When uncluttering your home and office, chances are you’ll come across many objects you’ve thought about getting rid of dozens (maybe hundreds) of times, but never did.
For example, I’m allergic to Neosporin, yet I found six tubes of it when we were packing up for our move. I had regularly looked at those tubes in different parts of our house over the years — the medicine chest, the emergency kit in the kitchen, the medical kit in my gym bag — yet I didn’t get rid of them whenever I saw them and thought, “I should get rid of those.” I’m also not very sure how we came to own the ointment. My best guess is that my husband brought a couple into the house, maybe one or two came with a packaged medical kit, and one could have been left here by someone else.
In the case of the Neosporin, and all clutter, I believe Newton’s First Law of Motion can explain how it lingers for years in our spaces. An object (clutter) will stay at rest until a force (motivation) of equal or greater value acts upon it. The thought, “I should get rid of that,” is not a force of equal or greater value than the clutter. As unfortunate as it is, thoughts cannot move clutter. We can’t wish away our unwanted objects. We actually have to do something about them physically.
The other case of Newton’s First Law also applies here. An object (me) will continue in motion until a force (motivation) of equal or greater value acts upon it. Usually when I would see the Neosporin, it would be because someone or myself was injured. I was on a path to take care of the injury, not stop and deal with clutter. Then later, when maybe I thought about the Neosporin again, I could have been on a path to a meeting or to make dinner or to relax and watch a movie with my family. The motivation to clear the clutter wasn’t equal or greater than whatever else it was I wanted to be doing.
The only way to deal with the clutter in our lives is to break the patterns of inertia and muster up the motivation to do something about all the stuff we don’t want or need.
Surprisingly, the best way to create force (motivation) of equal or greater value to change the course of our clutter is to simply acknowledge that we have the power (velocity) to change the situation. After we think, “I should get rid of that,” the next thought should immediately be, “and to get rid of it I have to take action, now.” Then, take the action to get rid of the object. (Unless, of course, you’re dealing with an emergency. Deal with the emergency and then come back when you’re on a path to watch television or something equally benign.) Knowing that the object will not move itself and requires a force to act upon it can go a long way in helping you to clear the clutter you encounter regularly in your life.
It can be helpful to have five boxes in your laundry room or at the base of your closet when you’re just getting started on this process. Have one box for items to be returned to other people, a second box for items you wish to sell or Freecycle, the third box for charitable donations, the fourth should be a trash can, and the fifth box a recycling bin. When you come across a piece of clutter, pick it up and carry it to the closet. Decide which of the boxes is most appropriate for the piece of clutter, and then go back to whatever you were doing. When one of the boxes is full, deal with the items in all of the boxes. Take out the trash and recycling, drop off items to charity and to friends, and list the items you wish to sell or Freecycle.
The easier your system to handle clutter, the less force (motivation) it takes to get the unwanted objects (clutter) out of your home.