Finding balance in a chaotic world

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December 2017
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My Continuing War on Clutter

In a couple of weeks our neighborhood garage sale happens. The third Saturday of September each year, our entire neighborhood shuts down. I’m speaking literally. There are so many cars in our division that roads become one way. Parking is any place on the street you can find, otherwise park in the neighborhood across the street and walk. Besides the usual garage sale stuff, people roll out smokers, bake cookies, bring out the ice cream truck, and just about anything else they can think of. For six hours or so the entire neighborhood turns into a giant carnival.


What this means for us is once a year we get rid of all the junk that’s cluttering up our house. Each year I think “this will be the last year we need to sell stuff, we’ve finally gotten rid of it all” only to discover a whole new bunch of stuff to get rid of. The good news is that we are still getting rid of old stuff; we aren’t buying new things and then selling them later. We are just becoming pickier at the stuff we wish to keep.


The downside to all this is that if we have something we want to get rid of, we just put it in a pile in the garage and wait for the neighborhood garage sale. So in September, we have piles all over our house of things we are going to get rid of. Once it is gone, there is an actual feeling of release and less tension in the air as our living space becomes more habitable once again.


So that’s where we are today. A week before the garage sale and the entryway to the house is full of stuff. Half of the garage is covered in stuff. Piers’ room has stuff in his old crib. Basically we have piles of stuff to sell and it’s driving me crazy. So I decided I needed to do something about it.


Actually, I’m not touching the stuff. Its fate is already sealed. In one week we’ll sell it and everything that doesn’t get sold gets donated. So I will just live with the clutter for a little longer. I have noticed, however, that there are pockets of clutter all around our house that aren’t going into the garage sale. This is what I want to tackle.


So here is my plan. This weekend I’m going to go to every room in the house with a clip board. Any place that has any kind of clutter build up will be written down. These then become the “danger areas” in the house, the places where the clutter builds. Once identified, I plan to tackle each danger area.


The first step is to remove everything from the danger area and spread it out on the floor or a table. This way I see everything that is crammed into that space, and let me tell you, it is always a lot. I then sort into three piles: return, move, or trash. Trash is stuff we just don’t need, move is to find a new home for the item, and return means it goes back to where I found it. Now the return pile is tricky because I’ve discovered that clutter attracts clutter. It is just easier to toss something on top of something already there. Ideally there will be no return pile, but sometimes things just need to go there. Once a danger area has been tackled, I hope to keep it off limits for more junk. This will prove to be the trickiest point of the plan, but scheduled reviews of each danger area should help keep it clean.


I really like the concept of the danger area because I’ve noticed that certain parts of our house are just conducive to collecting clutter. I’m hoping that once identified, I can keep them from being clutter magnets. It may be that we rearrange furniture or adjust how that space is being used so that clutter can’t build up there, or we may just have a new house rule that you don’t place things there. Either way, once I remove the clutter in a danger area, I don’t want to see it coming back.


So take a look around your house this weekend and map out your danger areas. Tackle one area every day or two and soon you will be free of the oppression of clutter. Then simply maintain those areas for a few minutes each week and see if your mental state isn’t improved. I almost guarantee it will be.