Tag Archives: clearing clutter

The Five-Step Clutter Clearing Process

Clearing clutter is a complex process that can be difficult for even the

Clutter clearing, you too can do it!

most determined and intelligent person. How do you start? Where do you start? How do you keep going? Below are 5 steps to help you get started so you can experience success and be motivated to keep clearing.

1 Remember that doing something is better than doing nothing. What you do may not produce stunning results quickly, but doing any clearing shifts energies in a positive direction. 

2 Set a small goal for yourself. For example, plan to work for ten minutes. Set a timer and go to work. When the timer goes off, stop. Most of us can work for ten minutes. During that time do whatever is easiest to create some new order. Throwing away trash is usually easy. Clearing off a table might be easy. Finding a bag full of things to give away might be easy.

3 Start with the biggest items in the space you are clearing. Check the energy of big things. Ask yourself, “Do I love this?” If you have no special emotional attachment to the item, ask yourself, “Do I use this?” If the answer is “no” or “not in the last year”, consider losing it.

Moving big items allows you to see and feel yourself making progress and will motivate you to keep clearing. 

As soon as you decide to eliminate an item, remove it from the space, preferably by placing it just outside the door. It’s not a good idea to pause in the evaluation process to take the item much further than outside the door, because you risk getting sidetracked doing something else.

Removing the item from the room releases the energy that the item was holding. That released energy is then available to use as you continue making decisions about what to keep and what to release. The bigger the item, the bigger the energy release that is then available to you.

As you make decisions and move things out of the room, your energy will also increase, and making decisions becomes easier. Your brain begins to generate creative new ideas about what you can do in your space.

When you find that removing things from the room is getting difficult because of the quantity of items outside the door, stop sorting. Reward yourself by taking those items to their respective locations. DO NOT stop to reorganize the new location, even if you cannot easily put things away. Just leave items in the areas where they belong and make a mental note that the area needs your attention at a later date. Then, return to your project.

4 Congratulate yourself on your success. That sounds silly, doesn’t it? Some of you are thinking, “So, I did ten minutes of clearing in a house that needs ten weeks of clearing. What’s the big deal?” The big deal is that you made a plan to clear and kept it. You got started. Remember, every bit of clearing helps. And, if you don’t stop and feel the good feelings that come from the accomplishment of the work you’ve done, how are you going to motivate yourself to continue? It’s a head game. Play it!

5 Schedule your next clearing session, preferably sooner rather than later. Repeat the process. All progress makes a difference as long as you aren’t creating more chaos between clearing sessions than the amount you cleared.

It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? If that’s the case, why do people avoid decluttering? How do their spaces become nightmares right before their eyes? The fact that something sounds simple doesn’t make it easy to do. Clutter clearing involves making so many decisions. You not only need to decide what to keep and what to pitch, but also where to start and what to do with all your things as you work. It can be a great logistical challenge with the potential for distraction everywhere.

When I work with clients, part of my job is to keep them from running away. Even though I am in charge of the process and of making it easier for them, they are still affected by the way the space feels and by the enormity of the decision-making process. Your job is to keep yourself clearing despite the urge to run away.

Dining Room Multiple Functions Create Clutter

Scanned Image 102260152The obvious function of the dining room is a gathering place to enjoy a meal. In recent decades with the advent of fast food, the busy schedules people keep, and a shift toward more casual living, dining rooms are less and less often used solely for the purpose of dining. Now dining in that room may only happen on special occasions like birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas and other holidays. The rest of the time the room often sits in wait for the occasional special meal, or becomes an annex of the home office or kitchen desk, or a study spot for children. And, those new functions often bring paper with them!

Why does the dining room seem to attract the paper that belongs in a home office or the study materials of children? Because the dining room table is a large flat surface in the proximity of the kitchen. Many kitchens have a postage stamp sized desk, if they have one at all. And, paper lands in the kitchen from all directions–mail, school papers, action items for the woman of the house, shopping lists, coupons, menus, etc. It’s quite understandable that papers would gravitate to one of the nearest flat surfaces if the kitchen desk is already overwhelmed or non-existent.

Some children are not comfortable doing homework in their bedrooms all by themselves. They are wired such that having people nearby actually helps them focus. So, the dining room is a perfect place to park to do homework assignments–close enough to the activity of others, but at enough distance to be able to concentrate on homework tasks.

So, when you think about clearing clutter from your dining room, first get real about its current functions. What activities actually happen there? What activities do you want to have happen in that space? Knowing the answers to those questions will be your guide for what to keep and what to clear out of the space.

