One of my great realizations about happiness (and a point oddly under-emphasized by positive psychologists) is that for most people, outer order contributes to inner calm. More, really, than it should. After all, in the context of a happy life, a crowded coat closet is trivial. And yet over and over, people tell me, and I certainly find this, myself, that creating order gives a huge boost in energy, cheer, and creativity.
So I'm a big believer in the value of clutter-clearing.
Also, I'm a big believer in using outer milestones as a catalyst for action or change. Whether that's New Year's day, September (the other new year), my birthday, or a holiday like Labor Day, I think it's helpful to be reminded that I might want to make changes in my life. (Yes, Questioners, I know you think that January 1 is an arbitrary date. Noted.)
So spring, for me, is a reminder to think about spring clutter-clearing. I'm not inspired to do deep cleaning like window-washing, carpet-cleaning, or anything like that. Spring reminds me to tackle nagging clutter build-ups.
I look for places where I tend to stick things and forget about them. Do you have this problem? For me, I'm looking at these areas:
My Spring Cleaning areas to tackle:
Are any items jammed in? Can I see the clothes that are stored there, at a glance? Are piles teetering precariously? Can I easily reach the things I want? Is there plenty of room to put things away? I need to tackle the shelf in our main coat closet.
Where do I tend to "collect and neglect?" It's time to dig out those piles and make decisions about where things should have a permanent home. Or if they don't deserve a permanent home, where will they go? Speaking of which...
I need to make a few trips to the thrift store to drop off the books, clothes, and other things we've collected to give away. They're still clutter until they're out of the apartment.
I recently thought I'd lost my passport, and I was in an utter panic until I realized what had happened. We keep our passports in the drawer of my husband's bedside table (not sure why, but that's what we do), and his drawer was so jammed with stuff that my passport had been pushed out the back of the drawer into the space behind it. Fortunately I realized pretty quickly what had happened, and was able to wiggle it out. Time to clear out that drawer -- and my bedside table drawer is just as bad.
I have two file holders in my office. In theory, I use them for active files that I need to be able to get my hands on quickly. In practice, I often put materials there when I'm not sure what else to do with them, and then they languish. So I'm going to see what I've got there, and figure out a permanent place for those files. If they're so important that they have to be at my fingertips, why don't I ever look at them?
If you're interested in reading more about spring cleaning and clutter clearing, check out...
- Do you fall for any of these common clutter-clearing myths?
- 7 tips for clearing clutter in the office.
- Are you clutter-blind? Or do you know someone who is?
The great thing about clutter-clearing—and the thing that surprises me every time—is how energizing and satisfying it is, once completed. A month ago, I tackled my giant messy pile of past-their-prime white t-shirts, and I still get a thrill of pleasure when I see my short, neat stack of acceptable t-shirts.
What areas are you planning to tackle for spring cleaning? Any hints about effective strategies for solving—or better, avoiding—clutter?
UPDATE: I wrote a new book about how to de-clutter and organize to make more room for happiness. Order Outer Order, Inner Calm here.
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