To Clean or Not to Clean, That Is the Question

No where is safe from me when I’m on a cleaning frenzy. There are lots of books written to inspire readers to purge and minimize, to get rid of clutter, to decrease the amount of “stuff” one has to what one actually needs. There’s so many suggestions out there; and believe me, I’ve tried many of them.

Here are my top three tips to encourage you to attack your clutter, whether it be a junk drawer that has become a black hole, a closet that has become a dumping ground, or – as it is in my case – a garage that serves as a storage site.

  1. Follow the ten minute rule. If the task seems daunting, attack it in ten minute increments. I actually set a timer and when it beeps, I stop working and walk away from an unfinished task. It’s a mind game. We don’t want to start cleaning up the garage because we know it’s going to take the entire weekend to finish, so we never start because that’s too much time. Ten minutes every day. It doesn’t seem like much and when you first start, it may take a week for you to notice any significant change. I call it baby steps. The idea that I could do just a little bit and the expectation was not to complete the task; just do what you can do in the allotted time. There’s beauty in that. What causes many of us to shy away from big jobs is the monstrosity of effort necessary to tackle the entire task. Ten minutes each day. You can do that!
  2. Purge without attachment. As I sorted through items trying to decide if I should keep something I hadn’t used in over a year, I always considered how much I spent to purchase the item (apparently the more I spent, the more difficult it was to discard), who gave me the item (gifts from my children seemed more valuable than things I had bought myself), and the what if syndrome (what if I need this in the future). Here’s my paradigm shift in regards to this: if you don’t use an item, get rid of it. Feeling guilt because of the money you spent? Be sure you donate it to a worthy cause and find comfort in knowing that someone else will be blessed by your donation. Don’t ever want to forget the treasure your Little One made for you? Take a photo of it and discard the item. Keeping things for a what if moment? Ok, I admit that I have donated items that I later needed … and I had to go out and buy something I had already owned. Honestly, though, 95% of what I donate – I never miss. I don’t use what if as a reason to hold on to stuff anymore.
  3. Removing clutter does not mean getting rid of everything. I am a sentimental soul who loves to reminisce and relishes in keepsakes that trigger special memories. As a result of this, I have boxes of memories: ticket stubs, kids’ artwork, photos, and the like. This spring, I am going to attack sentimental items with a new motivation, realizing that it’s OK to keep a limited amount of stuff. I have over ten boxes of sentimental treasures. My goal? I bought five Rubbermaid totes and labelled them, one for each child and one for me. This tote represents the limits of what I can keep. When it’s full, if I find something else I want to keep, then something in the tote has to come out before new stuff can be placed in. This method allows me to keep special items, but still forces me to get rid of some as well.

I don’t know how much space you have in your house. Or how you have things organized. But, I hope my three suggestions help you reach your goal. My ultimate goal? Parking more than one vehicle in our three car garage. I’ll let you later know how that goes!


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