(5 Ways To Simplify And Get Back Control)


Clutter creates confusion.  It is a threat to mental and emotional clarity.  Life has enough complexities without adding fuel to our chaotic fire.  Peace of mind – some call it flow – often eludes us.  Ever so slowly our minds can drift into a state called “clutter tolerance.” We get so busy dodging the debris that our vision is clouded.  Our sense of well-being is absorbed by all the litter in our mental and emotional landscape.

How do we release the stuff, reduce the noise, and reconnect with ourselves.  The habit of clearing our spaces frees us to experience who we truly are.

Let’s dive a little deeper.  Clutter is stuck energy.  It impacts us like an unresolved issue that is let to linger.  When you clear things out – whether it’s a wallet, drawer, old news items, the closet, desk, or even the refrigerator – you are clearing energy that is stuck and creating space for something new.  Clutter clogs the flow.  Uncluttering the space has the same effect as taking care of an unresolved issue.

Do you want your living space energized, your closet useable, your priorities clear, your desk under control, your day maximized?  Here are 5 tips that will help you simplify your life and take back control.

1. Start small. If you are like me, you are not sure where to begin :(.  So you don’t!  Pick one spot on that mountain of stuff and begin.  Don’t look at the whole elephant.  Zero in.  Mark Twain said, “Eat that green frog.  That’s the hardest thing you will have to do that day.”  Maybe it’s your desk.  Clear it.  Is it your closet?  Organize it.  It could be your email inbox.  Empty it.  Stick with just one thing until you’re done.  I guarantee you will feel a freedom and a motivation for the next “small” project.  Try doing too many things at once (multitasking), and everything will end up incomplete.  Set one goal – and achieve it.

2. Work smarter. There’s a place for everything.  It’s called a home.  Make sure your stuff gets home.  Putting things on your desk or the kitchen counter only adds misery to your life.  It’s easy to shortcut the “put-it-where-it-belongs” principle.  The result?  We create piles that end up making no sense.  Investing a small amount of time putting something where it should live will come back 10 fold.  Turn it into a routine.  Make it habitual.  We schedule other important disciplines.  Schedule this one as well.  It’s a sure proof way to ward off the clutter gremlin.  Work smarter, not harder.

3. Sort it out and throw it out. 2 areas to start sorting and throwing are your mailbox and your closet.  With mail, don’t wait!  Sort the junk from the personal…quickly.  Then separate out the bills.  Put them in a “bills to be paid” basket.  When it’s time, pay them at one sitting.  Beware of the magazine monster. If you aren’t going to read it soon, toss it!  Be as drastic as possible.

With your closet, if you haven’t worn it in a year, why do you still have it?  Because it might come back in style?  That’s a rationalization. And even if it does, it will still look dated.  If they don’t fit, bless someone’s life and donate them.  Do you really love it?  If you did you’d wear it.  Before you organize you have to prune.  Just like most construction projects, you have to blast before you build.

4. Ascribe a value to your possessions. I don’t mean for the purpose of insuring them.  What are they really worth to you?  I live in southern California where on occasion fires break out that threaten homes.  I have had friends, some close (Ken Blanchard), who lost their homes.  Listening to what they ascribe value to and what they did and didn’t replace is a lesson I’ve taken to heart.  What would I grab after the people and pets were safe?  If something isn’t worth taking, then perhaps it’s not worth keeping.  If it doesn’t have functional or aesthetic value, consider making it available for someone else’s pleasure.

5. Discover that less is freeing. Chasing after perfection and happiness is the consumers trap.  It’s the hedonic treadmill. Simplicity leads to freedom.  De-cluttering is practical.  Yet it is also philosophical.  Be kind to yourself by ridding yourself of a consumer approach to life.  I am discovering that being mindful about what I purchase and collect is a liberating feeling.  The side effect is an inspiration to enjoy the life I have.  Getting rid of the excesses clears the path for new experiences.

These tips will help free you from the clutter-vampire. You will feel his strangle hold release from your neck.  You’ll start to breathe freely as your sense of control returns.  You will be energized and inspired.

There is delight in de-cluttering.

What methods or habits have helped you?


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5 Responses
  1. Excellent piece. Being neat and organized are part of my DNA and life goals. And yet . . . clutter. Organized, neat clutter. But clutter nevertheless. And, no, I don’t believe in multi-tasking. Bottom line: de-cluttering like security requires constant vigilance and discipline.

  2. Mick – Love the list. I have found, with many people, the issue is not that they don’t know the steps required to reach a more ordered life — the issue is that with most, they are not able resolve the question “Why should I bother to do this, when the disorder does’t bother me? I’d rather spend my time…[fill-in the various alternate activities here].”
    They key, then, is for those individuals to be able to connect the behavior (these steps for ordering our world) to the things that ARE important to them – the values and motivations that cause them to behave one way versus another.
    For some, like me, there is actually intrinsic value in keeping my world in order – it actually feels good, causes me less stress, etc. For others, this is just not enough to drive them to act. A cluttered world may not cause them stress at all, it may not be a distraction from anything else that is important to them, and they may not feel that it gets in the way of anything that they may choose to pursue.
    For one category of those remaining, it’s necessary to see that a cluttered world causes others to see them as less capable to lead, less trustworthy with resources, or even prevents them from successfully getting things done. For another group, it would be meaningful to know that a cluttered world results in people around them being hesitant to hang-out in that cluttered space, or to allowing them into their own space for any length of time for fear that it would quickly become cluttered as well. Finally, there is the group that unless they can connect to the fact that the clutter may cause others to see them as unable to be thoughtful, reflective, or in the extreme, less intelligent.
    Unless we, as motivation-driven beings, can connect our own personal values & motivations to a particular behavior (even if it’s understood to be a desirable behavior), there is little to cause us to adopt that new or different behavior. Keep up the great work! Cheers!

  3. A tip to eliminate clothes clutter in your bedroom: when you pull out an item of clothing to wear it, pull the hanger out, too. It makes hanging the item back in the closet easier and quicker, because you don’t have to first search for a hanger. This has worked well for me.

  4. Mick Ukleja

    Scott. These are great additions to the article. Giving the types/categories attitudes various people have toward “clutter” is insightful. This takes the concept of de-cluttering to the next level.

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