I’m doing more organizing these days. Still coaching, of course, and coaching within the context of the organizing sessions – but the need for clutter assistance is not going away anytime soon. I’ve always enjoyed helping people in this way, too. I talk with clients about “low-hanging fruit” – the more straightforward stuff and decisions that can open up a little crack in the overwhelming boulder of a process. While it’s often something like grabbing a box and going after the obvious giveaway items, it struck me the other day that the “no’s” for keeping stuff at bay can be pretty easy, too. It’s like setting boundaries for yourself on the front end, and it adds up. There are tons of prevention strategies that, if caught in the moment, are powerful. To name a few:
- Bulk mail advertisements (i.e., JUNK) do not deserve your precious, finite energy and attention – nor do they deserve a space on the counter. If you get caught up in wondering, “Gee, maybe I do need to see about a quote for installing UV protectant on my windows…” stop and consider: were you thinking about that in the first place? And if you were, where would you head first for more information? I’ll bet you a box of shredding, not to the pile of paper on the kitchen table. Imagine yourself as the human equivalent of a spam filter, and pitch all that stuff before it even gets through the door.
- Consider – the math, social studies, and spelling tests from this school year are not your child. They are pieces of paper with pencil marks on them, and they are not relevant now. Recycle them all, enjoy the freedom, and relish having the space to sit down and work a puzzle with said child.
- That holiday card is not your favorite cousin’s family. It’s a card, which is a piece of pressed wood pulp with a chemical likeness of people you happen to love. Throw it out and Facetime them this weekend. Also, read this and maybe reconsider the whole card situation anyway (I’m suddenly feeling guilty about my son’s graduation announcements – friends and family, you can totally pitch those now).
- Twelve-dollar check-out line magazines. No. Just…no.
- That subscription box is not a fun bargain. It’s a collection of someone else’s decisions adding to your monthly pileup like Great Aunt Edna’s bolognese on spaghetti. Shut them off and take a little time to choose things for yourself – things you use and appreciate. Note: I have a deep dislike of subscription boxes of any kind. If there’s a person out there who has truly used every single item that comes to you, who never has box “leftovers” with no place to go, I’d love to hear about it. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
- Those giveaways you picked up at an event are not free – they are little rubber and plastic dopamine pushers that, while fun in the moment, eventually cost you peace of mind fretting over what to do with them. They end up wandering the confines of a junk drawer, pushed to and fro as you search for the dog’s nail clippers. They may even cost time and money if you get fed up and reach out to someone like me to help clear everything out. So admire that booth at the expo. Talk to the people. Learn. But when it comes to those chip clips and stress balls, keep walking.
- That yard sale bird house is not a quick deal. I get it – you’re super creative and you love wildlife. On the optimistic side, it’s an entire Saturday project of repairing, painting (oops, and a trip to Lowe’s for finishing nails, a paintbrush, and birdseed – more stuff), hauling out the ladder, debating with your spouse about the right branch, filling and hanging. On the pessimistic side, it’s a thing languishing in the garage that’s also taking up space in your brain. Harsh? Maybe – but the point is to proactively consider the entirety of what that one “quick, cheap” purchase will mean for you.
- The “perfectly good” stuff your parents brought over – who is it perfect for? OK, so no, this is not low-hanging fruit. I acknowledge gifting (and potential rejection of such) is a toughy – there are all those guilty feelings to consider. So maybe the message here is more for the loving parents out there: please, ask first before you cheerily show up with that card table. And if the answer is “no, thank you,” perhaps you can be grateful that your children were so incredibly well-raised and independent that they now have their own furniture, decor, books, vinyl records, flower pots, and tools.
Sure, you could sell off, trash, or donate most of these things when you get around to it. You can always let go of them…later. But why even go there in the first place? What kinds of prevention strategies do you use to keep things under control?