Why I don't like lists about decluttering
30 March 2018
How do you feel about this list?
As much as I enjoy the posts and blogs from "becoming minimalist", the response generated by lists like these reminds me why I avoid black and white ‘rules’ of decluttering.
The real problem with these lists is they don’t consider the underlying reasons why people hold onto things. Without taking the time, energy and thought to understand why clutter is accumulating, chances are high that it will either simply build up again, or that you’ll feel upset about throwing things away.
In the years I spent overwhelmed with ‘stuff’, the lists, top tips and glossy magazine ideas I read about decluttering tended to amplify the problem rather than help. The assumption underlying these pieces seemed to be that if I just spent a little bit of time throwing away x, y and z or buying a new basket for a, b and c, all my stuff would magically resolve itself into neatly ordered beauty. Not surprisingly, that never happened.
Of course, it may work for some people, and if it works for you then jump right in and clear your spaces.
BUT, if it doesn’t work for you, that’s okay.
Oversimplified notions of decluttering may not only make you feel worse, they can be detrimental if your underlying reasons for keeping clutter relate to anxiety, feelings of overwhelm or hopelessness, past traumas, scarcity mindset or a myriad other factors.
Suggesting to someone who is struggling with letting go that they just “throw away anything you haven’t used in three months” is likely to have them running straight back to bury themselves further in clutter or escaping the issue altogether.
So, if lists like these only raise your levels of anxiety, feelings of hopelessness or overwhelm, then take heart in knowing you are not alone. There is another way.
Anxiety and clutter
29 December 2017
The link between clutter and anxiety continues to be explored. So many of us know firsthand just how the two relate and understand deeply the shared relationship.
I'm excited about every article that emerges on this subject and know that each piece of research, each story shared, each cluttered space reduced takes us forward.
I hope this article shared from Scary Mommy helps someone. There is always a way, and it's always okay to ask for help to find your way.
I just want it to go to a good home
21 November 2017
Take a look at this linked article. Firstly, how different from our current experience that some of these appliances have been in use for over 60 years. Built to endure and reducing the crazy amounts of waste we now produce for whitewoods and appliances. How many of us find appliances that are truly built to last?
Secondly, and this is where it hits home with so many clients, it is so clearly difficult for this lovely couple to let go of these items. While their wish is for the pieces to go to a museum or a collector (and how lovely that would be), the reality is that so many belongings are sitting in homes, offices and storage units right now waiting for a "worthy home".
I so often see people holding on to things because they want to know they will go to a good home. Here's the catch: while they are sitting unused in your home, office or in storage, they are not being appreciated, used or enjoyed. So often they are adding to crowded areas, heightened anxiety and the ever present weight of procrastination.
As professional organisers, we develop the knowledge and experience to recognise items likely to find "a good home", those that can absolutely find "a good home" and those that have served their purpose and given as much as they can.
As a reformed hoarder, I know just how hard it is to face those decisions, and I know the experience of feeling pain or panic at trying to let go of something that could surely have a good home. I've taken the journey and it is, without a doubt, one of the most fundamental shifts you can take.
One of the greatest gifts I can give is to help others on their journey.
When you look around your home or office today, when you think about any other storage areas you have such as storage units, your parents' house, the attic, the garage - are you ready to make a change? Are you ready to let go?
Children and the souvenir dilemma
I'm back in Sydney after taking my older son to China to participate in the Montessori Model United Nations. Seeing children aged 9-15 learn about issues facing the world, learn about other countries and come to a conference prepared to give a speech, participate in informal and formal consultation and negotiate draft resolutions with children from other countries was an uplifting and fascinating experience. The organisers have provided an inspiring space for children to step into a new level of interaction with others from around the world. It was evident to the parents and teachers that children have an amazing capacity to contribute and some of their ideas add new shades of colour to debates.
Alongside the conference, we took the time to join friends touring Shanghai and Hangzhou. And here we hit a question for the ages: how do you manage the excitement and enthusiasm of a child who wants to buy souvenirs for his brother when you, as an adult and one whose passion is to help people reduce clutter and reduce waste in general, know that these souvenirs are unlikely to last beyond a few days? While I would have loved to limit the choices to something more sustainable, there is also a cost to curbing the natural generosity in a child who thinks and feels deeply. And so, we struck a compromise: he could choose two 'fun' items at the marketplaces like his friends were doing, and we would also take Chinese-style silk pyjamas for both him and his brother.
Seeing my boys reunite after ten days apart was heartwarming and beautiful. Naturally, stories were shared at a million miles and neither could talk fast enough to let the other know about his adventures. The souvenirs came out to great delight and the younger brother shone with excitement that his big brother had chosen things just for him - a souvenir pocket watch from Shanghai (this was the prime souvenir many kids took home from China) and a small panda key ring for his back pack.
Two days. Three days. That is how long each lasted. Two days before the second hand fell off inside the casing of the pocket watch, preventing the hour and minute hands from turning. We tried to remove the back to fix it, but alas it is not designed for repair. Two days of excitement before it turned into tears and sadness for much more than a pocket watch - sadness for the loss of something chosen just for him by a big brother who went away for such a long time (in his eyes) and chose something special while he was away.
Three days before the stitching split on the panda and the stuffing started poking through. This I could repair and it's been stitched, but without any material to spare in the making of the toy, there was not a lot to do except pull the sides together and sew it up so it's now shaped a little differently to the original.
And so, a question for you today: how do you handle the souvenir debate where children are involved? How much do you impose your standards, preferences and life lessons versus how far do you let children have the freedom to learn for themselves through the disappointments of first-hand experience?
I'd love to hear your stories.