By the way, it’s good feng shui to have something happening in every room on a regular basis. Your dining room holds energies that affect your life. It’s always optimal to have some type of activity in a space–active energy–as opposed to stagnant–dead energy. Giving your dining room a few additional functions besides being a dining area could be an energetic asset for your home.

I recommend that if you still want to use your dining room as a dining area, even only occasionally, that you do your best to maintain the look and feel of the dining room. The risk of combining other functions with the dining function is that the room could become a clutter haven if it houses messy functions that involve paperwork or creative projects.

If other functions are added, like study area, bill pay area, tax prep area, wrapping area, art creation area, fabric cutting area, etc., either contain the items associated with those functions out of sight in a piece of furniture or bring in the items necessary to do the activity and clean up once you’re done. Developing the discipline to maintain the dining room as a place where you could enjoy a meal at a moment’s notice is an important skill for every family member. And, it makes it much more likely that the room will be used for its original function — dining.

So, what’s the function of your dining room? Dining rooms can be beautiful, inviting spaces if they are treated with the respect they deserve.

Clutter Clearing & Feng Shui: Not All “Love It” Energy is Created Equal

Feng shui teaches that we should live with what we love to attract good into our lives. “Love it” things hold positive energies and in turn enhance our spaces and our lives. Items can be loved for many reasons: their shape, their color, their functionality, the way we feel in their presence, the memories associated with them. 

IMG_2615My pink hat is a “love it” item. It is my favorite hat. It is a favorite shade of pink and has silver sequins scattered all over it. I love its appearance. I love the way it fits. I love the way I look in it. All that love makes it a high energy item, one worthy of keeping in my space.

But, the love goes deeper than that. It was also a thoughtful gift from my husband who knew I love pink. It holds the energy of his caring and his remembering what I love. It is associated with Bob and his love for me. That association transformed the energy of that hat from a “love it” item to a “LOVE IT” item.

IMG_2581

Bob, me and the pink hat!

You’re probably thinking that’s all the “love it” energy one hat can hold. But, the story continues. I took that hat with me on my recent vacation to New Mexico for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. I wore it each time we went to the balloon park to see hundreds of hot air balloons inflate and take off like magical colorful jewels in the sky. It hid my “bed head” hair, and kept me warm in the wee hours of the morning as we waited shivering in the dark for the first balloons to light up. It became part of the memory of that incredible experience. Its “LOVE IT” energy ratcheted up to LOVE IT” energy.

What kind of “love it” energies do you have in your space? Not all “love it” energy is created equal! If you are a person who loves so many things that your space has become uncomfortable because of their quantity, check out the strength of the love you actually feel for those items. 

For the best feng shui and the most energy benefit from “love it” items, check out the reasons why you love each item. Do you love an item because you really love it or because you don’t want to let it go? Ask yourself, “Does this item have “love it,” “LOVE IT,” or “LOVE IT” energy? Checking out the associations and stories associated with items is a great way to more easily make decisions about whether items have adequate “love it” energy to be taking up prime real estate in your home and in your life. 

Consider letting go of lesser “love it” items. In so doing you’ll be clearing clutter and making space for items of higher energy that can positively affect your energy and attract more positive into your life.

Staying Organized: A Mother’s Legacy

It has been a quiet week here in Kilmarnock, Virginia, in the aftermath of my step-father’s death. I’ve been here to make funeral arrangements and support my mother as she comes to grips with the biggest loss of her life.

As is my habit, I’ve watched my mother move through her days both with curiosity and concern. Mom is not only grieving the loss of the love of her life, she is showing signs of dementia. The most obvious sign is poor short-term memory. I’ve been preparing myself for further decline by reading The 36 Hour Day by Nancy L. Mace and Peter V. Rabins, a book about dealing with dementia. I know it’s possible that over time she will eventually forget how to do even the simplest of tasks. I dread that time.

My mom has always been very organized. At the moment, for the most part, she still is. It has been comforting to watch her move through her days maintaining order in her lovely home. When she opens mail, she routinely throws away the opened envelopes and junk mail. As she moves from the den to the kitchen, she picks up used glasses and plates to put in the dishwasher. She regularly clears cluttered surfaces, stating that she just doesn’t like to have too much stuff around. Maintaining order is a way of life for her. I am so grateful to have learned the lessons of how to get and stay organized from her. I feel sad when I think about the possibility of her losing that ability to the ravages of dementia.

For now, I take comfort in Mom’s commitment to maintaining order and her ability to tend to her space. What a blessing it is to be her daughter!

