According to every magazine, blog and instagram quote, each January, a new year promises a new you. We make resolutions, or anti-resolutions, with the goal of bettering ourselves and transforming our lives. One of the most fulfilling goals is that of having a peaceful organized home.
However, the path to a clutter free life challenges most of us. Typically, the process starts with an initial clean sweep. Then, a cycle of maintenance begins. Usually, a book or an article inspires the change.
Today is that day. This is the last article about clutter you’ll ever need to read.
Ask Yourself “Why?”
When I moved into my first apartment, I felt overwhelmed by the task of running a household. I had recently graduated from college, finished an internship and started my first job. The hours for work were very long. My time to myself was limited. When I considered how I wanted to spend my free time, I pictured myself reading, painting, writing or exploring. Instead, I was planning means, shuffling piles of laundry and trying to organize my stuff so that I could exist in my small space.
Then, I had enough. I started looking for information on living in small spaces. Since this was over ten years ago, I only found a few random articles from various sources. Notably, I found several blogs and articles from people living in similar situations; they lived in the city, worked long hours and made the most of their free time in a small space.
What was what I wanted!
I just wanted to make the most out of my time. I wanted to make space for the kind of life I loved to live. So, I had the answer.
Why aspire to be clutter free?
More of the life I loved.
Make This Your Only Goal
Whether you are planning for a new year or looking to make a change, organizing your life is a big goal. It’s more of a resolution than a task. Creating a clutter free life requires new habits and new focus. This will become your main “thing” for months. Most processes will take a year or more to really fix your clutter problem. Then, you’ll spend more months and years maintaining the system.
So, don’t pair it with another goal. Don’t try to learn a language. Don’t plan to lose 15 pounds. Don’t start a new hobby.
Instead, focus on being clutter free. That’s it.
Augment, not Overhaul, Your Life
The quote at the top of this post is from The Bell Jar by Silvia Plath. Most people, who haven’t read it, think it’s simply a mental health tome focused on the main character’s time in an institution. Instead, much of the book focuses on the events that led to the breakdown. In that story, Esther begins her journey as a successful student who wins an internship at a prestigious magazine. She aspires to be a writer. She wants to live life fully. Several small and large traumas impact her mentally causing a suicide attempt and subsequent therapy.
Throughout this fiction novel, Plath focuses on extremes. “If neurotic is wanting two mutually exclusive things at one and the same time, then I’m neurotic as hell. I’ll be flying back and forth between one mutually exclusive thing and another for the rest of my days,” proclaims Esther.
Similarly, resolutions and goals fail because of an “all or nothing” attitude. We’re hard on ourselves. We develop strict rules. We make impossibly long task lists.
And then, the plans fall short.
If you aspire to live in a clutter free space, think of it as a way to augment your life. It won’t fix “everything.” Organization can’t promise to solve every problem. It just makes some room. It just lessens your “stuff” over time.
So, as you add a process for cleaning out your home, remember that it’s not an overhaul. Decluttering slowly nips away at your stuff. Decluttering changes your life but it doesn’t CHANGE your life.
Develop Easy Rules
Pick whatever system you like to clean out your space. Just make sure the rules are easy. In fact, make them even easier to match your life. Lower the standard to whatever you can reasonably do.
Some of my favorite methods:
- Minimalist 30 Day Challenge
- Apartment Therapy January Cure
- Peter Walsh’s Enough Already with his clutter personalities
Just remember that this process will probably start with a month of heavy work. Then, you’ll repeat that cycle for about a year. This allows you to form new habits. Going forward, the new mindset will shape your daily routines. What goes into your home and what comes out of your home will change as you live in a clutter free space.
Clutter-Free in 2018
As a goal, a clutter-free home remains a worthy choice. It took me nearly three years to get to a point where my home only contained useful and loved items. And it’s still a daily process. You’ll find that clutter creeps into your life unexpectedly, often from other well-meaning people.
For example, my friends and family sometimes offer me their clutter as they organize. They know I am fairly decisive in determining whether something is of use to me. So, they try to give me things in hopes that I’ll either accept them or dispose of them for them. Sometimes I have the time to work through that process for them and sometimes, I just have to say “no”.
I’ve learned that saying “no” to stuff means saying “yes” to the life I want. Remember? It’s that life filled with painting, writing and exploring. Here’s to your clutter-free plan!