Let’s be frank, making decisions is hard. And decluttering, if you think about it, is nothing more than decisions that we are postponing. Where to file that stack of letters on my desk that I may need one day (so I’ll just postpone it). I want to recycle those plastic bottles, but right now I can’t get to a recycling bin, so I’ll just put it to the side (postpone it). I need to sell that equipment on some online classified website, so I’ll squeeze it here in the corner of my office until I get to it one day (postpone it).
And yes, for all the above examples, I just looked around my office 🙂
In today’s post, I want to pursue this question:
Why do we delay decluttering, and is it really so difficult?
But first, why would I want to declutter?
Here’s the thing, you can’t reach for anything new if your hands are still full of yesterday’s junk. How many times have we wanted to take on some new and exciting projects, but we can’t because we’ve got this junk that we’re carrying around. Or maybe you stumble on some charming furniture, but you can’t get it because you’ve already got cluttered stuff idling at home.
And clutter isn’t just in your home, closets, garage or office space. Clutter can also and frequently be found in our minds. Clutter can also be found in old ideas, toxic relationships, and bad habits. Like a sofa that already has three lazy people sitting on it with no room for anyone else, clutter steals space from the marvelous things that need a seat in your life.
Why do we clutter up in the first place?
We think of clutter as all one thing, but that’s not the case. There are different categories of clutter. Let’s take a look at a few of them that we can all relate to:
These are things piling up on your desk, or closet or wherever, that isn’t precisely clutter. It’s just pens that don’t have a pen holder. Papers that don’t have a basket. Books that don’t have a shelf. You don’t have storage space design, so it ends up being clutter when it shouldn’t.
Some stuff just seriously needs to be thrown away or given away. Clothes we will never wear, equipment we’ll never use, stuff that we know needs to go. Sometimes this piles up because we are postponing the decisions, other times we delude ourselves into thinking that ‘one day I might need this’ even though years have gone by.
Case study: True story, I have a car brush duster. It’s big and takes up space in my trunk. I think I bought it three years ago, and probably used it twice. Why do I keep carrying it around with me everywhere? Being honest, I keep thinking to myself that it’s valuable, and someone might use it, so let me just postpone throwing it away until one day I can find someone to give it to. The problem is, that’s simply an excuse I tell myself to justify postponing the inevitable.
It’s clutter that you keep around because you hope, one day, you’ll do something amazing with it. Books that you tell yourself you’re going to use, one day, when you write that novel. Camera equipment that you keep around because you tell yourself, one day, I’m going to be a Youtube sensation, and I’m going to need this. And on and on.
And now for the juicy part … FIVE HACKS to instantly begin your decluttering journey
1. Consider vertical storage
When we think of storing things, the default direction of storage is ‘horizontal’ storage. We picture where to put things on our ‘horizontal’ desk. We picture how to pile things into our storage closets HORIZONTALLY, front to back.
Consider that if you have a small space, you have all the way to the ceiling to utilize that space. So why not get a small and thin, but vertically tall, shelf that can fit nicely into a corner? On one of the shelf levels, do yourself a favor and put a nice flower to remind you how beautiful this storage can be.
2. Use beautiful storage baskets
If you’re like me, I pile up papers on papers until I can deal with them later. The problem is, those papers look messy and cluttered. Until you’re able to deal with it, why not get a nice storage basket that’ll make things look tidy in the meanwhile?
Bonus: Get a charming wooden bowl to put your daily keys and wallet. Rather than just throwing all of it, cluttered on a table somewhere, put your daily pocket stuff into this designated charming wooden bowl when you get home.
3. Designate a drawer for clothes to be donated
As you’re looking for something to wear, you inevitably pass that shirt again and again that you know you’ll never wear and that you keep telling yourself that you’ll donate it … one day. Instead of it being front and center in your face, take it out and put it in a drawer (or some other designated space). Then when the time comes for donation, all the clothes you’re donating will be in one place. The benefit of this is you’ll clear up closet space for only the useful things.
4. Apply the six 6 task sorting (From Bring It!)
In time management, I teach that you deal with inbox stuff with six D’s: Delete, Deter, Drawer, Do it, Delegate it, or Date it.
Apply the same principle to clutter. When dealing with each piece of clutter, either Delete it (throw it away), Deter-it (stop getting paper bank statements, sign up for online only statements), Drawer (beautiful storage basket it), Do it (for things for sale, snap a photo and upload to free online classifieds immediately), Delegate it (call 1-800 Junk to come pick it up), or Date it (schedule a decluttering day).
5. Plan for the future
One of my life mottos is, “Excellence is never the result of accident.” You know you’re going to get into a cluttered mess, so why not prepare for it in advance, right? Make a list of the things that will undoubtedly need tidying up:
It’s good to have money and the things that money can buy.
But it’s good, too, to check up once in a while and make sure that you haven’t lost the things that money can’t buy.
Now your turn: Teach me one of YOUR most successful decluttering tips in the comments below.
Founder and President of DiscoverU, an Islam-based personal development institute. Muhammad Alshareef graduated Islamic Law from Madinah University and holds a Masters Degree from West Virginia University. Canadian, ethnically Egyptian, and a true citizen of the world. He writes about Islamic solutions to popular personal development questions.