The Urge to Purge Following a Death

Missing John Arrix

My step-father died this week. I observed his struggle to let go of life. When it was over, the first step was to notify Hospice of Virginia who would call the funeral home to remove the body. Once John’s spirit was gone, his body was a shell and we needed the body taken away as soon as possible. It was just a reminder of his struggle, of his dying, of the horror of death.

Once John’s body had been taken away, I looked around the room where he spent his last hours and saw the empty hospital bed and all the supplies that had been used while he had spent his final days at home: the bandages, the gloves, the creams and ointments, the chucks and diapers. They were all reminders of the care he had received, the care that was just palliative, not life saving. They had to go.

First I asked Hospice of Virginia to make arrangements to have the bed removed as soon as possible. Then I took a quick look at the supplies. My first urge was to dump them all in the trash. We would not have them had John not been deathly ill. Yes, some of them could be useful at a later date. I kept the moisture lotion and bandaids and gave Portia Bea from Visiting Angels permission to take whatever she thought she or Visiting Angels could use. The rest went into the trash. Once I’d made my decision about what to keep, Portia cleared everything from the room that reminded us of John’s struggle.

All of this activity occurred in the first hour following John’s death. It seemed imperative to return the bedroom back to its pre-sickroom state. Because I’d been up all night with John, it was a blessing to have Portia’s assistance with the clean up. She even vacuumed the room.

Once the bed was taken away and the room returned to its previous appearance, I found myself clearing out John’s medications, corralling all reminders of the previous five weeks of assessing John’s condition and providing help. I wanted my mother, who had lost the love of her life, to be able to grieve the loss of John rather than be distracted by the signs of his illness.

Every item associated with John’s illness and death held the energy of death. I felt compelled to remove those items whose energy screamed death and loss. I kept some medical records, papers that later could help my Mom make sense of this terrible time. I kept the baby monitor because it is possible we might need it in the future for my Mom, but I stored it in a drawer out of sight. I kept the lotion because it could easily blend in with other skin lotions and lose its association with death.

The next step is to clear the energy of death from the room by burning sage.

All that clearing gave me a much needed focus in the first two days after John left us. It also relieved my Mom’s lovely house of the signs of struggle, reminders of the horror we had all experienced while watching John leave us. And, last night my Mom, though very sad, was able to retrieve the photo albums of her life with John and shift her focus from the dying that had just occurred to the joys and pleasures of the life she had lived with him
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Clutter Clearing Can Be Comforting

I’m sitting in McDonald’s in Kilmarnock, VA, taking a break from watching the process of my step-father’s death. I’m attempting to take care of myself in the midst of a very painful phase of life–helping parents at the end of life.

Because it’s hard for me to write and work on aspects of my business, I’ve been doing what I teach clients to do when they can’t do what they think they should be doing. I’ve been clearing easy stuff. Today the easy stuff is emails that just aren’t important given what is going on right now. It’s amazing how easy it is to clear out emails that I usually pause over. I just don’t have the time or energy to consider all the discussion group emails, the networking emails, the offers of products to buy. And, I certainly don’t need them cluttering up my inbox!

I’m saving all the kind notes of support from friends and people who read my newsletters and blog posts. I want to thank each person for their kindness. I’m responding to emails regarding appointments, speaking engagements and other aspects of my business. Nothing else really matters right now.

Somehow clearing out the non-essential emails has helped me feel more in control of my life at this moment. I am certainly not in control of what is happening with my step-father. The hospice nurse said the timing of his death depends on his will, that it’s between him and God. I’m just an observer of a process that is so much bigger than me.

Clutter clearing can be comforting in difficult times.

Transform Christmas Clutter Clearing Into Community Service

In response to my recent post about Christmas clutter clearing, one reader shared two great ideas for clutter clearing that can help nursing home residents have a happier holiday. She gave me permission to share her ideas with you.

  1. Instead of recycling or tossing extra unused Christmas cards, offer them to the residents of a local nursing home to save them the expense and the hassle of buying cards. You might even consider including stamps with the cards to make it easy to write a note and mail the card. Nursing home residents have limited space, so saving unused cards from year to year is probably not possible. They are likely to welcome your offering of cards.
  2. If you decide to discard ornaments because you no longer use them, purchase a Rosemary Tree or Norfolk Island Pine, often available at your grocery store during the holiday season, to decorate with those ornaments and ribbon remnants. Then, offer the tree to a nursing facility. Those live trees and your ornaments can then bring smiles to the faces of the residents.

What wonderful ideas for transforming clutter clearing into meaningful community service! Clutter clearing doesn’t have to be an onerous task if it results in helping you reduce stress and in lifting the spirits of some often forgotten members of your community.

