To remove clutter will open you up to a brand new view on life. When your landscape is clear, you can move forward with ease.

Clutter is like the sneaky cold virus that comes in on a whisper. At first, you don’t notice its entrance. It hides in the quiet recesses of the unnoticed, slowly building on itself until it gets nice and comfy. Then it begins to multiply, stretching beyond natural, taking over territories not able to coexist peacefully in its presence. Before long, it clouds the once pure space that offered tranquility and rest. It thrives in the new chaos it forms, casting upon us an obnoxious force that inevitably overruns the very environment we need to sustain our focus, health, and overall quality of life.

Just like my character Lia, from Sandcastles, begins to understand how the clutter of her busy life chokes her, I also did. Clutter is toxic. Until we remove it, it threatens our health and well-being. 

Clutter gets in the way

Clutter tempts us to procrastinate. It beckons us to focus on what’s around us instead of what’s right smack-dab in front. Clutter is like a clogged highway. It doesn’t allow for freedom of movement. Horns are beeping, tempers are flaring, and we’re just idle, unable to get away from the mess. We can’t accelerate. We can’t flee the scene. We are prisoners to the limitations set by the conditions. No matter how much we focus on getting out of the madness, we simply cannot. We’ve left no room to circumvent the charged emotions or the pileup of excess. We find ourselves stuck in the middle of the crazed chaos, and unless we choose to forgo the similar roadways in the future, we’re at risk of losing ground on our pursuits. As clutter progresses, we digress.

Clutter is toxic.

It eats away at our prolific intentions. It covers us in a film of weariness and frustration that clouds our creative ingenuity.

Clutter enters into our life in many forms. It can be in the form of low-yield tasks, physical stuff, emotional demands placed on us, or even constant worry over things way outside of our control.

We allow clutter in for many reasons. We may find comfort in keeping things, afraid to let them go for sentimental or practical reasons. We may want to please people and not disappoint them by saying no to their demands. We may expect too much of ourselves and overcommit to tasks. We may be incessant worriers who fear losing control over a situation if we stop thinking about it.

Whatever the reason for letting clutter in, we have to understand that it impedes on our ability to be clear and focused.

Neuroscientists at Princeton University studied the differences of people’s task performance in an organized versus disorganized environment. The results showed that clutter competes for your attention, resulting in decreased performance and increased stress.

So what can you do?

Give away an item daily or weekly

Go around your space and tune into the clutter. Find an item and ask yourself if it brings value to your life. If no, give it away, sell it, or recycle it.

Fill a recycle bag

Select an area in your home for a recycle bag. Set a goal to fill that bag weekly with items that no longer add value to your life. Your brain will go on a hunt for items it can use to fill that bag. We are programmed to succeed. We want to fill that bag!

Try the Oprah Winfrey closet hanger experiment

Oprah introduced us to someone’s brilliant idea when it comes to clearing wardrobe clutter. Hang all your clothes with the hangers in the reverse direction. After you wear an item, return it to the closet with the hanger facing the correct direction. After six months, you’ll have a clear picture of which clothes you can easily donate.

This technique also works great for other items in the house. Apply it to toys. Place a sticker on each toy, place them all on a shelf with the sticker facing the wall. After your child plays with them, return it with the sticker facing away from the shelf wall. After six months, you’ll know which toys to donate.

Don’t stop there. You can also apply this concept to baseball hats, everyday shoes, and folded t-shirts in a drawer.

Create a room list

Take some time to draft a list of specific rooms and areas within your home or office that need decluttering. Before I decluttered, my pantry scared me most of all. I hated going into it because I knew my brain would hurt. Over the years, I’d pile things onto shelves and close the door. Well, over time, you can imagine the mess. I dreamed of having a pantry that I could open and see every item. I wanted canned goods to be in one area, not hidden behind bags of flour that expired two years prior. That cluttered pantry took the joy out of cooking.

Determine which areas of your life need organization by figuring out where the mental and physical drains lurk.

After you’ve made your list, commit to tackling one space a week.

Get a new view

I always say that my house is cleanest right before I’m expecting company. This is when I go into ultra-organizing mode. I look around my house and think, well that’s embarrassing! I view my home from the perceived perspective of the visitor and am able to see things I don’t normally see. That pile of extra pillows and blankets I shoved into the corner of the spare bedroom no longer seems fitting when my best friend is going to see it.

Play frugal consumer

Go around your house and analyze items from the view of a frugal consumer. Ask yourself questions like, how much would I pay for this? If I saw this on a store shelf today, would I buy it? Would I give this item to someone as a gift? When you start to ask yourself questions like this, you are inviting in truthful answers. Your answers should help you determine which items are clutter and which ones still hold value.