“The more I examine the issue of clutter, the more effort I put into combating it, because it really does act as a weight.” ` Gretchen Rubin
Unclutter For An Energy Boost
Do you need an energy boost? Or do you want to attract something new (a relationship, a client, an opportunity, etc.) into your life? Do you want to strengthen your willpower as you build the habits you need to accomplish your BIG goal? Then you should seriously unclutter your life.
Piles of papers, overstuffed drawers, packed closets, broken tools and toys, too much to do — all clutter in various forms — drain energy from you. Clutter often consists of things you don’t really want that you must clean and maintain or those things that nag you to do something about them. Either way, you are expending energy that you could put to better use.
You must have space in order to think, to create, to breathe, and to receive. Clutter can be anything that is in your way, that isn’t useful (to you) or beautiful (to you).
Talane Miedaner, coach and author of Coach Yourself To Success reminds us: “Getting rid of clutter is incredibly therapeutic and will give you a huge burst of energy. That is why we start the coaching program here — you have the newfound energy to tackle your really big goals.” [Miedaner 33] This is energy you can put toward achieving your BIG goal.
Unclutter For An Willpower Boost
Not only will uncluttering life give you an energy boost, removing clutter from one’s life and environment has also been shown to boost willpower.
For example, in one study, two groups of subjects were given a set of questions to answer. One group sat in a neat, orderly laboratory. The second group set in a room so messy, it would give a teenager nightmares.
Later, the group who sat in the untidy room scored lower on self-control tasks, such as taking a smaller sum of money immediately rather than wait a week for a larger amount. And when the two groups were offered snacks, the people who sat in the neat lab more frequently selected fruit and milk, while their counterparts from the messy room took candy and sodas. [Baumeister, 135]
In a similar experiment, two groups answered a series of questions online. One group worked from a tidy web site that was neatly arranged, with everything properly placed and correctly spelled. Another group worked at a messy web site that was cluttered and had misspellings and other problems. Again, the group that worked on the neat web site scored higher in several tests of self-control. [Baumeister, 136]
The Zorro Circle
You probably agree with me that uncluttering life is a great idea with some excellent benefits. But where do you start?
If you feel completely overwhelmed, it may be easier to start small. Use the “Zorro circle”. [Achor 128] This term comes from a scene in the movie The Mask of Zorro.
Alejandro, the young Zorro, is taught by the old sword master, Don Diego. Diego draws a small circle on the ground. Alejandro must stay within that circle as he duels with Diego. Only after he masters the small circle is he allowed to work from larger and larger spaces. The feeling of control and accomplishment he gets from mastering the small circle allows him to accomplish greater and greater feats. (Achor 128 – 129)
Don’t try to organize your whole life at one time. Instead pick one small area and work on it. Instead of trying to organize your entire office, pick one corner of your desk or one desk drawer.
Pick one small circle, your Zorro Circle, and work within it. Once you have that area organized and clutter-free, commit to keeping it so. Do whatever you can to keep that section in good order. Then move on to the next circle.
The S P A C E Method
“Let all your things have their places,” said Ben Franklin.
When my elder daughter, Rachel, was in elementary school, she loved to collect things, usually things with many, many small pieces. I usually thought she had too many things and not enough space to keep them all. Stuff frequently spilled out of her room into other areas of the house.
One morning, when I was feeling particularly exasperated by the mess, I left this note at her place at the table: “Let all your things have their places. ~ Ben Franklin”. That evening, when I sat down at the table, I found her reply. She had cut out the words of my note and rearranged them: “Let all your places have things. Rachel Huskey”
Today, she is grown up and has done some work as a professional organizer. She also blogs about organizing.
Here is an early entry, where she describes Julie Morgenstern’s SPACE method [Sort, Purge, Assign a home, Containerize, and Equalize] for organizing.
The P L A C E Method
Or you might try my own “a PLACE for everything and everything in it’s PLACE” method:
P = Purge. When you start a decluttering project, first get rid of anything that is obviously trash. Recycle old magazines, catalogs and newspapers. Toss anything you haven’t used in a year or more (except for legal documents and tax records).
L = Like with like. Know where each object lives and keep it in it’s house when you aren’t using it. Keep like things together. Before you bring something new home, decide where it will live. If it has brothers and sisters, it can live with them.
A = Access. Keep items you use frequently close at hand. You can store items you use only occasionally further away or in those difficult to reach areas. If you use tools or supplies (pens, scissors, notepads, recycle bins, cleaning supplies, etc.) in multiple locations, keep one of each tool or item at each location.
C = Contain. Find ways to store items that make them easy to see and identify. This could include using a clear storage bin to contain items, hanging file folders that are clearly labeled, and drawer dividers that keep small items in place. A word of caution: When a collection outgrows its container, weed the collection – don’t get another container.
E = Evaluate. Before you begin organizing a room, take time to plan the space. Evaluate the different activities you do in the room or space you are organizing and set up “centers” for the activities. Keep the supplies and equipment you’ll need for the activity stored in the appropriate Center. The purpose for organizing is to give space to the objects you use most and to clear out the clutter. Without a plan, you’ll end up merely re-arranging the clutter (at best).
A Simple Elegant Life
A simple elegant life is your aim. Clutter of any sort – physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual baggage – hampers you and uses up energy unnecessarily.
If you don’t allow clutter to accumulate, you don’t have to deal with it. But if you need to clean up your act in one or more areas, don’t feel overwhelmed or discouraged. You can do this!
Take one small step toward organization and clutter-freedom. Then take another. And another. Soon you’ll have an uncluttered life . . . and that’s Excelerating!
Excelerated Organization™ — being clutter-free and well-enough organized — able to find what you need when you need it — is one step in creating your Excelerated Life ™ , a life of flourishing, of well-being, meaning, and purpose.
Achor, Shawn. The Happiness Advantage. New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2010
Baumeister, Roy F. and John Tierney. Willpower – Rediscovering The Greatest Human Strength. New York: The Penguin Press, 2011
Miedaner, Talane. Coach Yourself To Success. Lincolnwood, IL: Contemporary Books, 2000