© 2012 Clutter Clearing Community | Debbie Bowie

“Author, Organizing Expert and Feng Shui Practitioner, Debbie Bowie, is a leading authority on clutter clearing to attract more of what you want in life. If you’re ready to clear clutter and move your life forward, get your FREE TIP SHEET, “Feng Shui Tips for Instant Success” at http://www.clutterclearingcommunity.com.

Clutter Clearing: The Importance of Accountability

You’ve decided that this weekend you’ll tackle the clutter in your bedroom. You know it’s affecting your ability to sleep peacefully. When you wake to it every morning you feel like such a slacker for allowing it to sit there and grow day by day. What a great way to start each day!

The weekend comes and once more you wake to your personal clutter nightmare. You tell yourself you’ll do it, but first you’ll have a cup of coffee and read the paper. Then you get a phone call from a friend asking you to go to a craft fair. The bedroom is waiting. You told yourself you’d do it this weekend. But, there’s always Sunday to get to the bedroom clutter. And, after all, you do want to have more work/life balance! Off you go with your friend. The bedroom clutter goes untouched for one more day.

Sunday arrives. You groan as you crawl out of bed and again look at the clutter. Today is the day. But, first you must go to church and then have brunch with friends. When you get home your husband wants you to help him with a project in the garage. To keep the peace and make progress in the garage you table the bedroom clutter clearing project for later in the day. Then the children need your help with a school project. The next thing you know, it’s time to make dinner. Once again, the bedroom clutter remains untouched. You tell yourself, “It’s gone this long. It can wait one more week.”

Sound familiar? Other than doing taxes or going to the dentist, almost anything is more appealing than clearing clutter. Clutter that has been sitting for any length of time has a static energy that makes addressing it seem like moving a block of cement. It’s energy is so negative. Moving it requires making so many decisions. That takes energy and focus, both of which are hard to come by in lives filled to the brim with activities and obligations. No wonder clutter clearing seems so overwhelming!

So, how do you make yourself do it? One way I get myself to follow through with onerous tasks is to tell another person what I intend to do and ask them to hold me accountable. What does “hold me accountable” mean? The way they hold me accountable is to check back with me to see if I did the task, to remind me that I thought doing it was important for my well-being and peace of mind. Holding me accountable is not nagging me, berating me or shaming me into doing the task. It is simply to ask the question and remind me of my intention.

For some reason when I tell another person I am going to do something, I am less likely to blow off the task. Who can you ask to hold you accountable for tackling a clutter clearing project in your home? Make sure whomever you choose is a supportive, loving person, not someone who will give you a hard time. It’s even better if that person also wants to make progress in some area of his/her life and also needs help with accountability. You can then be accountability buddies.

If you find you have difficulty identifying a good candidate for an accountability buddy, I will be offering a new accountability opportunity in the new year. Look for future posts outlining the details of The 12 Months of Clutter Clearing Challenge, a special program designed to help people get clutter clearing done.

Conquer Clutter Clearing Overwhelm: Get a Body Double!

“I get so much done when you’re here!” remarked the weary principal of a public elementary school. That comment caused me to pause and think about what she meant. She is a woman who works non-stop, carrying the workload of at least five people. And, she has been recognized as an outstanding principal in her school system. That kind of recognition doesn’t happen unless the principal is a highly competent leader and manager. In other words, she must be productive every day. So what exactly did she mean?

On reflection, I think she meant that when I’m there she is able to make herself face tasks that she would normally avoid or not get around to doing on her own. The pace and complexity of her job are such that she literally runs from one task/event/meeting to another, dropping books, papers and other printed materials in her office as she flies through her days. Her hit and run method of managing “the stuff” associated with her work eventually results in an office littered with piles of undifferentiated papers and books, each having a very negative, overwhelming energy. Over time their energy becomes not only more negative, but stagnant, making the possibility of addressing them seem like an insurmountable task. Putting out fires is always preferable to digging into piles of old papers.

Why can she tackle those piles when I work with her? First, I take the lead. She gets a break from having to be in charge. I strategically feed her items to address, going from the larger items to smaller items and single pieces of paper. That approach allows us both to immediately see progress being made.

Second, she has support and company from me while doing a task that she normally would avoid. My being there makes the work more like a social event. People in her position, at the top of the leadership ladder, often find it lonely there. Her position of perceived power makes it difficult for her to let her guard down and enjoy the company of those she supervises. I have worked with her for many years. She pays me, but I am not part of the system she manages day to day. Time and experience have proven that I am safe. She can be less guarded and formal with me. I also help ground her so that the anxiety she feels about the possibility of discovering forgotten tasks is more bearable.

