Clutter can take control of your life. I started to understand this on a recent visit to California when I went to clear out a storage space I had been renting for 10 years. Everyone kept telling me to let it go, that I was crazy to keep all of that stuff, but in my own insanity defense I believed that I had some real connection to these physical belongings. I just could not part with "my stuff."
While rummaging through my things I began to feel crazy. That storage unit cost over $1,500 per year. There were times I had to borrow money to pay for it, sacrificing other things to maintain it. It created a lot of clutter for me mentally, as I was not able to let go. I could have put a down payment on a home for all the money I spent on that storage space ($10,500) in total.
I've outgrown most of the clothes (in size and in fashion). I looked at so-called nostalgic items that I feel no real connection to, but the truth hit me hardest when looking at items for a 4-year-old baby that was now 14. On my arrival back to New York, I went to my apartment and guess what -- I saw more clutter. More representations of why my life wasn't as organized as I would like. Overwhelmed, like many in the clutter game, I sought help. I googled, I read books, I even asked questions on Facebook, and here is what I found to be most helpful:
My friend Johanny Lopez shared a tip that works for her: "If it hasn't been used within the past 6 months, donate it! If I'm extremely attached to the item I don't make that decision in the moment. I just get rid of the other stuff that needs to go, and tackle the stuff I'm emotionally tied to at another time." This is why my friend has a happy, clutter-free spirit about her.
This revelation led me to start to research some of the emotional reasons why we become cluttered. I stumbled upon a great book by author Stephanie Roberts called "Clutter Clearing from the Inside Out." Stephanie had the following revelations on steps that address the mental aspect of why we hold on to clutter:
- Getting rid of clothes we'll never fit into again means accepting our current shape and level (or lack) of fitness.
- Getting rid of an expensive item we never use means admitting that we made a poor decision when we bought it.
- Getting rid of books and magazines we don't have time to read means accepting that we will never have enough time or attention to explore every topic that's of interest to us.
- Getting rid of possessions remaining after a loved one has died means coming to terms with our loss and grief.
- If you have experienced a difficult loss through the death of a loved one or the end of a marriage, getting rid of that person's things can feel like a betrayal of your love.
- If you have an attic or basement full of supplies for a hobby you hoped would become a career, clearing it out may feel like giving up on your dreams, or it may force a confrontation with the fact that you are getting older.
- If you lack confidence in pursuing a long-held dream, keeping your clutter can keep you from having to go out and actually do it.
It's overwhelming to think that all the trips to the Container Store would never give me any relief from clutter. Actually, trips to that store made me feel worse because you can't organize clutter -- physically or mentally. After speaking with professional de-clutterer Marla Cilley, author of "Body Clutter" and "Skin Reflections," I will be making a commitment to take control of my clutter following her 31 beginners, baby steps de-cluttering challenge for the month of September. No confusion, it's time to get organized. I invite you to join me.