One day your kitchen table is free and clear for family dinners and then suddenly piles of outdated mail, last year’s birthday presents, and a sea of grocery bags are your new place settings. Clutter has a magical way of multiplying. Once the chaos has taken over the cracks and crevices of your closets and cabinets, it’s difficult to know where to begin to make room. How can you create the space you need to feel free again?
If the mere mention of decluttering sounds daunting, know that you’re not alone. Colgan Tyler, psychotherapist, and one of the owners of Mandala House, says, “Clutter can be emotionally overwhelming because it means something to the person to whom it belongs or who is keeping it.” Colgan goes on to say it’s important for people to know what their so-called clutter represents. People can keep items for many reasons: unresolved grief, a lifelong struggle to organize, or even a habit of holding on to the past can be a cause.
When you’re ready to begin decluttering, Sally Scott, founder and owner of the Southern Indiana-based business PA For A Day, says, “Starting is the hardest part.” PA (personal assistant) For A Day focuses on tasks like house management, decluttering, organizing, and transitioning folks to a new living space. Sally says people can overanalyze the decluttering process and become stuck, “I tell people to just start moving and don’t overthink it.”
People can keep items for many reasons: unresolved grief, a lifelong struggle to organize, or even a habit of holding on to the past can be a cause.”
When helping her clients, Sally starts simple. She says, “…begin by categorizing and putting stuff in piles.” You can group your piles in any way you prefer. First, Sally places items that are definite keepers into a “save” pile. Next, place objects that you’re not so sure about into a separate pile to be appraised later. Sally always saves the emotional decisions of what stays and what goes for last, “Then ask yourself, ‘Do I really need this?’” Sally says.
Another one of Sally’s pro tips for organizing is working backward. “Let’s go through it (household objects) first then we can decide what receptacles you need for the things you keep. It will all become clear as we organize,” she says. Once you decide what stays, what can be donated, and what can be thrown out, Sally says baskets and storage bins keep life tidy. “Receptacles can save all the world’s problems,” she quips.
There are definite advantages to organizing the space in which you live. Colgan says, “Having a household that reflects a healthy balance of ‘holding on and letting go’ has benefits.” He goes on to say that a person will likely feel they have more power, more control in their lives. Sally witnesses this shift and says, “It makes you feel good because you’re doing something that has been on your list forever.”
If saying goodbye to mementos and objects still feels overwhelming, know that you can ask for help from friends, family members, or a kind neighbor. As Sally says, “Once you start moving and organizing, it’s unbelievably motivating.”
By Tonilyn Hornung