As we near the end of another semester in our declutter small group, I’ve been thinking about simple nuggets of wisdom from everything the ladies and I have discussed over the past 8-10 weeks. Because my approach to decluttering is to break it down to small, simple step, I’ve come up with 4 Four Letter Words to simplify some of the key points in my daily attempts to live life less cluttered.
Time. Work. Plan. Find.
Stuff = Time. Plain and simply, the more stuff we have, the more TIME we spend tending to it. The less stuff we have, the less TIME we spending caring for it. Just because the ratio of stuff:time rises and falls proportionally, the value between the two do not. We should use what we have to assist our lives in more deserving priorities. We should not be serving our stuff. If you feel like you are a slave to your clutter (insert me five years ago) then perhaps it’s time to get a better plan for managing what you have. Every time we buy a thing, receive a gift, or choose to keep something without reason, we should remind ourselves that Stuff = Time. When stuff becomes our priority, often time becomes secondary. There must be a shift in perspective to reprioritize our time and this change can begin when we start to understand the importance for placing a method for decluttering in our homes that we practice daily for the duration of our lives. In order to gain back the time that has been sucked out of our lives and replaced by clutter, we must declutter consistently. We live in a world full of temptation to mindlessly take in stuff. Without intentional effort to remove items from our homes, time will continue to drift away as we stay busy running one more errand or finishing one more chore.
I set a few parameters when I am making decisions for the things I cohabitate with in my home. I say cohabitate because that is essentially what it is. I am residing in a house with many things and I have a different relationship with each one of them. Some I bought because I was bored, some things I thought I needed, some I wanted, some were freebies, some I keep because of the memories, some I don’t know why. At some point, everything in my house was a thing that I made a decision to live with and there must come a time where I re-evaluate if the things I own are still working for my life. When I look at what is around me and wonder how in the heck it came to be that I have so many things, and yet never gave a thought about them past the day they came through the door, I’m really serving myself an injustice. I am living in relationship with my things, but my things will never ask what their places are in my life. At some point, I have to revisit and decide if the things I own are working in the season of life that I am living in. “Does this WORK for me now?” And I would say that question also includes, “Is this something I am currently enjoying?” Saying that we should filter our things to only what we are using strips us down to bare bones walls that I fear many of us associate minimalism with. You know as well as I that there are varying degrees for interpreting terms, so don’t let your mind venture off to a place that seems unbearable and restricting because we’ve associated decluttering with a trend to own as little as possible. That’s not the point here. There has to be a balance between keeping things that we use, but also keeping things for pure joy. Think of it this way, “Does this item WORK for my mind when I look at it?” Keep the things that work for your life and if that parameter is not enough, keep reading.
You may have things you choose to keep that you are not currently using in your life but you know you shouldn’t completely remove them just quite yet. As you read my words, between the lines I hope you receive the notion that intentionalism should be in every choice that you make with the things you own. The word PLAN is huge for me because I am a planner by nature. If something is not working in my life at the current moment, there should a plan for when I will use it in the future. The easiest thing that comes to mind is the lawnmower in the winter. I don’t donate the lawnmower because it’s only needed 5 months out of the year, but I also know the specific time that will come when I will need it. Specific is the important part here.
For my Enneagram readers, know that I’m a type 7, future driven, fun-loving, wanna do all the things, quirky, hot mess. I LOVE life and, “yeah me”, but hold up and let’s go back to word number 1 – TIME. There’s not enough time in the day to do all the things, experience everything there is to be done, and for me, repurpose all of the trashes to treasures. I could seriously plan my life away, be perfectly content doing it, and forget to enjoy the things in front of me. Sometimes planning the next project is more exciting than doing it and this is where I’ve had to check myself into some true self awareness to overcome my personal clutter issues. Not only do I love to plan projects, I equally like to shop for them, but at the end of the day, one key step just happens to skip my mind – planning for the time. When this happens, I end up with little piles of craft supplies or DIY tidbits stashed in corners of my home waiting on the infamous One Day. As I keep chasing One Day, many actual days pass and I acquire more things that cover up my project things and clutter continues to rise while good intentions get lost underneath the messes created by the things I use daily in my home. Planning a project with good intentions is not the same as intentionally planning a project. I have halted this madness by asking myself, “Do I have time to carry out the plan?” You may not be a project driven consumer but you are a consumer nonetheless, and with anything we purchase for our home there should be a PLAN to use that thing either immediately or in the specific future.
Find? Let’s talk about this word – FIND. I would say the word find is one that I use to set a parameter for where I put things in my home, as opposed to the first three words that are used to make decisions for what to keep and release. Picture the scenario: You’re hosting dinner. Guests arrive in 30 minutes and there’s a bit of tidying up that needs to be done, among other things. In a rush to be the good host, tidying up turns into tossing toys in closets and cramming randoms things into any free, closable space you can find.
I remember this use to be the way I thought cleaning up happened. Just find an empty space and shove whatever you can to keep it out of sight. Once I could no longer close the door, then it was time to get rid of some things. That type of cleaning was a comfort and a curse for my anxiety. Comfort in the moment because the clutter was gone. Curse in the future when I opened that door (carefully) catching whatever fell out because I was looking for something that was lost in an abyss of junk. I knew I had to get a grip on this when I became a mother. Taking on the responsibility of two additional people and their stuff will drive anyone mad quickly if you’re always losing things you need because you don’t know where they are when you need them. As best as I can, everything within my home has a home and it’s also a principle I try to teach my kids. Any time I put anything, anywhere, I ask myself, “Am I going to be able to FIND this thing here when the time comes that I need to use it?” I even go so far as to take a mental picture of it in my head. I stare at it for a brief few seconds, noting where it is placed in that space in relation to other items near it. I also note what I was doing at the time that I put it away. Was I cooking dinner? Was it early in the morning? Did I just work out?
I do anything I can to create a memory for where I put that thing so I can FIND it when the time comes that I need it. Obviously, returning things to the same place over and over again is the best way to ensure that it will be there when I need it, so my mental camera and note pad is reserved for new items. I can recall countless times as a child asking my mother where something was and her response was always to retrace the steps I took before I lost it. I was never thinking about the steps I took before I lost something, but reversing the action and retracing my steps did often help me recover the thing. By making mental notes and being honest about how I am storing things, I’m able to reduce the number of things I lose in my house. No more nooks and crannies. No more junk drawers.
And there you have 4 Four Letter words that I use daily in my own attempts to Live Life Less Cluttered. For more declutter tips and tricks, follow me on IG @life_less_cluttered.