If the holidays were even moderately good to you, that can mean piles of brand new stuff waiting to be integrated into those already dense piles of other stuff. (We've all got a little hoarder in us, don't we?) Add to that the holiday gift-packing supplies, the leftover bedding from houseguests, all the food, and of course, all those extra bottles of alcohol. Regardless of what you've resolved to change in your life this year, a cluttered home can be a counterproductive distraction.
Living in the modern world requires the assistance of lots of things, but too much of those, and a generally disorganized living space, can be indicators of bigger issues. Author and PhD Margaret Paul says that "Clutter is created and maintained by a wounded, frightened part of oneself, the wounded self – the part that operates from the illusion of having control over people, events, and outcomes." On the flipside, an obsessively sparkling house can also result from a need to have control over one's external environment. So, ok, a little mess is not the worst thing in the world, but how can you best manage your living space and your things this year? Here are some tips:
Start Small: De-cluttering your home can feel like an overwhelming task, especially after the holiday frenzy. Commit to starting with just one room, closet or particularly cluttered area and work it until it feels light, organized and easy to navigate. The ideal situation is to know exactly what's there at all times without much effort, be it an empty table or a well-organized drawer.
The Zone: New stuff happens all the time. Designate one particularly easily cluttered area of your home to always be clutter-free. Perhaps it's the kitchen counter or your bed. Whatever it is, by sticking to your commitment, it'll become easier to make the rest of your home clutter-free as well.
Surface Sweep: Shelves, dressers and countertops are like clutter magnets. Keep your kitchen counters free except for major appliances. Tables, shelves and dressers should house only lamps, minor decorations or fresh flowers.
Ebills: Junk mail and important mail can clutter up desks, tables and sofas. Eliminate the excess by switching to electronic billing, and recycle your junk mail right from the box, avoiding bringing it into your home at all.
Sentimentally Speaking: Gifts, family heirlooms, the art project your niece made you for your birthday quickly pile up around the house. Relationships transcend things. An experience or a photo can be a much more meaningful connection to a loved one rather than clinging to a dust-collecting item. Donate them or store valuables in marked container in the closet or garage rather than scattered throughout the house.
1 in 2 Out: We all inevitably accumulate more things over the year. Whether you're replacing an article of clothing or a household item, stick with the rule that for every one new item in, you donate or toss two. Stick with absolute necessities and see if you can't find new uses for old clothes or get to that book you swore you'd read three years ago but never did.
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