For some reason, every person that doesn’t really know me is shocked to discover that I am not a tidy person. Mouths literally fall open. I have never been a tidy person – ‘Declutter life’ has been a regular fixture on my New Years resolutions list since the year I discovered what ‘clutter’ was.
I struggle with a simultaneous urge to surround myself with everything that I love, and the desire to live in a sleek, smooth, stress-free environment. I moved into my little apartment over two years ago and there are still items that are waiting to ‘find their home’. ‘Hang pictures’ has been on my weekly to-do list for over twelve months and my filing system can only be described as ‘floor-reliant’.
‘Declutter life’ is on my annual list yet again, and obviously nothing has been done about it so far. Before starting any actual work and mostly because I am the Queen of procrastination, I thought it essential to finally do some deep study on the matter. For…science. Or a blog. While most of the answers I found probably make sense – ‘set a timer’ ‘do a little bit every day’, they’re also tips that have clearly never been much help for me. Instead, here are four points that I think might actually stand a chance of doing some good – I’ll let you know.
Visualise the space you want
You might not want all of your ‘to-do’ junk sitting in a pile on the table, but I bet you’re pretty used to seeing it there, aren’t you? In fact, it might be hard to imagine what the table would look like if that pile wasn’t there, or where the pile would live instead. But if you can’t imagine a tidy, clutter-free space, then how are you going to make it a reality? Set aside some time to sit in your space without distractions. Imagine what it will look like when you’re finally finished. What is left there? What has a new home? What is no longer part of your life and needs to be recycled or donated? Like any good athlete, visualising that final goal is apparently going to help us to achieve it.
Be realistic about what you can achieve
You might want a house that looks like this:
Or even this:
But if you’re currently living in a shoebox of a place (me) and have belongings coming out of your ears (also me), then the Ikea showhome of your dreams might take more than a couple of days to achieve. Expecting pinterest-worthy results overnight is just going to lead to heartache and burnout – trust me, I’m a regular. Instead, take stock of the time you have to clean and set yourself a reasonable goal for that window. For me, it’s normally ‘I will clear the pit of despair next to my bed and make sure all of my socks have a pair’. Done that one already? Then you can move on to ‘I will find a home for the piles of death on the living room floor’ and ‘I will remove any products dated from last century from the pantry’. Just remember, baby steps, every day.
Celebrate the success
Cleaned the Pit of Despair? Congratulations! Take the time to appreciate how great it looks. Enjoy how great it looks. Maybe send a photo to your Mum. Put a hold on stressing about anything else that needs doing and remember how great this feels when you inevitably start procrastinating before your next declutter.
Realise that there is more to life than things
Sometimes there may not be enough space for your life, so matter how much you declutter. I mean, where are you going to find space to store those Christmas cards from three years ago, that second backup power plug AND those fourty-two candles that somehow just keep appearing?
Sometimes things are just things, and as Mari Kondo says – it’s time to thank them for their service, and let them go. Realise that that dress from three seasons ago is never going to look good on you, no matter how much it cost, and send it back out into the world.
At the same time, I keep reminding myself that life is for living – something that none of those carefully styled pinterest homes ever manage to incorporate. It’s ok to have a few dishes in the sink, or a larger laundry pile than you probably should have at this stage of the week- or in my case, a small forest of dying pot plants where my desk should be that I swear I can nurse back to life. Hold fast to that image of your perfect home, but don’t be too blinded by it to see the steps towards perfection that you’ve already achieved.
My new rule?
Declutter until happy, then stop. Repeat as needed.