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Clutter Crisis?

Clutter costs you time, money, space, and peace of mind. Most of us complain about our cluttered desks, closets, bedrooms, kitchens, attics, basements, and even our cars, purses, and briefcases. Clutter is overwhelming, yet we continue to add to it. Why? And what can we do about it?

First we have to define "clutter." The dictionary defines is as "a crowded or untidy collection of things." But clutter isn't always about disorder. It can simply be too much stuff very nicely arranged. The word "clutter" is derived from the Middle English word "clotter" which means to coagulate, and coagulate means to curdle, congeal ? sounds pretty ugly. But that is what happens to the energy in our homes, and offices when they become cluttered ? it creates stuck, dead space. And that energy affects us.

Clutter is different things to different people, but I like the four categories of clutter from Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, by Mary Lambert: things you do not use or love, things that are untidy or disorganized, too many things in too small a space, and anything unfinished. Do you have clutter in any of those categories? Or all of them?

We are our clutter! Our cluttered environment is a reflection of cluttered calendars, cluttered thoughts, cluttered lives. Clutter causes feelings of depression, anxiety, lethargy, and discomfort. It can even add to your body weight. It steals our creativity and vitality. Moving things, finding things, cleaning things all take valuable time. Anyone who says, "Yeah, my desk is a mess but I know where everything is. I work better this way," is fooling themselves. Having clutter can confuse you, affect how people treat you, make you procrastinate, cause disharmony, dull your sensitivity and enjoyment of life, be a health or fire hazard, and distract you from important things.

So if clutter is so bad, why do we keep acquiring it? Worst case scenario could be obsessive- compulsive disorder. But most of some keep so much stuff for other reasons. There is the popular "just in case I need it some day" reason. Or we get attached to something and it reminds us of who we were. Sometimes it is about status or security or being territorial. Or it could be those things you inherited and don't feel it is "OK" to get rid of it. Or maybe you have the belief that "more is better." And many people use clutter to suppress emotions. Discovering why you acquire clutter is a giant step toward getting rid of it.

How do we get rid of clutter? Once you deal with the issue that keeps you attached to clutter you can get to work. The first thing to do is simply START. Start NOW. Start SOMEWHERE, anywhere! Start SMALL. Create the time and commitment to do it, get the right tools, and make a plan.

Starting small is important so you don't get overwhelmed and give up. Start with a drawer instead of a whole room; or one corner of your desk instead of your whole office. An important tool is a timer. Set it for 30 minutes and then stop and take a break. Congratulate yourself, rest, and schedule your next half hour.

Primary tools you will need are six boxes ? not bags ? mid-sized, sturdy boxes. This is the six "R's" way to declutter. One box is refuse-it, what you are going to throw away; it has no redeeming value for anyone. Box two is release-it, what you can give away. Things that are in good repair, but you don't love it or need it. Box three is recycle-it, anything paper, glass, or plastic that can be recycled. The fourth box is repair-it, things that don't work but that can be made workable. But only if you are then going to use it or give it away. If you are not ? then put it in the refuse box. The fifth box if for routing-it. All those things you come across as you are going through your clutter that you want to keep but they are in the wrong room. It is easy to go to put those things away and get distracted. Don't do it. Put it in the route-it box. And finally, for all those items you can't decide on, put in box six, the revisit-it box. When this box is full, label it with all contents, date it, and put it away for six months. If you haven't missed any of the stuff by then ? release it!

Getting rid of clutter and creating space in environments releases stuck energy. It invigorates, reduces stress, and increases creativity and productivity. It does take time and commitment, but the rewards are tremendous. Try it!

Jean Johnson is a personal coach specializing in helping people create balance in their lives and smoothly sail through transitions, especially as they enter the fabulous forties and fifties, and sensational sixties. She is starting a 30 day Clearing Clutter Challenge for all those that are suffering from clutter chaos. To register go to and scroll down to the April 29 to May 30 Get it Done Now: Clutter Clearing Challenge and hit the register here button. Jean can be contacted at

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