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There is a difference between having clutter versus having a messy house. Our belongings will inevitably get out of order in our homes because life involves the constant movement of energy. I do not correlate items being out of place with clutter unless those items cannot easily be put back where they belong. More often than not, clutter accumulates when storage space is not being used to its full potential and our items land, by default, on counters, couches, doorknobs, or the floor. These items which create a cluttered environment are different from the clutter culprits I am addressing below because, hopefully, the items mentioned above are being used while not necessarily being put away effectively.
Clutter culprits are nostalgic items that we can’t seem to part with but are not serving any active purpose in our life today, or the items that we buy impulsively and for a number of reasons. We may buy something to lift our spirits, for example. Our ‘tribe’ mentality kicks in when we buy something with friends because of their encouraging us to do so, even though we are doubtful of whether we really like it. Other times, while we might have the best of intentions, we buy items to help get us organized without fully understanding how or where we’ll use the items and they end up in a closet somewhere to deal with later.
Items brought into the home, due to the various scenarios outlined above, often become the most challenging items with which to part. We spend too much on something to help lift our spirits and even though we don’t find ourselves wearing it or using it, we seem more bound to the expense of it and tell ourselves, ‘IT WILL BE USED!’ My recommendation is to amortize the perceived value of the item over the number of years you’ve held onto it and challenge yourself to realize that it’s no longer as valuable as it was when first bought. If you still want to keep the item, challenge yourself to wear it or use it within the week, and keep track of the time and energy you’re spending on trying to make it work in your life.
Additionally, items we have bought to lift our spirits become clutter culprits because, subconsciously, the wearing or using of the item often reminds us of the low point that compelled us to buy it; and, who wants that reminder? Instead of buying some thing, I invite you to treat yourself to some experience and receive the same in-the-moment gratification while also enjoying the results of that experience in subsequent days. How about a manicure or a massage? What about splurging on luxurious bath items that will feed instant gratification but not linger longer than necessary?
The challenge with add-on items that we buy during a fun day of shopping is that once the dopamine dissipates, reality sets in. Years later, we are still saying to ourselves, ‘how can I let this go? I’ve never even used it!’ Exactly! So, how can you not let it go?
Objects are inanimate. Yet, based on the circumstances surrounding the acquisition of certain objects, we easily perceive them as being sentimental, defined as “dealing with feelings of tenderness, sadness or nostalgia in an exaggerated and self-indulgent way.” Einstein proved that everything is energy. It is the energy of our feelings that gets projected onto our belongings. One of the biggest secrets to effective streamlining of items is the realization that our feelings remain with us regardless of whether we have a physical object to hold them for us. Sentimental objects can hold both pleasurable and painful feelings. In the latter scenario, might it be possible that as long as we hold onto something, we won’t have to come to terms with the pain? I admit that I, too, have held onto such things. I still have one of my grandfather’s monogrammed handkerchiefs in my jewelry drawer. It makes him seem closer to me even though I know that without that handkerchief he is still as close to me.
When clutterbusting, it is important to understand that it is not the object itself or even the experience (i.e., shopping with friends) that we are attached to but rather the feelings that the memory or experience evoked in us. What is critical to acknowledge in grasping this concept is that we create our reality daily; therefore, we can choose to get involved in present activities that will not only evoke the same feelings of the past but contribute to our health and well-being in the now. When we are fully embracing the present moment and feeling positive about the future, it will no longer be necessary to hold so tightly to the past. Every day of our lives is a unique journey to complement rather than repeat the days we’ve already lived.
Regarding items, such as office supplies, that we buy with the best of intentions to use them, there is a very simple solution to curb these clutter culprits. The answer is, simply, to be deliberate in your planning and purchasing of items before bringing anything new into the home. We live in an instant gratification, product-focused society with advertisers bombarding us with marketing messages that this or that product will simplify our lives. For any project we want to accomplish, it’s always best to have a plan of action before beginning. Can you imagine if you got on a plane with a pilot who informed you that he was just going to “wing it” (no pun intended) because he’d lost the flight plan? Steven Covey suggested that we “Begin with the end in mind.” Every action we take will affect the results we end up with in the end. So, practice being deliberate in your awareness of why you feel compelled to purchase items on impulse. Your deliberateness today will save you from having to revisit that question years later when a moment’s treasure has become today’s tether.