Because I am in charge of the process she is free to focus on making decisions about what to keep, what to get rid of, and the priority of each “to do” item we uncover. I also help keep her focused on the task at hand by prioritizing the piles that will be reviewed. I make sure that we make the fastest progress possible.

Judith Kolberg, author of Conquering Chronic Disorganization and ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life, labeled my role as “body double.” Just being in the space with my client increased the odds that dreaded tasks would be faced and completed.

When faced with boring tasks that seem overwhelming, consider finding a body double to help you. I am a paid professional body double. In that role I am fairly directive. But many people just need a non-judgmental, caring person who is willing to be present while they work. The person can assist at your request, but should not take the lead unless they have your permission. Often their presence alone, which makes the task a social event, provides support and grounds them, is enough.

As we were leaving the school following our session my client’s last words were, “Well, I feel better.” You can too! Find a good body double!

Clearing Clutter/Getting Things Done Connection

When I recently reflected back on the 11+ years that I have been working full-time as a professional organizer and the two to three years that I have been writing regularly about my organizing experiences and lessons I’ve learned, I realized that there are two areas of the organizing process that I enjoy most: clutter clearing and helping people get things done. I am both very sensitive to energy and visually oriented, therefore I am very affected by the negative effects of clutter. And, I’m a task-oriented person. I like to get things done, finished, settled, decided. So, it makes sense that clutter clearing and getting things done would be my primary areas of interest.

After I pinpointed my primary organizing interests I began to think about the connection between clutter clearing and getting things done. Here are some of my thoughts:

  1. Clutter is a physical block to getting things done. The negative energy of clutter blocks both the thinking and the inclination to get things done.
  2. Clearing clutter makes it possible to see what needs to be done and frees energy to make taking action possible.
  3. When clutter has been cleared it is easier to plan what needs to be done and to problem-solve how to get things done.
  4. Some clutter is the physical evidence of tasks that have not been done. For example you might leave the paint can and brush out in a room to remind you to touch up a painted surface.
  5. Unfinished projects can have the same negative energy as clutter.
  6. Getting things done reduces clutter.

Clearly clearing clutter and getting things done are intertwined! Go clear some clutter today and make it easier to get things done!

Conclusions:

  • If people made a commitment to keeping their spaces clutter free, they would be more productive.
  • If people were more productive, there would be less clutter.

Want More Energy? Clear Clutter!

Yesterday I had the honor of helping a lovely twelve year old girl, “Anna”, clear clutter from her bedroom. You may be thinking, “What’s the big deal? Why is that an honor?” It’s an honor because she welcomed me into her personal space and gave me permission to guide her in her decision-making. When I help people clear clutter, the energies in their lives shift and change for the better. It was an honor to be on that journey with her.

As we began working, Anna was reserved and somewhat aloof with me. That behavior is very common when I first begin clutter clearing with new clients. It was especially reasonable for a child working with an adult she hardly knew.

The way I work is to ask questions about the items in the room, starting with the biggest and moving on to the smallest. As we moved through that process it was fascinating to observe Anna morph from a self-contained soul sitting curled up in a little ball on her bed, answering my questions in a perfunctory manner, into an excited young colt bounding around the room gathering up items to evaluate and discard. Her shift from no energy to boundless energy was impressive.

I can’t remember the specific moment when Anna’s energy shifted. I have a hunch that it happened when we moved a small dresser from her closet to make more room for her to work in her closet. The dresser was a significant block to her being able to easily access her clothes and put them away. Moving it seemed to move Anna energetically from an overwhelmed, discouraged child into an enthusiastic young woman. From then on she worked with me with gusto, speed and focus. It was such a pleasure to be in that process with her. My challenge at that point was to contain her enthusiasm so we didn’t get ahead of ourselves in the clearing process.

In three hours Anna’s clearing transformed her room from that of a little girl to that of an adolescent. With her mother’s blessing I gave her permission to decide which items would stay and which would be donated, trashed or moved to another location. While having the right to choose was no doubt empowering and motivating for Anna, releasing huge quantities of books, toys, clothing and several large pieces of furniture was what shifted her mood and her energy. She was so relieved and excited to have the burden of too much stuff removed from her space. Anna now had room for her evolving adolescent self to grow and thrive. I predict she’ll have a great school year!

What things in your space are blocking your energy? If you have clutter, you are blocked in some way. Clear that clutter and watch your energy re-emerge. It’s worth the effort!