Clutter prevents people from traveling and experiencing life. These innocent looking piles of paperwork, a messy garage and boxes of stuff are always cluttering up households. For the person who wants to travel, explore and see more of the world clutter zaps resources; it eats up time, consumes money, it lives in our homes rent free, and haunts us in the back of our mind, as something to work on. Clutter stops Explorers like Kryptonite stops Superman – clutter impedes movement.
As someone who has been overwhelmed by clutter and has fought tooth and nail to battle it, I have realized just how much the ‘The Clutter’ was taking away from what I really enjoy doing: traveling, exploring, seeing more of the world with family. If you have similar desires for your life and are ready to deal with the clutter here are ten actions that can help:
1. Make a Budget
The single most effective thing to do in battling clutter is to make a budget. Why? A budget forces a person to look at their money and think about their household expenses. Thinking about these expenses and seeing how they are used influences what is bought , where you shop and most importantly, what is allowed into the house. Invest in a basic money management software program for the computer; it will quickly pay for itself.
2. Attach a Dollar Amount to Clutter
Clutter costs money. Just because stuff is sitting around does not mean it is not costing you. Clutter takes up space in your home, it is always there as a ‘to do’ in your mind, it is there when you leave for work, it is there when you come home. You are working but the clutter is not. Deal with the clutter by attaching a monetary amount to it: for big items $10, medium sized items $5 and for small stuff $1. This is the ‘rent’ I charge the clutter for being in my house. Add it up, whoa! Then multiply that by 12 months. Holy cow! This is the dollar amount the clutter is costing in terms of physical space and costs to mentally manage the stuff.
3. Put a Date on It
How long has that box of stuff been sitting around? Date it. It is amazing how long things sit around and are never dealt with. Adding a date gives you a time reference. As a rule, if it is over a year old and you have never needed it, get rid of it.
4. Shred Junk Mail
Junk mail is a daily in-source of clutter in the household. Get rid of it immediately. Arm yourself with a shredder and have a field day grinding the clutter into recycling materials. Several sites are online to remove your self from mailing lists; however this task should be done every several months.
5. Perform an 80/20 effect test
The 80/20 rule (the Pareto effect) states “for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.” Identify that 20% that just sits around and causes 80% of the problems. It is likely clutter.
6. Reduce the Number of Storage Containers
The problem with storage containers is that they are designed to store stuff. It is easy just to buy a container and stuff the clutter into it. If you have a bunch of storage containers put a date on them as was mentioned above. After a year give them the 80 / 20 test and rid yourself of a good number of items.
7. Turn off the TV
Keep that TV turned off. TV is a form of mental clutter and gobbles up your time and keeps you from dealing with all of the other clutter. Use TV sparingly.
8. Have a BIG Garage Sale.
When you’re ready to get rid of the clutter do a personal cost/benefit analysis on your time. Is it better to give a bunch of stuff to a help-up organization (like Goodwill) or to have a good old-fashioned garage sale? The end result is the same you get rid of stuff.
9. Make a Long Term Plan to Deal with Clutter
On your calendar set dates to deal with different projects, like the closet, that box of stuff, the second box of stuff, the cabinet, that kitchen drawer with all the stuff, etc.
10. Embrace Being Frugal
Close the loop on clutter by embracing frugality. Being frugal is not about being miserly or cheap or doing without; it is about using resources wisely, being economical and minimizing waste. Shop for items by how they impact your budget and how they help you reach your goals.
Dealing with clutter is not about simply cleaning stuff up, it is a long-term process of changing your life so you can do more of what you want to do – like traveling, exploring and seeing more of the world.