There are a multitude of reasons why some of us collect clutter while others seem to have it figured out and maintain a clutter-free oasis. Some reasons include our personality type, our upbringing, our motivation, time pressures or some combination of them all.
There are also as many reasons to avoid clutter. Firstly, it’s is a health hazard with many injuries caused by tripping over items left in random places. Secondly, clutter doesn’t look good and thirdly, it’s hard to find things. Too much clutter can make preparing to move home a much bigger challenge than it needs to be and how many of our children will thank us for leaving them with piles of “stuff” when we are gone.
After years of encouraging others to start decluttering early if they are thinking of downsizing, I wonder why I find it so hard to get rid of unused items. Many items, I’m sure, will be useful at some point, and then there are the pictures the kids created at primary school, my large collection of books (and a pile of my dad’s books as well – all neatly inscribed for each birthday or Christmas). Emotional connections.
The best ways to declutter are well known. Experts say create three piles of items as they are being cleared – items to be thrown away, items to be donated and items to be kept. But they don’t come with instructions on how to start and how to stay decluttered. After reading several books on decluttering I had collected a few more ideas such as having a place for everything, keeping like-items together and trying to discard an item when a new one is purchased.
However, it was the next book on my list that has given me hope in my efforts towards minimalism (or at least decluttering). It is the well-known and best-selling book by James Clear named Atomic Habits. This book offers so many good ideas on how to get started on a new habit, maintain a habit, and how to break bad habits.
Some of the gems that I have taken away from the book include habit-stacking; starting a new habit by tying it to something that is already a regular habit or occurrence e.g., if you have a regular house keeper visiting then you could choose a time before, during or after their cleaning to do decluttering.
Another learning is that it is easier to maintain a habit if there is some immediate reward. That ties in with the advice to start decluttering with a small area such as a cupboard or even a shelf. Then there is the satisfaction of having completed a task.
In his book, James Clear recommends keeping track of progress by putting a cross on the calendar or something similar. Missing one day may happen through something that can’t be avoided but never miss two days. It is better to do something small as long as you turn up.