Lose the Clutter, Find Your Soul
By Kama Lee Jackson
Microsoft Home Magazine
April 12, 2005 For Janette Kincaid, clutter isn’t just taking up space in her home. It’s taking up space in her thoughts, day and night.
“I’ve got a list going in my head as to which rooms or areas I need to tackle first,” says the Burlington, Ont., working mother of two. “The other night I couldn’t sleep. I got up, went through and organized my youngest daughter’s drawers. It had been bothering me that they were so full of stuff that she can’t wear anymore.”
This urgent need to organize is a rising feeling in homeowners who, according to Regina Leeds, a Los Angeles-based professional organizer, are starting to come out of the clutter closet in greater numbers and admitting they need help.
Leeds, author of The Zen of Organizing: Creating Order and Peace in Your Home, Career and Life (Alpha Books, 2002), says her clients often feel “overwhelmed by the way the chaos feels.”
That’s a feeling Kincaid knows all too well. “I feel out of control,” she says. “The clutter makes me feel nervous, uptight, uncomfortable and disappointed. I’d rather not deal with the mess because it seems like too big a task to complete, at times insurmountable. So, instead of cleaning it up, the mess just gets bigger.”
Unclutter your mind
According to Leeds, these feelings can be linked directly to the clutter. “Your ability to think clearly, live without unnecessary stress, be healthy and productive, manage time and money, have peaceful relationships with others — all are compromised by chaotic environments,” she says.
Valerie Samson, a certified Feng Shui consultant and chair of the Feng Shui Association of Canada, concurs. “Too much furniture, a closet full of clothes you never wear, stacks of magazines you are going to read someday — they all create a life which quite literally may not allow space for new experiences or benefits in your life.”
Samson points to how parents create rooms for children that soothe, nurture and stimulate — a philosophy of environment that also applies to adults. “We human beings are instinctive creatures,” she says. “We respond to what is around us just as other species interact with their environment.”
Work the guilt
One of the biggest obstacles to getting organized is the guilt a person has about letting things get to an embarrassing point, says Sunny Schlenger, a professional organizer, life coach, speaker and author in Fair Lawn, N.J. “It can be helpful to pretend that your house/office is not yours, but has just been given to you. Therefore, anything you find that is messy, undone, broken is not your fault. Your only task is to bring things up to speed to match the needs you have today.”
Leeds uses what she calls The Magic Formula to bring a degree of order to your home. “If you follow these three simple steps, you can organize anything from a party to your closet,” she says.
Eliminate: Break projects into bit-sized chunks. If you need to organize your office, look at the desk, then at a stack of papers, then go through piece by piece.
Categorize: This happens simultaneously with the first step. If you keep something, it should be with other related items. Put all your batteries in one spot. Hang all your pants in one place; all your shirts in another.
Organize: Once you have categories, you can create a system. In your closet, you can arrange all your categories by colour and use one type of hangar to create a uniform look.
Try setting up room-by-room checklists using Word or Excel. There are plenty of great tips online to help you. Or try the clickable house, which provides advice for each room.
Keep your personality in mind when organizing, says Schlenger. “If you’re more comfortable with things in view instead of out of sight, opt for products that allow that,” she says. “You won’t stick with anything that doesn’t support your natural tendencies or idiosyncrasies.”
Most importantly, remember whom this process is about. Is it possible that the most important thing you’ll find under all that clutter is yourself? Kincaid thinks it just might be. “A perfectly organized home would make me feel calm and relaxed. I’d feel better about myself, more comfortable in my surroundings.”
Writer, Kama Lee Jackson