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5 Ways Clutter Changes You

“The mind is reluctant to embrace deep change and will play devious games to maintain the status quo.” ― Kristin Linklater, Freeing the Natural Voice

Ahmed M Elpahwee

It is said that statistically there are over 300,000 items per home. And these items are 80% unused, untouched, unnecessary. Read that again and let it sink in.

A few years ago, an experiment was conducted where households were challenged to keep in their home only items that were made in the USA and to put on their front lawn all items made in other countries. More than 60% of the household items were made in foreign countries. If we were to reduce our household items to only made in America, would we miss the items that are not made in America? Would we experience a sense of lack or would we adjust and move on? It begs the question, “how much do we need to be happy?”

Furthermore, how does this information change the way you view your items now?

This same concept is how we might want to approach the items that live in our homes but really are only taking up valuable interior real estate and serving no purpose at all whether it be serving our needs anymore or ever. By holding on to items that are shoved in a box in the back of the closet or in the attic or in the storage under the stairs or in the garage, we are allowing clutter to change our lives. A whopping 25% of homeowners with a two-car garage cannot use the garage for their cars due to clutter. What kind of change do you want your “stuff” to help create or what changes is the clutter already in the process of creating?

So, how does clutter change us?

“Child, don't wait until it's too late. Lost time is lost forever.” Sonali Dev, A Bollywood Affair

Photo by: John Tyson

1. Time- Each and every time you have to search for something because it is not in its right place or not where you last remember seeing it, you are using up valuable time.

If clutter were not an issue and helped you save 15 minutes per day by not having to look for lost items, you would have 5,475 more minutes to use each year. Every time you go shopping and DO NOT stick to your list, you are over shopping and buying items you either really do not need or didn’t intend to buy with time you didn’t intend to use. This valuable time could have been better spent with family and friends, on vacation, reading a favorite book, enjoying a hobby.

Mis-managed time takes away from our peace of mind and overall happiness. We never really feel calm when time is of the essence.

“It's not about what we earn, it's all about how we spend what we've earned!” Stephen Magnus

Photo by: Alexander Gray

2. Money- In reality, everything we “own” is really only rented, borrowed, a temporary possession. The saying, “don’t let what you own, own you” is exactly what happens when we harbor too much stuff that creates clutter.

The trickle-down theory is at play here: We earn the money with our time and spend the time earned money on items we have convinced ourselves we need. You agreed on the price of the item and created a false value. Try to sell that same item at an estate sale and you will be lucky to get half that perceived value back if at all. Ever notice the amount of haggling that goes on at garage sales?

The best thing you can do is give your desire for an item at least one week of thinking about buying it. Whether you decide to spend that money or not, you are changed. Will you feel deprived if you say no to spending the money or will you feel empowered to use those same dollars for something more worthy like an experience that has meaning or to build up an emergency fund?

The next time you want to trade your hard-earned dollars for “stuff”, if you can’t wait the week to see if you still have the same desire and need, then ask yourself in that moment, “is this item worth the time I put in to earn this money? Is there a better way to use this money?”

“Proper storage is about creating a home for something so that minimal effort is required to find it and put it away.” Geralin Thomas, Decluttering Your Home: Tips, Techniques and Trade Secrets

Photo by: Jason Leung

3. Space- It is said that houses are 3x bigger now than in the 1950’s and yet people still rent storage space away from their homes because they have run out of storage space in their homes.

Is a home a glorified storage facility?

Everyone has reasons for storing their things but how often do you go to your storage areas to take out something you need? After not using any of the items in your storage area, why are you still holding on to what is being stored? Using space in creative ways, such as, vertical space, ceiling space, around, behind, and in the front of doorways, double duty furniture pieces, clearing clutter hot spots, using corners, etc., changes your perspective not only of the space itself, but how the items can be used creatively, which gives your items a new lease on life.

“To change, we have to be sick and tired.” – Anonymous

Photos by: Jared Rice

4. Health- Clutter is defined as, “things lying around untidily. A mess, a muddle, disorder, confusion, odds and ends,” just to name a few. Clutter by nature is a dust magnet. Dust contains unhealthy germs and dead skin cells.

Clutter we can’t or don’t clean attracts pests we can’t get rid of. If you can’t see a surface or a room’s spaces, you are putting your health at risk. Changes in breathing could be affected by all that dust. Do you leave room doors closed so that you don’t have to get upset about how messy and disorganized that room is? Stress, cortisol, fatigue, depression are all very real unhealthy feelings due to clutter. Not to mention the fact that a bedroom window that lets in glorious sunshine is shut out when the door is closed, or the clutter builds up to block the window. Like plants, we need sunshine in order to live a healthy life.

Clutter is a sensory obstacle as well. It overloads our senses through unsightly piles and foul smells. Having visual empty space allows a resting place for our senses by providing healthy deep, relaxing breaths and a calm mind.

“Authenticity is an alignment between your beliefs, your desires, and your choices in the world. Desires change throughout the course of a life, but agreement between ideals, aspirations, and deeds is key to a life of peace, happiness, and success.” – David Simon

Photo by: Deniz Altindas

5. Alignment- If you had to deal with moving right now to a new dwelling, could you, would you, do it?

Yes, of course you could physically make the move but would all of what you currently own be able to nicely fit in your new space? How do you feel when you think about a move? Do you feel in line with the purpose of such a move? Or would you convince yourself to work harder, spend more time working for the dollars so that you don’t have to face moving and packing and the emotions of all of that change?

You and your “stuff” are not in alignment. Here is an idea that has some grit to it: In order to get in alignment with the items in your spaces, take one room at a time and be honest with yourself about what you own, what you need vs. what you want. Whether it is moving away, moving out, moving on, or just making a change in the spaces you are in right now, a fresh perspective and a fresh start can happen anytime, for any reason, anywhere.

Take it one category item at a time and how you use your days of the week:

On Monday only work on photographs, pictures framed and unframed, digital photos, artwork.

On Tuesday work on linens, laundry baskets, hampers, soaps, detergents cleaning products. On Wednesday work on kitchen gadgets, pots and pans, baking utensils, coffee mugs, junk drawers.

On Thursday work on clothes, coats, sweaters, seasonal gear, shoes.

On Friday work on medicines, first aid, vitamins.

On Saturday work on attic, garage, storage spaces.

On Sunday work on books, music, instruments, journals, movies, notebooks, schoolbooks.

Alignment says: If you are experiencing some sense of lack or overwhelm in your life, remember that a little progress toward something healthy of mind, body, spirit, is better than a whole lot of nothing.

Remember: Nothing happens without your permission. Permission to spend, to not spend, to clutter, to not clutter, to get organized or not get organized. What you allow for your life,

makes life change.

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