Is clutter making you cuckoo? Does your life feel bogged down with stuff? For many, living in a culture where every imaginable need is within reach has made consumption second nature. As we head into the New Year, consider lightening your load. Literally. It won’t just clear out your closets and desks – you may find some mental clarity as well.
Leo Babauta of Zen Habits suggests five-minute ideas that make de-cluttering a manageable, gradual task. Take one step daily: like visualizing how you want a room to look, setting up an inbox for incoming papers like mail and flyers, or cleaning out the medicine cabinet. When you’re ready to dig in further, divide your house or office into sections and get started. Happy organizing!
Behind closed doors
Stop waiting for a TV show expert to swoop in and manage your disastrous wardrobe. Weed out items you haven’t worn in the past year. To track your progress, turn all hangers in the same direction, rotating them only after use. When purchasing or acquiring something new, use the “one in, one out” rule: get rid of one thing for each new item you buy.
Some money-making options exist for passing on clothes as well, such as eBay, Craigslist and shops like the Buffalo Exchange in Seattle or Portland. There are also a number of charities that accept used clothing, such as the Salvation Army and Goodwill. If you have workplace-appropriate clothing, contact Dress for Success; for old shoes, consider Soles4Souls. Feeling social? Host a clothing swap party for friends. Voila! Old gems can be re-gifted and viewed as brand-spanking new.
Beyond the closet
Use this same approach when heading into the nooks and crannies where clutter thrives, such as basements, attics and garages. Create zones where like items are grouped. Find nearby outlets for recycling electronics (perhaps with the help of E-Cycle Washington or Oregon E-Cycles), or contribute to charitable organizations like Cell Phones for Soldiers. Also, check out social swapping sites like Freecycle.org and local services like the Northwest Center and Habitat for Humanity in Portland and Seattle.
But de-cluttering is more than just cleaning up rarely-traveled areas of your house. Apply these same principles to your daily life by paying bills online, unsubscribing to publications you no longer read, and sharing or passing on books you’ve already finished.
On the job
You can increase workplace productivity and lower your stress levels by clearing desk surfaces, keeping your office supplies tucked away in drawers, and shredding or recycling unneeded paper. Be sure to tackle your digital clutter by cleaning up your computer desktop and organizing your chaotic inbox into easy-to-understand folders.
Look to folks who have found whimsy in the purging game. Courtney Carver created Project 333 to challenge followers to wear only 33 articles of clothing for three months. When Colleen Madsen decided to give away one item a day (365 Less Things), she found that the transformation expanded far beyond her shelves and drawers.
The bottom line: Clutter essentially equates to “delayed decisions,” so take charge in the present moment. Freedom is just a few garbage bags away.