Yesterday's post, out of sight is not out of mind was my acknowledgment that there is clutter in my house. That there is clutter in just about everyone's house, no matter how clean or immaculate it may seem.
So how does one clear the clutter once and for all?
Words mean everything. If we label something "work", there's a very good chance we'll put off doing it. Call it a project. Or an adventure. Just don't call it cleaning out the basement or garage or some other area in your home that needs organizing and decluttering.
Projects are important to me. It's how I'm wired. It's kind of like play for me. So the day before yesterday, I made a commitment and set about my next project. That's how I chose to refer to it: a project. To clear out the boxes of stuff. One box at a time.
I hauled out my shredder. Yes, I have a shredder. And you should too. More on that further down.
I began the process of shredding old cheques. Yes, I still have some of those. At least I did. I shredded papers I've had for decades. The what-was-I-thinking-hanging-onto-all-this-paper stuff. The just-in-case stuff.
Just in case the kids I had in my daycare 20+ years ago somehow find me and want to see all that I wrote about their days in daycare, what they ate, their mood, etc for 5 blessed years. All stuffed neatly in bankers boxes. Now reduced to shredded strips headed for the recycle bin. What was I thinking.
I commandeered a large empty box for the pile of non-personal papers, cardboard, anything that could find it's new home...you guessed it...in the recycle bin. I filled the box. Twice.
I rifled through several large boxes. Made several piles. Got through more than a half dozen. Several more to go but making great progress.
As I clear the physical clutter, I feel physically better. Not to mention freeing up my mind. As I go from one stacked box to another, I not only expose and release that clutter, that stuffy stuff, I also expose that hidden but oh-so-present niggling. You know the niggling I'm talking about. That there's something that must get done, but never seems to.
There are a few tricks to all this clearing. Let me share them with you.
Five Steps to De-cluttering
To clear the clutter, you must have a plan. Don't take on the whole project or adventure all at once. That can be overwhelming. The idea is to clear out one box or one small area at a time.
1. Set a timer for 15 minutes. That's how long you'll give yourself to go through your first box or small area. This time limit will keep you laser focused.
2. Reorganize into piles that are manageable. Recycle. Donate. File. Shred. Garbage.
3. Be ruthless about your stuff. If you haven't seen or used it in over a year, let alone 5 or more, you don't need it. Ask yourself if you love the object. If you take any longer than a split second to say yes, you don't love it. So get rid of it. Recycle. Donate. File. Shred. Or garbage. If you love it, show it respect by displaying and/or using it, not hiding it away.
4. Deal with each pile. When you've cleared the area or sorted through the box and put everything in piles, shred what needs to be shredded. Throw away what you've decided is garbage. Recycle or donate whatever you can. freecycle.org is an online place where you can give away useable items. File what needs to be filed. If you wait to deal with these piles, the clutter just gets spread out and continues to sprawl.
5. Celebrate once you've complete that one tiny element of the project or adventure. Do a dance. A victory lap. Or sing. Find a way to pat yourself on the back. Then go back another day to tackle yet another box or area.
How to stay decluttered
1. Create a file system for your bills, receipts and other important papers. Store them in a proper file box or drawer. Not stacked. Organized so they're easy to locate. Just keep in mind that there is limited space in that box or drawer.
2. Invest in a small shredder. Identity theft is a real possibility, so protect yourself. Always shred your personal documents. Never throw them away or recycle them without first shredding.
3. Designate an area for recycling. Be creative. For newspapers, I use a large basket with a handle. For other recyclables, two plastic garbage bins inside a laundry basket is perfect. If your city doesn't have a door-to-door program, contact your local city manager's office to find out where there is a recycling depot near you.
4. Deal with your stuff as it comes into the house. Put it where it belongs right away. And not in a box or a drawer or a room to be dealt with later. Remember: Recycle. Shred. File. Or garbage.
5. When you bring something into the house, get rid of 1 or 2 things right away. Better yet, do this before you bring in something new. This will prevent the clutter from accumulating in the first place. This works for paid bills too. Assuming that you have not opted for the digital version. If you absolutely must keep 1 or 2 years worth of bills, shred the oldest bill every time you pay the current one.
None of this is rocket science. It just takes a commitment. But if you do find yourself having to clear the clutter, don't call it work or anything work related. Dive into it with fervor and excitement of what you will experience when it's all done. Happy clearing!