I never realized how much my home environment affected me. I had never even thought about it until several years ago when we decided to sell our house in Atlanta. I knew enough to put some things in storage to make the house seem larger, but wanted to read up on staging my home to sell it. I was at Barnes and Noble looking through the Home section when I happened to pick up this book:
6 years later I still refer to this book which quite literally changed my life. Seriously. As I started to read through it so many things rang true about holding on to material things. Things that cause anxiety and stress and get in the way. It was as if someone had given me permission to get rid of all the stuff that I felt I couldn't throw out. (I don't want to blame my Mom here but we grew up thinking you never ever throw things away that might be useful). I had been lugging around old cardboard boxes full of letters, dried flowers, pictures and mementos from my high school, including from my boyfriend who caused me 3 years of emotional turmoil! Not to mention all the furniture that had been handed down to me over the years and I felt I couldn't get rid of, even when it was not functional for my home. How many people have furniture that doesn't work for their space but they can't get rid of it? So when I read in the book that, according to Feng Shui, you should get rid of anything that doesn't work for you or causes you anxiety, I took it and ran with it. I tried to apply that practice to everything in my house. And that was just the beginning. By the end of the next two weeks my husband and I had made trip after trip to the local dump getting rid of piles of stuff from our home. It was the most liberating thing I had ever done.
When I think back I can't believe how much stuff was filling our space and lives. Over the last several years I have changed the way I think about my home and the effect it has on me and my family. I can see the instant change in my kids' behaviour and attitude when their rooms are organized and the house is in order. This is good to remember when kids start bouncing off the walls. We rarely think about order in their environment affecting behaviour. I have learned that when my brain feels like it has been in a blender I immediately clear the space in my home and I get instant clarity. It is actually miraculous how it works. Here's a little test to try. Granted, these are EXTREMES but it will prove my point. Look at the following pictures and pay close attention to how you feel both mentally and physically while looking at each one.
Did you feel the difference? Clutter is like visual noise. It creates chaos in your mind and tension in your body. Have you ever noticed that it's hard to think clearly in a cluttered or crowded space? You sometimes don't realize it is happening until you create order around you and suddenly your mood lifts and you can think clearly and positively. So, over the years I've given myself these rules to keep my home stress-free and organized:
1. Clear all surfaces FIRST. This is my number one rule! If I only have a few minutes to spend getting organized I have to clear all counters, tables, chairs, etc. completely free of items so that I can stay focused. It feels overwhelming sometimes but I've timed it (yes I have) and it takes me about 10 minutes to clear ALL surfaces in the living areas and kitchen. Try this and you'll be amazed. Along with this rule you have to follow #2:
2. Don't clear spaces one item at a time. So, if your coffee table is covered with items, remove it all at the same time, place into a basket and then put everything where it goes. Don't walk back and forth picking up each item. You'll lose your motivation very quickly.
3. Acknowledge things and places in your home that causes you stress. You know, the places you always avoid and vow to clean later. This is the true secret to jump-start major decluttering and to make it a habit. For example, in my house it is the pile of random items that are brought into the house and dropped on the entry table; the laundry room floor that gets piled with dirty towels; my studio/workspace that seems to become the "dumping ground" for all those things I don't want to deal with. I start with the stressful areas first and the rest of the house doesn't seem so overwhelming
4. If you don't have a place for something - throw it out. I know this sounds drastic, and obviously I don't mean your car keys. Create a place for something if you have to keep it. Get rid of it if you don't - I promise this gets easier and easier the more you do it. Once you get in this habit you'll wonder how you ever lived with all that stuff around you. Don't be afraid to throw something out!
5. I never keep anything on paper if I can find the same information online. I hate random papers with a passion. These are the worst clutter makers. I throw out junk mail outside before I come into my house. I don't keep anything on paper that can be found on the internet. If you start paying attention you'll be amazed at the amount of junk paper that makes its way into your home and clutters your tabletops.
6. Identify the areas in your house that you really use and make them functional. For example, in the past, all of my homes had a room designated as the "office". The computer, all paper work, and everything related to running the home was in that room. In reality, I never wanted to go in that room to do anything. I did all of my work in my kitchen and I would drag things back and forth from the "office" to the kitchen. So now I have my office set up in my kitchen where I know I will really be doing the work. I arranged a space so that it would be functional with the items I needed, and the unused "office" was switched to a playroom for the kids. Be aware of the spaces you really use and don't try to force yourself to use a space you don't like or that doesn't work for you.
Finally, if you have trouble with clutter don't feel overwhelmed. Don't feel you have to do everything at once. Pick one spot or area and just clear it out. It could be as small as the corner of your kitchen counter. Just clear it completely and you'll be energized. When you get rid of the old you make room for new things, people, and opportunities to enter your life. And, it gets easier and easier to get rid of things once you allow yourself to do it. Trust me - I'm addicted!