How clutter steals your superpowers

I admit it. My house is not museum quality. It is very lived in. Truthfully, I feel like I have better things to do with my time than clean my house. I am famous for walking by a surface, setting something down and continuing on with whatever I am doing. If I don’t follow my current thought, I’m worried that I won’t remember what it is I need to do. However, I have recently been clued into how my tendency toward disorder may be limiting my potential.

When your outside environment is disorganized, your thoughts are, too. Things that are out of place require your brain to do something with them. This causes stress and distraction. Like we need more of that in our lives. Have you noticed that successful people have super clean houses? It isn’t just because they have someone to clean them. Tidy habits carry over into other areas of your life. How you do one thing, you do all things.  Plus, the less clutter in your line of sight, the less distracted you are and the more brain power you can invest in other areas. People with tidy environments also tend to eat better and exercise more regularly.

It’s the same concept as creating a routine or writing everything in your calendar. You set up everything ahead of time so that you don’t have to waste limited decision-making power on trivial things. Like knowing that the forks are always in the same drawer. When you need a fork, you automatically reach for the drawer with the forks. What if it was that way with everything? How much brain power and frustration would you save every day? I spend a ton of time looking for things. I get more and more frustrated the longer I look for what I need. By the time I find what I need, my energy is sapped, my mood is in the toilet, and I’m that much quicker to frustration the rest of the day.

Interestingly, hanging on to things sets up an attitude of scarcity. Whether you are keeping things for sentimental reasons, because you might need it someday, or it seems wasteful to get rid of them, clutter stops progress toward success. Since successful people have an attitude of abundance, being brutal about tossing out or donating things that you don’t use or no longer need sends a signal that you are being proactive about making room for more useful things–like money.

Learning these fun facts inspired me to start paying more attention to my surroundings. Are there some things that I no longer need, that I’m keeping just because they might come in useful someday, or am hanging onto for sentimental reasons? For sure. Luckily, there are some simple tricks people like me can use to clean up our acts.

Start with the top shelf and the bottom drawer

You don’t have to become a minimalist to benefit from decluttering your life. I started with the things I haven’t used in awhile–and in some cases hadn’t used ever. These are things that I had stored out of the way; on the top shelf, the back of the closet, and the bottom drawer.

First to go were some plastic food storage containers that I hadn’t used for years. They were taking up valuable space in the back of my annoyingly full corner cupboard. I had no trouble tossing them, and their mismatched, ill-fitting lids, into the recycle bin. Then I tossed some tea I never really liked, a broken tea strainer, and some random items I never knew what to do with. Next to go were some dusty old sheets that had resided on the top shelf of my closet for literally years without being touched.

I used the rule that if something hadn’t been used in recent memory it went in the trash (or recycle bin, or donate sack). This included some organic facial cleanser that I didn’t really like, but had kept as a back-up; little boxes from the jeweler; t-shirts that I hadn’t worn in years; maternity clothes…once you get started it becomes easier.

Do it right away

I listened to a podcast last week that ultimately ended up being the inspiration for me to take steps toward decluttering. It was The Model Health Show Episode 287: Recharge Your Health, Motivation, And Happiness By Decluttering Your Life – With Guest Chalene Johnson. In it, Chalene tells a story of going to an elderly lady’s house every week as a personal trainer. Every time she got there, the lady was washing her lunch plate and fork. One week, Chalene said, “Don’t worry, you can leave that until later.” The lady said, “No, I will do it now.” She mentioned how that habit had stuck with her.

How often do we set things to the side thinking we are saving time by leaving it for later? I have an island in my kitchen that is constantly cluttered. A picture of what it looks like right this minute is the featured photo above. No matter how much time I spend cleaning this counter it is always a mess. This is because it is the central feature of my open-concept house. Things that are in limbo do their time here. Bills that need to be paid, things that I need to remember to do, random stuff, and things I don’t know what to do with accumulate here. This sort of thing is replicated all over the house. The kitchen sink harbors things that need to be washed until I have time to do them. My bathroom countertop accumulates things that don’t really have a place to go. The corner of my bedroom has paper grocery bags full of clothes to donate.

So, my new intention is to do things right now. Don’t leave it for later. Most of the reason I can’t keep a thought in my head may be due to the constant mess. I experimented with this new mindset over the weekend and the area around my kitchen sink is already looking better. I can feel a relaxing effect happening in my brain.

Let go of the past

Are you hanging on to old trophies, awards, or things you don’t really like but that you received from someone special? What about the things you keep because they might be useful one day or you think you could give to your kids? It’s brutal, but these things have got to go.

I am dreading this. There are things in my storage room that are there for the express purpose of hanging on to past achievements. Do I keep them because I want to be reminded that I have the potential to be successful? Am I afraid that if I get rid of them I am sending the universe a sign that I don’t want to be successful? Do I keep gifts as proof that I am loved? This is a scarcity mindset.

Contrary to what I have been thinking, letting go of the past gives the future room to arrive. Getting rid of this stuff tells the universe that I don’t need it anymore because I have abundance. The universe then gets the signal that I am ready to move on to bigger and better things.

So, keep the memory, lose the stuff. Most of this stuff I haven’t seen in years and won’t miss in the slightest.

This doesn’t have to apply to everything, by the way. I have a proclivity towards books and have a library (or at least an office with bookshelves instead of wallpaper) on my vision board. I will have this library someday and I need my collection of books to fill it. Experts probably do not agree with this. In fact, I have heard bibliophiles like me called out by simplification gurus, but this is where my line is drawn. I will sacrifice elsewhere. To be fair, the books I never liked, cookbooks I never use, old textbooks, and notes from classes I took 15 years ago need to go.

Be proactive about clutter

Of course, the easiest way to decrease clutter in your life is to never accumulate it to begin with. This is hard, because who doesn’t want the newest gadget, cute shoes, stylish bag, 5k t-shirt, or collectible nic-nack?

Curb your impulse buying. Ask yourself how this new thing will be used and where you will put it. There are things I have not bought at curio shops expressly because I didn’t want to dust it. If you crave shopping as a reward or for retail therapy (which is probably not the best practice, but that’s a subject for another time), buy experiences rather than things. Another good tactic is to require that you purge things from your home before you bring new things in.

One of the hardest things for us is that our friends are insatiable gift-givers. This is hard because it isn’t that we don’t appreciate the thought, but we really do have too much stuff. One suggestion is to be proactive. Before a special event in which people would traditionally bring gifts, expressly request no gifts (in as nice a way as possible). If asked, you could suggest a donation to your favorite charity, concert tickets, dinner, or a bottle of wine instead of meaningless trinkets that take up space.

If you find this useful, there’s a good chance your friends will, too. Share this with your friends right away while you are thinking of it. Thanks for reading!

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Spring Cleanse

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