Declutter Your Life (And Head)

Getting rid of stuff is a relatively fast way to get happier.

Posted Apr 10, 2013

Hoarding is a habit that many people excuse in themselves--it's harmless, right?

Experts say hoarding may be a way to avoid change or a form of procrastination (it's just too hard to decide what to do with the stuff)

But it's not harmless. Even something as obvious as a cluttered desk can make you feel disorganized and slow you down when you need to find something, provoking a feeling of anxiety and helplessness.

Problems with hoarding at the level of a real disorder affect between two and five percent of the American population. That's when your home is so stuffed you can't use some of it and your daily life is hampered.

Clutter is probably hurting you more than you think if your friends and family tease you about it or complain, if you've developed an allergy to dust, or if you're chronically losing your keys and glasses just because they get lost in the piles of other things lying around. 

A newly cleaned room feels good--calming and functional. So why don't we give ourselves that pleasure? We tell ourselves that we don't have time or that we'll use the stuff one day.

Some tips to try:

Get into the habit of cleaning a little bit every day--and every week--at around the same time. I have a ritual of emptying my waste baskets on Saturdays.

Question your excuses. Think about the pile of items you keep handy because you might need them---and remember the last time you actually used any of them. Summer clothes you didn't actually wear all summer don't need to be kept for next summer.

Focus on the fact that you can remember your grandmother by looking at one of the items you associate with her. You don't need all of them.

Dump the old magazines you haven't read in months. you might go through and pull some key articles and read them quickly--if you don't, throw those out too.

Throw out expired medicines and makeup you don't use.

Scan receipts and other financial documents.

Donate items to charity--you'll feel virtuous and there's someone who can actually use it now, rather than possibly someday. If you have time, post your items on Ebay or have a garage sale.

Hire a clutter expert to help you not only get rid of stuff, but develop new habits and systems.

If all this feels too hard to think about, start small by putting one item near your door to throw away when you go out, and repeat that step the next day and the next.

Clearing a space on your desk or in your bedroom or another private spot can open up space in your mind for creativity or problem-solving. I often do some cleaning before I sit down to write. That's possibly a form of procastination, but a useful habit, anyway. Make your procrastination tendency work for you!

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