I am one of those people.
I have a problem with clutter. However, if you came into my home, you wouldn’t see it that way.
Because everything looks clean. You wouldn’t find piles of anything anywhere. The dishes are done, tables are cleared, and laundry is finished and put away. Even my craft room is neat and organized.
Keeping my home organized alleviates the stress I feel when stuff doesn’t have a place. When there is constant clutter, I can’t focus on what I want to do because the chaos tells me there is something else that I must do. I have clearer thoughts and creativity when I am in a neat space.
Many like me are great at organizing, and everything has a place. But we still carry a secret.
The secret is that we are simply good at organizing our clutter – those things we aren’t using, don’t want to waste, or may have a future use. This stuff is stored out of sight, yet it won’t see the light of day for months, maybe years. Why organize, store it, and take up more space?
I have read many books about decluttering and organization by authors who claim they have the solution for clutter. They offer systems that, if you follow them, a clutter-free life awaits you.
While these books are well-intentioned, their systems seem more for type A personalities. They don’t focus on the psychology of why we have clutter.
I recently reread the book Clutter Free, Quick and Easy Steps to Simplifying Your Space by Kathi Lipp. Kathi’s book is different. Her simple yet straightforward approach to decluttering is encouraging for the rest of us — and she admits that she is still a work in progress. Throughout the book, she helps you understand why we hold onto things we don’t need to and how to distinguish what that is.
What is considered clutter?
In her introduction, Kathi explains that clutter is “anything in your house that hasn’t earned the right to be there, or it has earned the right but hasn’t found its permanent home.”
She identifies the two types of clutter. The first is the everyday cutter that comes with living life, raising children, and getting things done. That clutter gets handled every couple of days, and things return to normal. But other clutter is deeper. It’s unpaid bills, unopened mail, bags of purchases never returned, laundry piles, and simply inability to find anything.
What causes clutter?
Kathi says that there are everyday actions that cause clutter:
- Arranging clutter instead of dealing with it
- Not having a straightforward way to put away the things that matter
- Having no routine
- No awareness of the problem – until a crisis hits
- No reliable way of finding the things that you put away
- Not knowing where things should go
- Not knowing the value of what you have
- Being stuck in indecision
- Punishing yourself for past mistakes
Other actions that cause clutter: repurchasing an item you cannot find in your home and believing that something is so useful that you must keep it “just in case.”
All these actions are stress-makers and peace-takers. Says Kathi, “Peace is far more valuable than any amount of money you spent on an item.”
How to know what to keep
The “just in case” thinking has always been an obstacle for me, just as it is for many others. It’s essential to fight this type of thinking. The author gives three questions we need to ask ourselves when deciding on whether to keep or get rid of an item:
Do I currently use it?
Do I really love it?
Would I buy it again?
If we are honest, many items we own are not being used, and we really don’t love them. Kathi says we need to adjust our thinking: (1) it’s best to scale down to only what you really need and then add a little bit of what you love, and (2) look at what you want to keep, not at what you want to get rid of.
Many of us hesitate to get rid of things because we have been taught since we were young that we are to take care of the things we have. So as an adult, we translate “take care of things” to “keep those things.” Says Kathi: “Being a good steward of your resources means, much of the time, giving those resources away.”
We should indeed be good stewards of what we have, but Kathi also says, “God has entrusted some things to us. I believe we are to use those things to not just bless our family but those around us as well.”
The overall concept here is that things are just things. “Owning less stuff is the key to everything. And when your home is more open, you are more willing to open your home to others.” Real freedom is not so much saving for a rainy day. “Freedom is the knowledge that you have what you need, what you love, and you have resources to care for those that God points you to and can follow him wherever he takes you.”
There are so many other helpful insights and ideas that I can’t mention here. Read Clutter Free or her recent title, The Clutter-Free Home: Making Room for Your Life. Kathi also has a podcast, “Clutter Free Academy,” with approximately 20 minutes of encouragement and help bi-weekly.
Tell me in the comments: do you believe that understanding the psychology of why we clutter is just as important as a system to cure our clutter?
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