Almost everyone wants a more beautiful, peaceful, organized home. But trying to wrestle organization out of an overabundance of stuff can fail us; no matter what we do, the mess returns, seeming to have a life of its own. Reshuffling, buying organizers, and trying to make our surroundings behave will never work unless we take control. Here are 7 things you need to think about before tackling your environment. Keep them in mind to help carry you through – all the way to a space in which you can breathe.
1. Clearing out needs to come before organizing.
Organizing is the not the main event – yet – and shouldn’t even be attempted until you clear out everything that no longer belongs and doesn’t serve you and your home. Once you narrow your belongings down, you can organize more effectively.
2. Our “things” hold energy.
Good or bad, the objects in our home reflect the time in which they came into our lives. Still using that bed you slept in with your ex-husband? Drying off with towels from your first wedding? If you are drawn back to a negative time, or have a conflicted thought every time you touch or look at something in your home, it needs to go. Send objects of value off into the world where they won’t have the same weight for someone else, and where they will be used and appreciated.
3. Hanging on to items we might need someday is a version of hoarding.
Just let them go. Trust that the universe will provide what you need when you need it. This is something most people struggle with – whether it’s leftover soy sauce packets from take-out, unknown detritus in the “junk” drawer, or holiday ornaments that haven’t graced a tree in years. You’ll drown in excess if you aren’t ruthless about letting those items go. Now.
4. Clearing your excess can make you some extra cash.
You can sell furniture and items you no longer need, and have extra money for something you do need. Just last week I sold two items online – a Tiffany torchiere lamp, and an antique dresser mirror.
Neither item had been used for years, and the buyers were thrilled with their purchases. The letting go cleared some space in our home, and allowed those objects to be used as they were meant to be. Only a day after I’d sold them, we used that money to buy a receiver to replace an ancient stereo that had finally given up the ghost. Watching movies and Netflix is much more pleasurable with good sound, and it didn’t really cost anything, which makes it even better!
5. Worrying about sunk costs can sink your goal.
Just because you paid a lot for something, and won’t be able to recoup your investment, is not reason enough to keep it. Look at it instead as being worth it at the time. Full stop. The value was then. This is now. Hanging on to it will not change that. I sold my lamp for less than I’d paid years ago, and far less than it would be new today, but I wasn’t using it. It was worth nothing to me standing in the corner. And it was annoying, because every time I caught a glimpse of it, I realized how it was all kinds of wrong for my taste today. It had overstayed its welcome; it was a relief to have it gone.
6. Gifts are not meant to be life sentences.
Just because someone gave you something does not sentence you to a life with it. Whether you’ve kept it on display, or are cluttering your basement with it, it gains far too much power when you keep it despite not loving it. You are not truly obligated beyond the thank you given at the time of the gift. Release it to the world and let someone else love it. This goes both ways – try not to be offended if something you’ve given to someone disappears from display…
The flip side of this reminder is that belongings are meant to be used. If you’re guilty of saving gifts because they’re “too nice to use” – just stop. You deserve to use, and enjoy, what you own. I’ve been working on this tendency myself.
6. Your excess can benefit others.
Whether it’s the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, or some other organization, good for others can come from what you no longer need. Small household items and clothing may even be picked up by a charity at your front door. Where we live, The Diabetes Foundation and The Children’s Wish Foundation receive money for donated clothing and household goods. Trucks come through the area and pick up bagged items every month or two. Call or ask around – there is nothing like an impending pick-up date to get the ball rolling.
7. Clearing out allows something new and better to arrive.
Remember the saying, “Nature abhors a vacuum”? It’s a reminder to trust that something good will come into your life when you release what you no longer need.
When you are motivated to clear your space – to make room for what you want in your life – be prepared for the process to not be entirely smooth. Some days you’ll feel excited, productive and clearly moving forward, while other days you feel you’re plowing through cement. Be kind to yourself, and avoid the stall that can arise from perfectionism.
Remain calm when the process makes your space an absolute mess, because it will get worse before it gets better. Things that are hiding in closets, in boxes, under beds, in drawers will need to see the light of day while the process is going on. But hang in there and remember to tackle only one room or area at a time.
You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment, and each success will carry you on to the next. Every bag or item that leaves your home will lighten the weight on your shoulders, and ultimately make the task of organizing so much easier to accomplish and maintain.