begins with sorting, even if you create files that say "bills to be paid," "pending," or "to be reviewed."
Starting is key; begin with a baby step like a junk drawer.
Put yourself in charge of the clutter and your emotions, not vice versa.
Do not judge how far you have come or how far you need to go.
Recognize procrastination as a trained behavior.
Using the techniques above, you should be able to rid your home of clutter and discover that you are in charge of how you live and the kind of environment with which you surround yourself.
Mary Carlomagno is the owner of Order, which specializes in clutter control and shopping addictions. She has written two books on these topics, as well as several articles for Care.com. Visit her website at orderperiod.com.