Uncluttering is a lot like running

When you’re looking for inspiration and motivation to accomplish a goal, it can be helpful to look for analogies or similar features with other topics. Doing this can also reinforce the purpose of a goal or even help you to see things a little differently. You’ve probably noticed that losing the weight of clutter is often associated with losing those extra pounds that can creep up on your body. I once likened clutter to armadillos and, recently, it seemed to me that uncluttering can be a lot like running. Both require discipline and strong commitment if you’re to accomplish the results you’re looking for. Often, the tips given to people who are just starting a running program can also be applied to becoming more organized.

Create a plan with action steps

New runners can benefit from setting particular goals they want achieve each time they go running (distance, specific pace) as well as time-based goals (daily, weekly, monthly). Unclutterers need a plan, too, for without one, your activities will be scattered and you won’t have a good way of tracking your progress. To give yourself a better chance of succeeding, break your overall goal into mini-goals or action steps and add deadlines to help keep you accountable.

Unclutter every day

To get in the routine of running, new runners will likely need a bit of practice. Hitting the pavement (or the treadmill) sporadically may not help you develop that routine, so those taking up the activity for the first time are often advised to run for a few minutes every day. The same holds true for uncluttering. Engaging in a few minutes of daily organizing activities will help you to tackle the clutter and solidify a regular set of organizing habits, especially if you’re not feeling very motivated at the outset.

Use the right supplies

To avoid injury, runners must find a shoe that is not too small or too big — it must fit properly from toe to heel. Since sizes differ from brand to brand, it’s important to have your feet measured at the time of each purchase.

Just as runners need the right pair of shoes before they hit the pavement, it’s important for unclutterers to get the right tools. It may be tempting to run out (see what I did there?) and buy containers in multiple sizes and colors without giving any thought to:

  1. The volume of things that you’ll keep
  2. Where you’ll store your items

Avoid that buying temptation by first sorting and indexing the items that you’re keeping. That way, you can then find the right containers to fit the number of things you have in the designated storage location. Otherwise, purchases made without advanced planning can end up adding more clutter to your space.

Track your progress

Some runners keep a journal to look back on past successes and obstacles that they overcame. Journaling can be an inspirational tool and help you to continue reaching your goals. As you unclutter, consider writing down your successes as well as specific strategies that have worked for you. These will be helpful, particularly on days when things don’t go according to plan.

Work with a friend

Running doesn’t have to be a solitary activity. But, new runners may be a bit self-conscious if they don’t have the proper running form yet or are really slow. I suspect that people who decide to get more organized may have similar fears and be worried what their friends may think. But, when you partner with someone, the process can seem more manageable, you can get much needed help, and you may learn new strategies. Working with someone that you trust can not only distract you from the fears you may be feeling, but he/she can also help you stay focused on the uncluttering task at hand.

Remind yourself that you are an unclutterer

On those days when you’re feeling a little discouraged, be sure to keep your negative thoughts in check. If you let them hang about, this can lead to stress. Forcefully push doubts aside and remind yourself that you are an unclutterer. The seasoned runners at RunnersWorld.com recognize newbies can become discouraged in the beginning and use this quote as a reminder to turn those thoughts around: “We are all runners, some just run faster than others. I never met a fake runner.”

10 Comments for “Uncluttering is a lot like running”

  1. posted by Steve on

    I enjoyed your article and your use of the analogy of a runner to make your point. I never thought of engaging a friend to help me stay accountable for my progress. It is an interesting idea. Is there such a thing as a fake unclutterer?

  2. posted by Nick on

    Steve yes there are fake unclutterers, my mother-in-law is one. She has convinced everyone she is uncluttering but has instead just moved the clutter to her bedroom…

  3. posted by Christina on

    I like the idea of keeping a journal. It’s easy to forget how the house once looked, and simply see the clutter.

  4. posted by Karen on

    I am taking pictures (for myself only) to prove to myself that I am making some progress. I’ve got years of clutter to dig out of. Sometimes it gets worse for a while, with a pile to go to charity and a pile to go to e-waste and a pile to recycle.

  5. posted by max on

    My mom was the perfect example of a fake unclutterer. She had every closet crammed with stuff, all categorized and neatly organized in plastic boxes. It didn’t look bad until you pulled it all out and realized just how much junk she saved. Yes, junk–hundreds of neat little bundles of twist ties for one example. All useful junk in reasonable quantities, but several lifetime supplies of pens, pencils, sewing needles, thread, chopsticks, notepads, letter openers, grocery bags, paper coasters, tape, hotel soaps and shampoos, ad infinitum.

  6. posted by Renee on

    I don’t know that I would keep up with the journal – maybe a photo journal, but a written one has never really worked for me. The crucial thing is to do it every day. If I don’t get in and clear the counters daily the clutter is unbearable by week’s end.

    Really enjoying the site.

  7. posted by Another Deb on

    Renee, As far as a journal goes, perhaps all you need to do is something like I do as a bird watcher. I have a page in a little memo book for any day I go out birding and list my sightings that day. Some years I do it on calendar pages. This might work instead of a journal per se.

  8. posted by Dede on

    I’ll admit it – I am a fake-unclutterer who has finally seen the light and gotten motivated, thanks to a daughter home from college for a while. (yes, having a cutter-buddy helps) I’m also getting back into running because I’m just as overweight as my closets. But I can’t go out tomorrow and run a 5k AND I can’t unclutter my house in one day, or even one week. I’m a Couch to 5k runner and I’m using the same idea on my house – I’m starting with baby steps at least 3 days a week and increasing the time I spend on both as I get stronger. The running goal is a Halloween 5k, and what the heck – my household uncluttering goal might as well be the same. Thanks for a highly motivating post.

  9. posted by Linda on

    It’s definitely a very good article about uncluttering which you have been telling people on what system or plan to be used for it so that we can know the exact method how to do that without mistake. I have been sharing this to my colleagues in my work office to read your article accordingly.

    Many thanks,

  10. posted by anonymous on

    “Uncluttering is a lot like running”

    I only do it when somebody is chasing me?

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