20 Jan Decluttering, the modern cure for a modern illness
MORE TIME, MORE MONEY, LESS STRESS
Many of us live under the impression that surrounding ourselves with more possessions and objects will make us happier – but whether it’s at home or at work, reducing clutter, using less and organising it better can help us focus in on what we really value, help us to spend less and to use our time doing the things we really love and feel more content with life.
Clutter – a Modern Illness
There are many things that contribute to clutter building up around us.
First of all, in recent years, we’ve started to shop by default. We all have more money and evermore sophisticated advertising persuades us that we need to have the latest, the best, the most sophisticated, more, to improve our existence. Cheaper shops and credit cards have made it easier to spend money, building an illusion that we are getting bargains, but just leaving us with more than we actually need.
Then there’s time … or the lack of it. We divide our lives between work, family, hobbies, socializing, travelling. Managing our home is no longer a priority and can wait another week or month. Objects and paperwork start to accumulate and piles of stuff start lingering in corners, under beds, in spare rooms or even on worktops and shelves. Not only do we not have the time to tidy up, we simply don’t have the time to enjoy using all those things we bought on our shopping sprees.
It’s even worse in the office – if you’re like me, the work just keeps on coming. How many of us actually get time to go back to organise our emails, or filing? We just keep on going back to what we need on the day, whilst “digital clutter” starts to accumulate in folders and shared drives until we start to waste time finding the critical files or instructions we need. If we need to print items out, these slowly start to build up on desks or in filing cabinets.
As if this wasn’t enough, new houses are getting smaller, office space is increasingly at a premium, and furniture also has less storage capacity. We are allocated less space pro capita and end up with less space in which to store our possessions or file our documents.
A Vicious Circle
We find ourselves in a vicious circle of having more building up around us, but having less time and space to organise it. And it’s not just at home, clutter invades our work spaces and offices just as much.
According to many experts, this clutter fills our minds with excessive stimuli, causing our senses to work overtime on things that aren’t necessary or important, making us less productive than we should be, and adding to our stress levels. When things aren’t stored properly, or there is mess around us, our brain receives subconscious signals that our work isn’t done, making it difficult for us to relax.
At home, clutter can also cause embarrassment when people drop by unexpectedly, or the prospect of someone coming round unannounced can add to our stress levels.
In the office, clutter inhibits creativity and productivity by invading the clear space that allows people to think and problem solve with an open mind.
Decluttering – A Modern Cure
By removing excessive clutter, not only do we free up space in our homes, but we also free up our time and money for ourselves, resulting in less stress and more calm and confidence and greater focus in our lives. Removing clutter can improve our well-being and give us renewed energy.
Let’s consider those three things: time, money and stress:
• Putting logical systems in place will help you to find things more quickly – this applies to everything: books, records, food, clothes. You name it, you can create a system!
• A simple, up-to-date filing system helps you find important documents quickly when you need them. (It’s not just about physical documents: how much time do you spend at work looking for emails or documents you remember writing, and filed away somewhere safe?)
• Stop wasting time looking for clothes “you know you had somewhere”: your wardrobe will have everything sorted, so it will take half the time to get dressed
• You’ll start jobs more quickly because you know where your tools/equipment are, and you’ll feel more focused and productive by having an organised work space. Less clutter, fewer distractions
• You or your cleaner will clean your house or office more efficiently, hence more quickly! You’ll be able to get to the places that need to be cleaned
• You will stop buying more of what you don’t actually need because you will be aware of which food, clothes, medicine, cleaning products you already have
• You will learn to buy less, because you are more in control. For example, by having your kitchen cupboards, or your freezer/fridge sorted you will not waste food
• You could stop paying self-storage bills by freeing space in your house or you will eventually realise you can dispose of items altogether
• An up-to-date filing system will help you understand how much you are spending on your utilities and how to keep direct debits under control
• Use the space you have. You’ll end up using the space in your house or your office for the things you want to use it for, so you don’t have to upsize just to store your stuff!! Unless you want a big house (but don’t have to buy one for extra storage!!)
