Uncluttering is a process, not something that happens overnight or that has an end point. Sometimes getting more organized can feel overwhelming and chaotic, but there are some basic principles you can use to stay focused on maintaining order. Here are five practical tips I often share with my clients (and use myself). They tend to be useful for many situations and can help you conquer clutter.
Use positive self-talk
It can be very easy to let negative thoughts clutter your mind, especially if you find it challenging to master a particular organizing strategy. And, since your actions are typically driven by your thoughts, you can find yourself feeling down and stressed, two emotions that can stop your uncluttering plans in its tracks.
Though your goals may seem daunting at first, remember that it’s normal to meet upon a few stumbling blocks. But, and this is the good part, you will get through it as long as you keep trying. Replace negative self-talk (“I will never get this place organized”) with more positive statements (“I’m getting more organized by doing a little at a time”). And, coordinate your uncluttering with things that put you in a better mood, like playing your favorite music, exercising, or calling a friend who makes you laugh. You’ll feel less stressed and be able to get more done.
Wait before making impulse purchases
Whimsical purchases can really creep up on you, even when you have your list in hand as you’re shopping. The tricky little buggers appeal to your sensitive nature and convince you to leave the store with them immediately (because they’re special and just right for you). If you don’t get them straight away, who knows what catastrophes might happen?!
Rather than making an impulsive purchase, regain some emotional (and wallet) control by focusing on your list and waiting 24 to 48 hours before buying “that thing.” You could stretch that timeframe to 30 days, if you wish. Usually, after a bit of time to to think it through, you’ll come to a better decision about whether or not to buy it. That doesn’t mean you won’t go back to the store to collect that special item. It simply means you’ll give yourself adequate time to think it through before taking it home with you. This can save you some time and another trip to the store if you decide that you don’t want/need it afterall.
Use the “one in, one out” rule
Another way to limit those impulse buys is to think about the one thing you currently own that you’ll let go of when/if you bring the new item home. This also gives you some time to consider if you truly love (and need) the new item. If you’re working on uncluttering, you might even use the “one in, two out” rule to raise the stakes a bit.
Without a list, you will be lost. Yes, I know there are people who can keep entire novels in their heads and remember every detail. Most of us are not like that, so why rely on your memory when you can just write things down (or do some smart phone data entry)? Lists are great for capturing just about anything and can help you remember things you don’t do on a regular basis, or you might otherwise forget because you’re feeling stressed or rushing around a lot.
Two of the most common ways people use lists is to record their to do’s and needed grocery items. But, you can also use them to keep track of:
- Favorite travel supplies
- Places you’d like to visit
- Seasonal maintenance activies
- New processes (like a new filing system or steps to completing a new project)
- Ingredients for a new recipe
- Home improvement ideas
- Your bucket list
- Things you’re going to donate
When leaving a room, always take something with you
One of the things I often ask my clients to do after an organizing session is to maintain the order that has been created in the space we worked in. The goal is to keep the momemtum going and encourage organizing activities so these actions can become part of the client’s regular routine. A fairly easy way to maintain an area is to leave it better than how you found it. Before leaving a room, take something with you that doesn’t belong (like glasses from the coffee table to the kitchen, mail on the kitchen counter to the mail processing station). These small steps can go a very long way to helping you keep things looking and feeling the way you want them to.
Use vertical space
Organizing products can save you from having stuff strewn about your home, office, and car. But, sometimes those products can have big footprints and take up a quite a bit of floor space. “Going up” or using vertical space (walls, backs of doors) removes that hinderance and gives you another option to store your stuff. You can still mount products without permanently installing them by using adhesive-backed products (like Command Hooks by 3M).