Happy Herbivore Blog

October 29, 2012

Minimalist Monday: Conquering Clutter (How to Declutter)

I came across an article titled "Conquering Clutter" by June Milligan in the October issue of Healthy Beginnings lifestyle magazine that I found fascinating.

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The article starts out saying something you've heard me repeat time and time again on Minimalist Monday:

"We've been programmed by the culture, as well as by corporations and media, to buy, buy, then buy some more. We've been conditioned to believe that the more things we have, the happier we'll be. Therefore many of us engage in compulsive shopping, becoming involved in the constant search for something interesting to buy."

My thoughts immediately shifted to "retail therapy," a phrase I hear my friends saying quite often, either about themselves or their partner. If I'm going to be entirely truthful, I must admit I've engaged in retail therapy in the past, too. [Editorial note: In writing this last sentence, I just realized I haven't engaged in retail therapy in at least two years; much thanks to the minimalist lifestyle!]

Anyway, Milligan continued, "Unless these items are organized in some way, and therefore serve as a source of comfort and peace for us in that we know where certain items are — the clutter becomes an energy drain."

[Side note: You might remember my "How to Be a Minimalist" post, where Step 2 talks about removing clutter and giving everything a place out of sight... That's how important dealing with clutter is — it's so important that I made it the first actionable step (Step 1 only asks you to accept minimalism)].

Milligan makes such an amazing point: unorganized items become an energy drain. I experienced this recently. I tore through my house looking for Lily Bean's spare dog collar. I knew it existed — somewhere — I just couldn't remember where I put it. 

I pulled dozens of boxes and suitcases out of the closet. (Their contents then exploded all over the floor so I could dig through them too). Scott came home and saw me ripping through a box and said "Oh, Hurricane Lindsay came through today, I see." I never found the collar (which was even more stressful) and by the time I gave up, I'd not only wasted all this time looking for it — I was going to spend at least half an hour cleaning up the mess I'd made in the process. What an energy drain!

Similarly, I'd let the mail stack up on my desk a la "I'll get to this later." It was a good-sized pile but nothing ridiculous — about a week's worth of mail and 2 magazines. Anyway, I also keep my keys on my desk (can you guess where this is going?) and I must have bumped my desk, causing some of the top envelopes to slide down and cover my keys. I didn't see this happen — or if I did, I didn't commit it to my brain, so later that night, when I needed to leave, my keys were "missing." I raced through my house for 15 minutes looking for them — screaming at Scott to help me look. I'd even looked on my desk and shuffled some of the papers around twice before I found them... and I only found them because I'd called my cell phone (which was also missing) and it was next to my keys, under the mail. Here's to hoping I never let my desk get messy again!

You know you have a similar story ;)

So this Minimalist Monday, work on the clutter. Pick a spot in your home (your desk, perhaps?) and de-clutter. Take it a room (or space) at a time. Maybe you want to start with your closet. Maybe you want to start with the junk drawer (do people still have those? My mom does! Sorry to out you, Mom!) or the left side of the garage (break that bad boy down into sections). If you don't have the best memory (me!), keep an indexed list. Whenever I find Lily Bean's collar (because I know I will, eventually), you can bet I'm going to write down where it is on my list. 

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