• Spend less time going out. Creating an inviting, comfortable space you want to spend time in will mean that you invite friends round more often, and spend less money going out
• You could turn new tidy space into a money maker by occasionally renting your guest room as a live in Air B&B or to students if this is something you are considering
Reduce Stress, Increased Focus
Ultimately, de-cluttering your home we will help you to de-clutter your mind, give you greater focus and self-confidence, make you more efficient at work and at home, and reward you with more time to do the things which really make you feel happy.
Knowing what you have and where it is will give you a feeling of greater control. You will have adopted a logical system, where things are easy to access and to remember. Also, your family will gradually accept the new system and start to see the benefits.
A clutter-free converter states: “Living in a clutter-free house means I have much more energy, which I put down to the fact I can find everything I need in an instant. Everything has a place – even my handbag is clutter-free. I also sleep much better now, as my home is a more relaxing space.”
Being more organised at work will help you gain self-confidence and help you to come across as more professional. Your space working space will look tidy and efficient, you’ll feel more confident you can find what you need quickly, colleagues and managers will see your professionalism and trust you.
No matter what the scale of the project is, step one is always de-cluttering. When you’re ready for the new, you must clear out the old.
Three tips to start de-cluttering:
Decide which room you want to declutter first.
If you intend to declutter your entire home, start from the less personal/emotional attached spaces like the hall, the bathroom or cupboard under the stairs.
Tip 1: don’t de-clutter bit by bit. Give yourself time. Don’t do it when you have only a spare hour. You may risk not finishing the job and consequently miss out on the opportunity to have a proper clear out and an effective system for that room.
Recently we changed our diet, so our kitchen cupboards were populated with new products, and I noticed some snags in the existing system, which was not working any longer for us. Pasta packets were difficult to reach, spice jars together with noodles, quinoa and rice packets in another cupboard. We had stopped buying certain products, so I had loads of space left on shelves. Also, the kids started cooking some food themselves, so I decided to give our kitchen a radical re-shuffle. After some assessment I decided to create an effective storage system where all food will be stored in transparent boxes to fit the full lengths and width of my cupboards and place them according to our needs. The boxes were all labelled, and everybody knew where to find stuff and it was easy to replenish food once finished, because everything was visible and easy to reach.
It took much longer to sort, but it wouldn’t have been achievable in one hour. Now, it takes only few minutes to put the big shopping away, no food is wasted, and everything is at our fingertips.
Tip 2: Be open minded when de-cluttering. It is a purging exercise which makes us realise that life changes and we need to adjust to it. The best approach is to appreciate what we were and had, to let it go and accept a new phase in our life. But, it’s easier said than done! Don’t embark on it on your own, especially if strong emotions are involved. Ask for assistance but avoid close family or intimate friends because they may not be as objective and diplomatic as you would need. A friend, for example, could tell you to throw away your children’s birthday cards, but you may feel hurt and may disagree. So, you will keep them for another decade, maybe! A professional de-clutterer instead would suggest considering which emotions are attached to them, and accordingly she may recommend you keep a few cards with meaningful messages written inside and discard those which say just “happy birthday”, for example.
Tip 3: Every object must have a “house”
In order to keep your house or office tidy and organised, things need to be stored or to put away using a logical system. By having the correct location, which is easy to access and to remember, you will have an inviting, clutter-free environment to work in efficiently. You, your family or colleagues will learn to put things away because they know where to put them. Labelling and using transparent boxes, for example, are a must for a well organised workshop or office. Keep your desk as clear as possible. Go paperless as much as you can. Don’t print stuff. You will also do your little bit for the environment! Create a digital filing system and because paper is inevitable, have a filing cabinet or sturdy folders with labels and dividers. The only paper on your desk should be your planner, note pad, and in and out trays. Since my desk is quite small, I devised trays which hang like a magazine rack on the side of my desk.