When it all comes down to it, all of life is maintenance to a certain degree. Think of your home as a machine that needs attention, just like your body does: if you have a fever, you stay in bed and sick it out. If you are developing a strange rash on your leg, you go see a doctor. Of course, you do. However, even when it comes to health, we tend to disregard certain things: we wave away that little attack of the sniffles with a quick hand, and that spot of tummy trouble will probably sort itself out soon enough. Often that is experience from past instances of the same, but sometimes we just couldn’t be bothered.
To stay within this metaphor: we also know that those little signs of something that likely is nothing at all could develop into something more complex, even life-threatening, without us noticing, simply because it gradually becomes worse. Typical examples here would be arthritis or dry skin, or degrading eye-sight.
Think of your home in the same way: some things are visible and obvious: if you stop doing the dishes you’ll run out of plates to eat off very soon, and if you don’t range your shopping into the fridge, things will turn bad very quickly. But then there are things we choose to ignore: that pile of papers that grows imperceptibly, the dust devils that accumulate under the bed, the garage or attic that fills up with all the stuff that doesn’t seem to have a proper use or place elsewhere in the house.
The point is, you have to become aware not just of the things that you NEED, but also of the accumulative stuff that creeps in without you really taking notice of it. And this is where change is absolutely necessary: if you don’t regularly check up on your home, just like your body it will develop dark spots where things accumulate without you consciously realising this is happening.
So what CAN you do that isn’t quite obsessive compulsive behaviour, but that helps you keep things under control? Here are a couple of possible ideas you could embrace. Not all of these might be for you, and not all of them might actually apply to you, depending on your situation and needs, but it makes perfect sense to at least read them and think about them to find out if any of the following are for you:
Take yourself out of the picture
Take a step back from your daily routine on a regular basis (that could be once a week, once a month, or at other intervals) and take a good look at either your whole home or just one room at a time. Try and take in the whole room at once, without evaluating each item separately, but the room as a whole. Just look around and observe. I know this sounds a little oogie-woogie, but this actually helps you seeing the things properly, and picking up on stuff that doesn’t quite belong where it is.
Just like doing the dishes is a regular occurrence, and dusting needs doing over and over again, looking at your things and removing what serves no more can be useful. Unlike the above action, this focuses on a particular spot, like a book case, a wardrobe, or a shelf. It is helpful to take everything out, then look at every item separately and evaluate if this actually means anything to you at all. If there is no doubt at all, put it back. If – however – you are not entirely sure about an item, consider removing it permanently. There is no point in storing anything away: we tend to hang on to things for far too long without thinking, especially if we have room to store everything. Just remember: if you don’t see it you likely never use it.
A game of “remember me”
If you are having a hard time saying “no: this does not mean anything to me”, you might benefit from this exercise. Rather than looking at a particular spot, THINK about it without looking, and try to remember what exactly is in that spot. Write it all down and then take a look. Whatever you find in the spot that is not on your list has not been memorable enough for you to remember. Maybe it’s time to let go?
Re-evaluate things whenever you become aware of them
Sometimes we simply become aware of an item that seems unnecessary, that feels out of place, or that makes us uncomfortable. Any of these could be indicators that this item’s time has come. A typical moment for this occurrence is when you clean and pick everything up to dust around the area. Moving that item around sometimes brings clarity and the realisation that it’s really not wanted any more. Sometimes just sitting in your room and looking around brings things into focus that you may not have really ‘seen’ in ages. It’s time to let go of those items, believe me.
Ask an outsider (a friend or visitor you trust)
This last option is not for everyone, and is only recommended if you absolutely trust that person. Only if you feel strongly that you can separate their comments from your friendship, go ahead and ask them about their feelings with regards to clutter in your home. It’s a question worth asking, as that person probably knows you well enough to be honest with you. Honesty can be a sharp blade, though, so don’t mix up that friend’s opinion of your home with their feelings for you.
There we go, a number of ways to become aware of existing clutter, and keep on top of accumulating clutter. While all of these are not for everyone, some will apply to your situation and help you further, I’m sure. The brilliant thing about becoming aware of the way things are, is that it is cumulative: once you have started things will gradually become easier and feel more natural. That is because you have gone beyond fixing a situation quickly, you’ll have changed your habits!
Ask the ClutterMeister
Ideas to help clear away the mess in our homes and in our minds.
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Hi, my name is Tilo Flache. My current mission: help my clients declutter mind and space.
This blog contains pointers for your journey towards a happier living experience.