We all know the old saying that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. The same principle can very easily be applied to clutter clearing too.
The trick to successful clutter clearing is to begin small and take it a step at a time.
Use 20-minute time boxes
Begin by choosing a small area that contains things you do not have any emotional attachments to – just a drawer, a shelf, a small cupboard or something similar. Set your timer for 20 minutes and begin.
When your timer alarm sounds, stop and feel how you feel. If you feel like you’re done for the day, that’s fine. If you feel like doing a bit more, set the timer for another 20 minutes and continue in the same area if there is more to do, or move to another area that needs your attention.
Continue in 20-minute time boxes, pausing after each one to assess if you would like to finish at that point or keep going.
If you have good stamina and find that 20 minutes is too short, set your timer for 30 minutes or an hour. But be sure to stop before you feel too tired. When you end each session feeling good, you will be more likely to return the next day to do more.
Why timeboxes work so well
The lovely thing about timeboxing is that each small area you clear releases energy for you to do more. The stagnant energy that accumulates around clutter causes you to feel tired but when you start clearing it, this frees up stuck energy in your home and also energizes you. In fact, so many people have experienced this invigorating effect that I once wrote an article with the title, Don’t read or listen to this book at bedtime! to warn what can happen if you read my book too late at night.
Doing 20-minute timeboxes also means that with each one you complete, you will experience the feel-good dopamine release that accompanies achievement, which will encourage you to want to do more.
Break each area down into small, manageable chunks
Don’t make the mistake of dragging everything out of your cupboards or closets, piling it in the centre of the room and trying to sort the whole lot out in one go. I’ve never heard from anyone with more than a trivial amount of clutter that this method worked for them.
Instead, break each area into small, manageable chunks. If you are clutter clearing a cupboard, work shelf by shelf, completing each one before moving on to the next. For chests of drawers or dressers, work drawer by drawer. If you have a whole junk room full of clutter, divide it into chunks and tackle each area one at a time. If you get easily distracted, spread sheets or blankets over the other stuff in the room to hide it from view, which will enable you to focus completely on the area you are working on.
Use the box system to sort through your clutter
The box system described in Chapter 16 of my book, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, doesn’t take long to set up and will help you enormously to sort through your things and make decisions about what stays and what goes. Two boxes that are particularly useful are the Transit box and the Dilemma box.
The Transit Box is used when you are sorting through an area and find things that don’t belong there at all. Suppose you find a kettle that has somehow ended up at the back of a shelf in your bedroom closet. You may be tempted to take it to the kitchen, plug it in and see if it works, then perhaps make yourself a cup of tea. And before you know it you are sitting in the garden reading a book while you drink your cuppa and you’ve forgotten all about your clutter clearing mission.
Using my method, you put the item in the Transit box and carry on. At the end of the session, you go around your home putting the items in the box where they belong, or if you don’t yet have space for them, put them near where they belong.
The Dilemma box is another lovely invention. When you come across something that you can’t decide whether to keep or let go, in the past this may have brought your clutter clearing session to an abrupt standstill. But if you use a Dilemma box, any items you are not sure about can get put in there, and you can just continue.
At the end of the session, stash the Dilemma box away somewhere and put a reminder on your calendar to check it a few months later. The passage of time will usually bring much more clarity about whether to keep the items or not, especially if you haven’t used any of them in the intervening period.
If you’d like a more radical approach, ask a friend to open the box for you. Anything you can name, you get to keep. If you can’t remember what’s in there, it rather proves the point that you don’t need any of the things, and your friend gets to take them away and dispose of them for you in any way they see fit!
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Have you used my box system to clear your clutter? How much clutter were you able to clear? Feel free to add your comments or questions below.