Is decluttering an art or a science?

It’s both. There is a principle of separating the stuff that will remain, the stuff that will be thrown out, the stuff that will be recycled and the stuff which will be given away. I suppose you can call that science. It is a form of creating order out of chaos. The way things are put back and are moved is more subjective, more like an art.  The mode of separating is somewhat mechanical- but the way things are put back is aesthetic. Since you are going through so much trouble, it makes sense you should be happy with the outcome.

How do you separate stuff?

Well, you should be careful that your cluttering tendencies will not sabotage your efforts. So, it might be best that you put out four boxes in four separate areas- so that you can easily regroup if you leave for a while. For some people, decluttering will be a few hours- but there are those who might be spending days or even weeks. So, a few boxes may not be enough- but putting these things in three separate areas might work.

What if the decluttering begin to hurt and gives you a headache?

I don’t mean this literally- most of the time. But let’s face it, part of the reason you have had clutter is that you hate to throw away things. For some people, they are afraid to throw away that quaint little figure they bought on their vacation in Branson, in others it might be the accumulation of old paper folders that have writing on them but might prove useful in the far future. There are no rules about this- but if you have created a picture as to what these might be for a specific outcome then you ought to have pre-thought to some extent what will guide you to keep certain things or give them away, recycle them or throw them out.

Are you telling me that you want me to develop an entirely new mindset?

Frankly, it might be necessary to evaluate the mindset that led you into this mess. For some, it might be rebellion against your mother’s all too stern decrees to clean your room. And because of this rebellion, you never learned the joys of putting things in closets and shelves and the wonderful feeling of living and breathing in a tidy room. For others, it might be the joy of listening to music or playing video games when the clock is ticking right before dinner and afterward, you are going out with your friends. Or you hate the idea of throwing out or giving away any tools. After all, they cost money- and even if you haven’t used that special screwdriver in fifteen years, so you wade every day through an ocean of tools and often can’t find anything. The answer, in general, is to realize there is a difference between living efficiently and carefully and keeping things that you really need or really like. And heaven helps us, probably tossing or giving away all the other crap.

How do you pro-actively prevent more clutter?

I saw an ad for a program that included how to prevent getting flustered during the actual shooting of your own business video. He said to think it out first. Well, the fact is- that people who clutter have certain resistance problems to decluttering- otherwise they would have done it before. So, there could be an attempt to do things quickly and superficially instead of thinking about them in detail. Everything should have a pre-designated place. Be a high-level planner.

How do you prevent freaking out during the often long, tedious process which you hated so much in the past, that you let everything go haywire?

This is where it pays to be gentle with yourself.  Unless there is some pressing external reason, you should go at a fairly slow, methodical pace, making sure everything goes into the right area or box.

Give yourself a little clutter-addiction therapy.

Take a look inside yourself and see if you can discern any particular reason why you avoid leading a nice, regular life without smothering yourself with chaos. If you find something, like the cause of your resistance, don’t hate yourself for it and try and talk about it to yourself. Forgive yourself but don’t forget your old, self-sabotaging ways.  Remind yourself about what a great feeling it is to have an ordered environment around you- one whose structure and aesthetics was entirely up to you.

Can you turn all this into a profit-making venture instead of tossing everything into the garbage or giving everything to your friends and neighbors?

Maybe your friends and neighbors don’t want the stuff, but maybe a little ad in your local weekly newspaper might earn you a couple of hundred dollars while you sit on your porch and talk to your phone. But some people may find themselves with a bloody fortune. So, here and there, for art or jewelry or even some old vinyl records (in good condition), you might opt for an appraisal.

When should you make your way to the garbage bin?

Some things are crying to be thrown away. Yes, you feel sorry for them. Yes, you might one day pick one of those things up and look at it fondly. But, yes, be reasonable and throw out things that are worn, outdated, or have only the faintest sentimental value. This is called Tough Love- for inanimate objects.

What if you have extra stuff that you just love and want to hold onto but, if you do, you will feel smothered in things?

Think about your garage, your basement or your Aunt Alice’s garage or basement. And, yes, if you have to, think about a storage unit.

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