Target your household's clutter problem by going to the root of the problem: your own thinking.
Know a hoarder by his or her collection ... of the most unlikely objects. Hoarders save everything, and I do mean everything: plastic shopping bags, newspaper fliers and worn-out clothing. Hoarding is rooted in insecurity, financial or otherwise. Deep down, hoarders are afraid that they’ll never have the resources they need if they let go of any possession, no matter how worn, useless or superfluous. If cabinets and closets are crammed with cracked margarine containers, small kitchen appliances that haven’t been used in decades, and old catalogs, there’s likely hoarding behavior underlying the clutter.
Hoarders need to remind themselves that resources will always be available. Where can a hoarder look outside the home for a substitute hoard? Reassure yourself! Stuff will be with us always. Find magazines indexed at the library, kitchenware marked down at yard sales and every small appliance known to man can be found (cheap!) at the thrift store. Think of these off-site treasure troves as attenuated household storage areas. Dare to dump it!
Those of the deferral mindset are guilty of the great set-aside. Bills, notices, old newspapers, items that need cleaning or repair, and household projects are all set aside to be dealt with another day. The deferrer will leave dinner dishes in the sink, wet laundry in the washer, and dropped fruit underneath the backyard apple tree.
Deferrers need to be reminded that tomorrow has no more time or energy than today and that deferring decisions drags down each new day with yesterday’s unfinished business. Since this behavior is grounded in procrastination, apply the best remedy: action. For deferrers, simply making a start creates the momentum needed to finish the job. Remember, it’s easier to keep a rolling stone in motion, than it is to pick it up and start it rolling the first time!
How to push the inner deferrer off the dime? Force action with a cut-off date. For example, when you find an unfinished cross-stitch project, circle a date on the calendar and make a note. If you haven’t finished the project by that date, the item must go but by making a start on the project, you’re liable to keep going until you finish it. The jump-start of taking action is often enough to spark even the most confirmed deferrer’s battery, so harness this effect to resume momentum on stalled clutter issues.
Somehow, it’s all Mom’s fault. Rebels were forced to pick up after themselves as children; as adults, they’re still expressing the mute and stubborn determination of a 4-year-old who refuses to pick up his toys. Rebel clutter can be anything, but often centers on household activities. No, the rebel won’t put his or her clothes in the hamper, cereal bowl in the dishwasher, or car in the garage — even when the clothing gets wrinkled, the cereal bowl hardens into yellow goop, and the car gets damaged by roadside traffic.
Rebels need to remind themselves that the war is over. They don’t live at home with Mom and Dad anymore and their own family deserves an adult on the job, not a sulky child. Tell that inner rebel, "It’s OK, I’m the parent now, and I want a house that’s nice to live in." By switching places with the old authority figure, it is possible for the Rebel to find a way out of the “I don’t wanna!" mindset. By reminding yourself that you are in control of your decisions, you can defuse the inner rebel’s imaginary power struggle.
Perfectionists are wonderful people, but they live in an all-or-nothing world. They do wonderful things, when they do them! Perfectionism forms an inner barrier to cutting clutter because the perfectionist simply cannot abide doing a less-than-perfect job. Without the time to give 110 percent to the project, the perfectionist clutterer prefers to let matters and the piles of stuff slide.
Perfectionist clutterers need to remind themselves of the 20–80 rule: 20 percent of every job takes care of 80 percent of the problem, while fixing the remaining 20 percent will gobble 80 percent of the job. By giving themselves permission to do only 20 percent, perfectionist clutterers get off the dime and get going. It is perfectly fine to tell the inner perfectionist, “Today, I’ll do the important 20 percent of that job: sorting, stacking and organizing those food containers. Later, I’ll do the other 80 percent, buying organizers and putting down shelf paper.” If later never comes? Well, you’ve outwitted your inner perfectionist clutterer ... congratulations!
Sentimentalists never met a memento they didn’t like or want to keep. Children’s clothing and school papers, faded greeting cards, souvenirs from long-ago trips,and jumbled keepsakes crowd the environment of the sentimental clutterer. Problem is, there’s so much to remember that the truly endearing items get lost in a flood.
The sentimental clutterer needs to reduce the mass of mementos to a more portable state, changing his or her mindset from an indiscriminate “Awwww!” to a more selective stance. Remember, what’s important to the sentimental heart are the memories and emotions. So, for example, a sentimental clutterer can corral each child’s school papers into a single box by selecting one best drawing, theme, or project each month; everything else goes in the trash can.
Other ideas for reining in rampant sentimental clutter include scrapbooking the very best photos and papers, or photographing surplus sentimental clutter before letting it go. Sort it out, choose the best, keep the memories and dump the rest!
Excerpted from Houseworks, by Cynthia Townley Ewer
Text Copyright © 2006, 2010, Cynthia Townley Ewer, extracts from Houseworks, reproduced with permission from Dorling Kindersley Limited