According to a recent anthropological study into the contemporary home, “we are living in the most materially rich society in global history, with light-years more possessions per average family than any preceding society.” The extensive study found that on average each family had 39 pairs of shoes, 90 DVDs, 139 toys, 212 CDs, 438 books and magazines. They also found that 75% of families had so much stuff in their garage that there was no room left for their cars!
Why do people hoard so much stuff? There are several psychological reasons; for example, people keep precious possessions that often carry sentimental meaning, so find it difficult to let them go. However, collecting so many things to the point where your home or workspace becomes so disorderly and unmanageable that it starts to affect your life and state of mind – that’s when something needs to change.
To help to clear some of that domestic flotsam and jetsam, we’ve developed this helpful infographic to explore the perils of clutter and put together a quick guide on how to bring simplicity to your space.
Firstly, organise how you are going to declutter; you have to be organised to organise! This may sound daunting but decluttering isn’t easy and it requires time, energy and motivation. However, there are ways of easing yourself in: take on one small section of a room at a time then schedule decluttering sessions, e.g. 15 minutes a day, and increase this when you feel like picking up the pace. Use the four box method, categorising the items that you don’t need as either ‘throw away’, ‘sell’, ‘donate’ or ‘recycle’. This will speed up your decision-making and sort your clutter swiftly.
However, there will be times when you just can’t decide what to do with an item; to keep or not to keep? Don’t waste too much time deliberating over one thing; instead, create a ‘maybe’ box for stuff you don’t use right now, but think you may in the future. Store the ‘maybe’ box away so that it is out of sight; remind yourself to look in the box in 6 months, and if you don’t need any of the items you can throw out the whole box then.
Before you start, it’s important to talk to your family about making changes in the house and get them on board so you can tackle the decluttering together. Let each family member organise their own clutter, e.g. children and their toys, adults and their paperwork, teenagers and their clothes, etc. Everyone is different and may like their possessions organised in unique ways, so it’s a good way of sharing the decluttering duties.
Once you start decluttering, try not to let guilt or obligation make you hold onto things. There are ways you can keep your precious memories but clear out the material objects at the same time; for example, take pictures with gifts that mean something to you. Similarly, if your workspace is cluttered with important paperwork, create electronic copies by scanning them into your computer, and keep copies in the cloud for your peace of mind.
As well as different approaches to organisation, consider cutting off the calamity of clutter at the source. The ‘one in, one out’ rule is a popular method for preventing the unwarranted accumulation of stuff – whenever you purchase something, dispose of a comparable or equivalent object. It’s simple and super effective.