Conquering The Mess

I woke up this morning feeling overwhelmed.

My writing to-do list is obscenely long. Every single item on it is overdue. The desk is obscured by clothes and knick-knacks. The laundry basket is overweight. And the dishes in the kitchen sink are like sullen children sat for far too long in a bathtub.

There is clutter everywhere.

If you’re anything like me, clutter causes stress, weighs you down, and makes you even more unproductive — which only makes matters worse. But finding the time to declutter can seem impossible. How do you conquer the mess?

As I am a list-fanatic, my first reaction — after a good ten minutes of lying in bed feeling sorry for myself — was to grab a paper and pen, and start writing a list.

List #1 – What To Declutter:

  • The entire house
  • Computer
  • Writing commitments
  • Editing commitments
  • Website

The above list only made me feel worse. The problem is that it’s too general, so I didn’t know where to start and felt even more overwhelmed/stressed.

The only item on the list that I could easily tackle — my website — was the only one I managed to fix. (Cue compliments from you readers on the streamlined site design.)

My mistake was focusing on WHAT needed to be done, rather than HOW best to do it. So I started a second list.

List #2 – How To Declutter:

  1. Start small. Tackle one shelf, one cupboard, or one overflowing email inbox at a time. The mess didn’t happen overnight and it isn’t going to disappear overnight.
  2. Be unsentimental. If it hasn’t been used in a year and probably won’t be used in the next, throw it away.
  3. Be charitable. Can’t throw something away that’s still in good condition? Donate it to charity — a guilt-free way to get rid of clutter!
  4. Make quick decisions. Sorting and re-sorting will take forever. Trash it or keep it!
  5. The ‘maybe’ box. Anything on the fence gets put in a maybe box with a sell-by date. If that box isn’t opened by the sell-by date, everything inside goes into the bin.
  6. Create a system. Not having one is like trying to shovel snow while it’s still snowing: the clutter will just keep coming back.
  7. Celebrate victories. Cue pat on the back for doing the website!

There you go. I’m feeling better already!

What about you? Do you have any suggestions to add?

5 thoughts on “Conquering The Mess

  1. I think that’s a good how-to guide! It’s pretty much how I do it. I’ve learned to be ruthless and now get a huge kick out of getting rid of things. Pretty much everything I remove from the house goes to charity, even the things I could potentially sell – it’s way easier to have it gone from the house than sitting around, potentially tempting me into reinstalling it in the house ;-)

    • Exactly! I used to keep things in a box to post on ebay, then would never get round to posting it on there, and rummage through the box and get excited about re-discovering junk. Oops?

      Being ruthless is key, I think. I’m going to have to get my boyfriend round to help me sort through my clothes — those seem to be the hardest to throw out!

  2. I am in a need-to-declutter mood right now. I seriously need to print out your list and get to it. I know it has to be done, and it does feel SO GOOD after it’s done!

    • It’s like some kind of autumnal version of spring cleaning — it’s infecting everyone!

      The only way I manage to do it is to set aside a good chunk of time (a morning or so) to de-clutter. Other people prefer to just de-clutter 5-10 minutes a day.

      Maybe we should throw a de-cluttering party! Since posting the blog, I’ve spent an hour or so going through the kitchen and bathroom and am fairly proud for having thrown away: a spare electric kettle, 2 rubber ducks, a broken jelly bean dispenser machine, a battered oven dish, a mound of plastic bags, lots of out-of-date medicine, and a water filter that hasn’t been used for 6 months. Hurray!

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