Words to keep you motivated

Listed below are the most common pieces of advice I give to people on the topic of uncluttering. With a three-day weekend on the horizon for those of us in the States, I thought that some encouragement might be appropriate. Have a great holiday, everyone!

  1. You don’t have to unclutter in one fell swoop. Many projects, spread out over weeks and months, will get you the same results as if you had tackled it all at once.
  2. Benefits of uncluttering can include being better organized, less stressed, and having fewer things to clean. When you walk into a room, you’re able to relax because there is a place for everything and everything is in its place.
  3. Your motivations and visions for your uncluttered life are your guiding star when taking on uncluttering projects. Keep your eyes on your goals and you’ll find that uncluttering has less to do about the stuff and more about the life you want to lead.
  4. You can do it!
  5. You don’t have to unclutter alone. Seek out friends, family, or organizational professionals to help with motivation and keep you focused on your uncluttering goals.
  6. Keep things in perspective. If you relapse and get bogged down, don’t become frustrated and beat yourself up over it. Start again tomorrow. This is home and office organization, it’s not brain surgery. There are worse things in the world than not succeeding your first time with an uncluttering project.
  7. The person with the most amount of stuff at the end of his or her life doesn’t win an award.
  8. The person with the least amount of stuff at the end of his or her life doesn’t win an award, either. Living an uncluttered life doesn’t mean that you have to live an ascetic life. Simple living is about getting rid of distractions that prevent you from enjoying a modern, luxurious life. It’s about smart consumption, not no consumption. To paraphrase Albert Einstein, “Things should be made as simple as possible, but not any simpler.”

What advice, motivations, or thoughts have helped you to be more organized? Let us know what has influenced you!


This post was originally published in August 2007.

16 Comments for “Words to keep you motivated”

  1. posted by Andamom on

    Truthfully Erin, I never wanted to be my parents. I knew from childhood that clutter in the house added to their frustrations (and with my dad his inability to achieve what he truly wanted)– but neither of my parents knew how to stay organized. Whenever I feel overwhelmed now, I look around my home for things that can be removed and switched around. The sense of calm I get from looking around my place and seeing things that I truly use and appreciate makes me feel like the sky is the limit! (And I pass along this to my children as well…)

  2. posted by mmr on

    I would say that one thing which has helped me unclutter is this statement, “just give it away.”

    There are items which people, including myself, will not throw out because they believe that their is a monetary value attached to an item, and in essence, if they get rid of something they are throwing away potential money.

    After going through all my stuff I have a little box of stuff that is worth money, but not enough to make it worth the effort of listing it on ebay and waiting for bids, mailing it, etc. So just take your ‘box of crap’ and leave it in a public place that says “free stuff.” Let other people clutter themselves with it 🙂

  3. posted by Mrs. Micah on

    Wow, Erin. That was very inspiring. I like that you’re not pushing asceticism even as you’re encouraging people to unclutter.

    Thinking of it as a bunch of little tasks, small changes to make over a period of time, it seems more doable. I’m trying, for instance, to use craft materials I have instead of buying new ones.

    Andamom, I totally understand what you’re saying. My grandmother currently lives on her own in a 1-floor house (like a big 2 bedroom apt) with more stuff than will fit there. Moving her in there was a nightmare, she wouldn’t get rid of anything, even books from the 1930s which were falling apart and were for kids anyway. She didn’t say she wanted them, but she thought they might be useful. Great Depression mindset there, I suppose. I’ve sworn not to be like her!

  4. posted by At home with Kim Vallee on

    You made my list of 5 new blogs to celebrate Blog Day 2007. Read more on my blog in a few minutes.

  5. posted by Kirk Roberts on

    99% of the time that thing you think you “might use someday” will NEVER get used. But you’ll clean it, move it from abode to abode, and let it take up visual/physical space in your life. Do yourself a favor and get rid of it now!

    Hard-core: if you have a box in your basement/attic/room-full-of-junk and have no idea what the contents are DO NOT LOOK IN IT. Take it to Goodwill and don’t look back.

    Practice living without “on the fence” items, especially clothes. Put them away (hide them) for a month or two. Chances are you’ll love having the extra empty space and won’t miss the other stuff. Then you can get rid of them with unbridled glee.

  6. posted by Robin on

    Remember that things are just *things*.

    I helped downsize/unclutter my parents’ house after my mom died, and at first I wanted to keep everything, because I thought that each *thing* I kept kept me closer to her. And then I lugged a DOZEN armloads of Tupperware downstairs – the OLD Tupperware, the stuff we hadn’t used in YEARS. I was so sick of dragging all that stuff…and I realized that it was all just a bunch of plastic, it wasn’t my mom.

    I kept a few important things (her sewing machine, her jewelry box, her KitchenAid mixer) and the rest went to other family, St Vincent DePaul’s, or the *trash*. (Some of it really was trash.)

    When things got ruined or lost, even if they were important, my mom always said “they’re just *things*, it’s much more important to have *you*”.

  7. posted by Priscilla Palmer on

    You have been tagged for The Personal Development List. (See my site for details), I would love for you to participate.

  8. posted by Steph on

    mmr’s comments are really hitting home for me. I have a pile of “ebay” stuff that I just never get to, and garage sales are as much work as ebay. I just need to drop things off at a charity and be done with it.

