The Clutter Exterminator

As a designer it often feels like I'm a one woman destroyer of all things sentimental. When a client wants real recommendations on what to change inevitably I end up hurting some feelings. Discover how you can set feelings aside and join me in exterminating your clutter!

Perhaps some of you have seen the show on A&E called Hoarders – think “Clean House” x10. If you’ve seen the show, you’ve seen the tales of people who have so much junk they can’t really function in society. Despite encouragement from those around them these hoarders can’t emotionally part with their worthless junk.  I have recorded and watched bits and pieces with my daughter. It’s a little bit therapeutic for her because she has her own collecting obsession. I’m sure it’s common for most kids to have a sense of attachment to things that are “theirs”. My daughter has the tendency to take it to the extreme, she wants to keep everything; lids to water bottles, scraps from paper cutouts, garbage off the craft store floor broken plastic Easter eggs, etc.

I’m afraid in my experience it’s not just kids who have a bit of a “collecting” problem. While there are few people who hoard until they become dysfunctional in society and appear on cable TV, all of us have “stuff” that we have held onto for way too long. Even I still have a few crafts I made as a child. The problem with clutter is more than aesthetic. It bogs us down, contributes to stress, keeps us from feeling free, and clouds our thinking.

Think about your own home. Do you have twiggy crafts and outdated knickknacks? If you have lived in a home for more than a year there is a good chance the answer is YES! Don’t be embarrassed, everyone accumulates junk. Making crafts is fun, buying accessories is fun, redecorating is fun, and it can be hard to throw away something you spent time or money on. When you’re throwing away something you’ve spent time or money on it can feel like you’re actually throwing away time or money. Not to mention the sentimental value and great memories you may have had making or buying your “stuff”. So how do you do it? How do you rid yourself of the clutter critters who have infested your home?

“Simplicity requires ruthlessness.” Timothy Ferris

It’s not easy to be the exterminator of your own clutter, but it can be done. I suggest 3 techniques to make a difference starting with your first treatment – speed, quantity, photography.

  1. Speed– Speed is critical when taking action to de-clutter, take the Band-Aid approach. Plan the time to tackle at least a whole room at a time. Once you get through the initial pain of throwing out old treasures you’ll start to feel the relief and then the excitement of simplifying your life. It’s important to capitalize on that feeling in the moment.
  2. Quantity – Set a specific minimum quantity goal when you go into a room of how much you are going to get rid of. This makes the decision process easy. I’ve found it very reasonable to open a stuffed closet and decide 50% of this has to go. With a quantity in mind decisions can be made quickly. Divide your clutter into two piles, tidy up and put away what you’re keeping, take the rest out immediately.
  3. Photography- Photography is perhaps your greatest ally in overcoming your emotional hesitations to de-cluttering. Taking pictures of your cherished treasures or taking pictures of yourself WITH your cherished treasures allows you to save the memory and remove the clutter. Remember, you may have an emotional attachment to something, but it doesn’t have an emotional attachment to you!

Take the opportunity this spring to free yourself of the clutter moving in around you. I promise that as you clear clutter out you’ll feel like you’re also moving stress out of your life. Good luck filing up that digital camera – and the garbage can!


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