You’re battling with clutter, but you don’t know where to start? Then it is time to unclog your life!
Understand the Clogs in Your Life
Clutter is the collection of things in your life that are neither being used nor being stored. It is the untidy mess that is lying about the place.
The first step to tackling a clutter problem is to recognise that not all clutter is created equal. Whilst all types of untidiness have negative consequences, some types of disorganisation cause more problems than others. The worst kind of clutter is the kind that clogs up your life, and gets in the way of you achieving something else.
For example, I sometimes forget to put the recycling outside the house for collection. Now, my recycling box normally lives in a little niche in the garden, and doesn’t usually get in the way. When I forget to have it emptied, however, my problems start:
- The box in the garden starts start overflowing. Bits of paper and old plastic bottles will spill out and get blown around the garden. At the same time, the recycling box lid doesn’t fit properly and water gets in, making box heavy and awkward to shift.
- The full box means that there will soon be piles of recycling around the house. My collections of recycling are an eyesore, and a constant reminder of my failure to put it out. I find that depressing. My resultant lethargy will infect other areas of my life. The piles of recycling add a little more stress to everyone else in the house, which degrades my family’s relationships.
- As the pile of recycling on the draining board grows, it makes it difficult to get the washing up done. This causes a backlog. If I’m not careful, I start accumulating washing-up…
Here are some more examples:
- Clutter in front of a cupboard prevents you putting things away properly
- Clutter in door-ways can make it difficult to get things in and out
- Clutter can keep you from finding what you’re looking for
- Clutter can get you down, making you feel less like doing other things
- Clutter in your head can keep you from thinking clearly
Because clogs make it difficult to sort other things out, it makes sense to start with these blockages when you’re sorting out your clutter. That way, you clear the way for you to get other things sorted out so much more easily. Once these areas are clear, the whole process of my life will run so much more smoothly.
Identify the Clogs in Your Life
Having understood what constitutes a clog, you need to take a look at your life and identify the areas that will most benefit from a de-clogging.
Unclog Your Outbound Stuff
One of the best places to start unclogging your life is to look at the things that are already on their way out of your life and get them moving faster.
If you’re like me, there are probably lots of little things in your life that are near to the point where they can be gone from your life for ever, but for one reason or another, they tend to linger.
Here are some of the outbound things that are clogging my life at the moment:
- Empty packaging that needs to go in the bin
- The shirt I need to take back to the shop
- The book I need to finish reading before giving it back
- That email that I keep meaning to reply to
- The pile of stuff that needs to be taken to the charity shop
- The recycling that I forgot to put out for collection this morning
Have a look around you right now: what is clogging your life?
Unclog High Traffic Areas
The second area to look at is the high-traffic areas of your life. These are the physical spaces whose contents change regularly – either because things move through them regularly or because people do. For example:
- In most homes, a hallway is a higher traffic area than is a bedroom. The traffic is people.
- At work, my desk is a higher traffic area than my filing cabinet. The traffic is paperwork.
(Incidentally, I’ve read that FlyLady suggest starting with the kitchen sink. This works because it is a high traffic area for most people)
The problems with high-traffic areas are that:
- They tend to accumulate things that don’t belong there, but that seem to want to stay
- Those things get in the way of other traffic
Consider the high-traffic areas of your home, workplace, car etc. Which of these has accumulated the most clutter?
Some of my examples would be:
- The paperwork all over my desk
- The rows of shoes in my hallway
- The post in the hallway that needs filing
- The pile of stuff on the stairs waiting to be put away
- The emails sitting in my in-box
- The junk that’s accumulated in the bag I take to work
- The rubbish that needs to be taken out of the car
- The old receipts in my pockets
If I focus on decluttering these areas, other things will be much easier to sort out.
Attack the Clogs
Having decided where to start, you need to decide how to attack your clogs most effectively.
Start with the Easy Stuff
One thing I notice about most of the things in my lists of clogs is that most of them will take very little effort to shift. If I start with the easy stuff then:
- I’ll get the immediate benefits
- I’ll have more room to work on the more difficult things
It would be very easy to take a bin-bag and quickly gather up all the recycling that’s cluttering up my house.
Sort One Thing at a Time
Your life gets clogged one item at a time. Individual things that are out of place don’t usually cause a problem, but as clutter mounts up it can start to becoming a problem. Your aim should be to reverse this process: clear the clogs, one thing at a time. Remember, every item sorted out is one less item clogging up your life.
Don’t Ponder… Act
Don’t procrastinate. You don’t need to take a lot of time to evaluate nor to plan your unclogging efforts. You just need to get on with it!
Develop Habits that Prevent Clogs
It isn’t enough to de-clog your life. You also need to take action to prevent clogs building up in the first place. Because clogs tend to build up gradually, a routine that helps you keep clog-prone areas clean is your best defence against clogs building up. An example for me would be to put a reminder on my phone so that I put the recycling out every week.
Enjoy the Results
Let’s be honest – if you’re life is as cluttered as mine, you won’t sort everything out overnight. Nevertheless, if you start with the clogged areas of your life, you’ll find it easier to tackle the rest. When things are out of the way, you’ll find that your life starts to flow. You will have more space to work, to sort things out without tripping over other things. Things that should be gone from your life will be gone forever, and you’ll have a much easier time navigating your environment.
So, what’s stopping you? Do a bit of de-clogging now, and celebrate a life that flows more easily.
- Unclutterer: 10 suggestions for where to begin uncluttering
- Image: stock.xchng