    Part of my trouble is convincing my partner, though. She’s just not on board with me yet; and the idea that she might be “throwing away money” is a huge sticking point for her.

  9. posted by Grimmy on

    OK … this is truly ironic that I am seeing this today as I just spent the weekend culling things out of our bedroom and creating a more multi-functional space. However, I insisted that we continue until it was done and then began on our oldest daughter’s room as she has been wanting it re-arranged/decorated for about a year. My partner and I have lost 50 lbs between us so we had a LOT of clothes that didn’t fit anymore .. business clothes, suits, many with tags still on them because we bought them on sale in case we need them. That was before i instituted the mantra of “it’s not a deal if you don’t need it”. So we are donating these clothes to the battered women’s shelter. Other things we Freecycle (http://www.freecycle.org/), give to goodwill or trash. She does resell the girls outgrown clothes on ebay but she has been doing that for almost 10 yrs now it provides money to buy them new clothes.

  10. posted by pril on

    Wow I have set aside 20 minutes each day to work in the basement I did so much with in a month worth of time!
    my question is why does it look the same!!! we ended up having an issue and now more stuff is being tossed in there as a catch all! how do you prevent and stay one top of your crap!

    I know it may sound jacked up but i’m willing to start over from scratch! anyone want my stuff … lol
    so step 1 is pointless for me cuz if it is a flat surface it will attract clutter!
    So Thanks for sharing i plan to use some of these and get back on the ball!!

  11. posted by Taisha R on

    I love books but decided last week that I did not want to maintain a library any longer. I stumbled across http://www.librarything.com/ and decided to upload all of the books that I wanted to give away. I emailed my friends with the link and told them that they had 4 days to request up to 10 books that I would then mail to them for free. The rest I am donating. I held on to 50 or so books and gave almost 300 books away. The great thing is that I still have the electronic record so that I can remember what I have read; refer books to others; and of course continue to add to the list and pass on the goods.

  12. posted by Shari on

    I think the number one thing people need to convince themselves of is that hanging on to an item you no longer use does not constitute a utilization of its value. Storage will only result in both decreasing the value of many items (especially electronics) as well as increasing the cost to you in terms of effort and peace of mind.

    This was the concept I used to finally get my husband to agree to throw away old items we’d paid a lot for but then underutilized. He felt guilty for having spent the money but the money was already long gone. I got him to understand that he wasn’t getting that money back by keeping things around.

    If you can fully internalize this concept, you also find yourself being more prudent about future purchases. If you can take a good hard look at how you’ve wasted money on impulsive buys that didn’t get used and just ended up throwing or giving them away, you’re far less likely to waste money in that fashion again and you’ll learn to think hard and deep about every purchase and just how useful it’s going to be.

    Sometimes I wonder if people who hold onto items which they view as “money” are actually holding on to their desire to consume pointlessly or impulsively.

  13. posted by Matthew Cornell on

    Thanks for the post. You got me thinking about the difference between clutter and habits. I think clutter results from (partly) deferred decisions. Not sure whether you want to volunteer? Put the invitation back on the pile. Don’t want to deal with getting rid of the inherited pile of parent pictures? Put the boxes in the corner. Etc.

    The static view is a one-time organizing effort, which results in a nice before and after feeling. However, to prevent its happening again, self-management habits need to change. This is more of a static view – what’s your space look like during the workday and week? There will be a natural ebb and flow – things pile up during the day, but they should be dealt with decisively when they show up, then moved away to appropriate places.

    Thanks again for the stimulating ideas!

  14. posted by Open Loops 1/20/2009: Articles I Found Interesting | SimpleProductivityBlog.com on

    […] “Words to keep you motivated” is an article I make it a point to read before embarking on any sort of decluttering […]

  15. posted by Lisa on

    I heard somewhere
    “Don’t put it down, put it away”

    And it there is nowhere to put it away, then you have to make a space, sometimes by getting rid of something else.

    This ties it with not deferring making a decision. I notice it with paper- Bills go in the “bills to be paid” folder in the filing cabinet, Receipts that need to be kept go in the appropriate spot in the filing cabinet, events get written down in the family daytimer, paper to be recycled goes immediately to the recycling box.
    The problem is the items that require decisions. Mostly those end up becoming clutter, as the decision is not made, and the item expires. Then I get to recycle it. I think my problem is all the things that I think I “should” be doing, as a responsible adult. So, there sits:
    -instructions for putting together an earthquake emergency kit
    -information on rebates for upgrading your home to be more energy effiicent

    I learned growing up that nothing useful should ever be thrown away, and it has been a hard habit to break. As kids, we drew on paper and cardboard saved from other things, like pantyhose packages. My parents both grew up poor, and my mum is still very frugal.

    Today, I am going to recycle old maps I have hanging on to. I got one out recently, only to realize there was an entirely new highway that didn’t appear on the map.

  16. posted by Barbara on

    As I am getting older, I thought about how much more difficult it would be having someone assist me to stay in my home if I still was so cluttered. So, I am clearing out now. I want to make it easier for me to find things, and for someone else to find stuff FOR me, too.
    Also, having less stuff will make it easier to move to a new, smaller home, (or in with family) if one must.

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