Less is more
Being surrounded by excess items not only wastes your time as you search for things; it also promotes the consumption of comfort foods, reduces sleep quality, limits creativity, and makes you more indecisive about which of your daily work or household tasks to carry out. Recognising the main categories of clutter is based on why you hold on to certain things, and is also the first step in getting rid of excess junk from your life. Here are the most common categories:
1. Just-in-case Clutter
These are the things you hold on to for fear that you may need them one day, even though you haven’t used them in months or years – if at all. This category may include items like a woollen vest (now two sizes too small); a stack of National Geographic magazines; a bottle of old jam at the back of the fridge; a remote control that doesn’t seem to operate anything, and 10-year old bank statements.
2. Nostalgic Clutter
Things with sentimental value that remind you of a special time in your life, yet you struggle to discard because of the guilt you would feel. This nostalgia may include items such as photos from your first marriage, your high-school blazer or communion dress, shoe boxes full of old cassette tapes, and your child’s earliest drawings.
3. Freebie Clutter
Things you were given by family, friends, or giveaways. Oddly, you have difficulty parting with them because you still savour the thrill of getting something for nothing. Items often found in this category may be a second-hand office chair, handme- down linen from your mother, tiny bottles of hotel shampoo, and unused garden tools.
4. Impulse-buy Clutter
Things you bought on impulse, or because they were on sale, but you never use them. Rather than returning them, you resolutely hold on to them in the hope that one day you might use them, or give them away as birthday presents. Think of items such as unwanted electronic gadgets, bags, picnic sets, diaries, and kitchen utensils.
5. Aspirational Clutter
These are things you bought or collected that you aspire to use, but never get around to. Instead, they take up space and make you feel bad for not using them. This category includes items such as a classic guitar, rock-climbing equipment, foreign language CDs, and board games.
Learning How To Let Go
Getting rid of unwanted items is a sure-fire way to increase your happiness. In fact, de-cluttering your environment has multiple mental and physical benefits. It will clear your mind; lower stress; enable greater relaxation; provide less housework; raise productivity; improve attention spans; boost creativity, and even increase the value of your property. When you consider all this, less really does mean more, and the ‘3-Box Method’ will help you lead a clutter-free life in next to no time.
The 3-Box Method
This method is a guaranteed way to remove clutter from your environment. Here’s how you do it:
Start by gathering three boxes, then go through each room and inspect each item. That ’s when you decide to either: keep the item (i.e. leave it where it is); throw it away (i.e. place in Box 1); give it to family, friends or charity, or sell the item (i.e. place in Box 2); or store the item because you’re unsure whether or not to keep it (i.e. place in Box 3)
Stick to the Ground Rules
The following ground rules will help you stay focused and on task:
——Start small in one area of your home such as a drawer, a closet, a room or your car.
——For each item, ask yourself:
- Do I need it? Have I used it in the past 12 months?
- Would it help someone else more than me?
- Can I replace it if I get rid of it now?
——Choose what to keep, not what to toss. Don’t ask, “can I use it?” Instead, ask yourself, “will I use it?”
——Each item must have a place where it “lives”. If you can’t see it living anywhere, dispose of it.
——If you haven’t used an item in a year, place it in Box 1 or Box 2. Remember: many items are easily replaceable if you need them later.
——Get rid of any duplicates.
——With magazines, tear out a selected number of articles you want to read and recycle the rest.
——Instead of keeping an entire box of old university assignments, choose one or two you’re most proud of and throw out the rest.
——Rather than hold on to a library of photo albums, digitise the best shots from your most treasured moments and toss the rest.
Dealing with ‘Maybes’
Of course, there will be times when you’ll be unable to decide whether to keep an item or throw it away. In situations like these, follow these golden rules:
——If something’s too good to throw away and you know you won’t use it, make another person happy by selling it on eBay or giving it to your local charity shop. Focus on what another person will gain, and not on what you will lose.
——Consider inviting a friend over to act as mediator. Their impartiality will help you make the tough calls.
——If you’re still undecided about certain items, place them in Box 3 for storage. After six months, if you haven’t used anything from it during that time, it ’s time to pass them on to someone who may be able to use them.
——If faced with a gift or heirloom from a family member, ask yourself, “would they want me to keep this hidden away in a cupboard, or would they like someone to use and enjoy it?”
There’s so much to gain from de-cluttering. By putting the above steps into action, you’ll enjoy a happier, healthier home life. And always remember: less is best.
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