It’s easier to declutter a space than it is to maintain it. Once you have a space cleared off, it feels so good, but unless daily habits have been changed there’s reasonable chance that the empty space will become a catch all once again. When you feel like you’re in the constant cycle of clutter, declutter, and reclutter, only self-awareness will bring relief to the frustrations that arise from repeating the cycle. So while it may be doable to declutter and organize a whole room or even an entire house, committing to maintain it is a lofty goal. Decluttering is a slow process. True decluttering is essentially reversing life long habits that we all have because we live in a world that pushes and tempts us to over consume.
True decluttering is the adversary. It’s looking inward and noticing the weak spots. It’s walking into a store two steps ahead of the purchase you would have made and realizing that you don’t really have a good enough reason to buy it. The feeling of excitement that will live short-term after treating yourself will fade within a few days once it becomes one. more. thing. to manage at home. Where do you shop when you’re bored, upset, mad, or feel deserving? What are the things you can’t let go because of fear, anxiety, sadness, or security? The answer to these questions is where we find our two steps ahead.
Our stuff is just stuff and while our stuff does provoke feeling and recounts memories, our stuff does not have feelings. A pair of shoes feels good around your feet, but that pair of shoes has no feeling on your feet. But let me get off my soap box and get back to the point of this post – maintaining a clutter free home. It’s one thing to create habits to get rid of clutter. It’s another thing to create habits to maintain less clutter. Insert the Selfish Empty Space.
Have you ever created a goal so lofty that you practically gave up before you even tried? The thought was nice and maybe you felt pumped up about it for a day or two, but once you really started to think about the nitty, gritty, that goal seemed exhausting and near impossible. This is practically the story of my life (Enneagram, Type 7). Let’s not ever feel that way about decluttering our home, because living life with a manageable amount of stuff is absolutely something worth trying to obtain. The benefits of coming home to a peaceful, tidy space, day-after-day will improve nearly every aspect of your life. Anything that gives you back your time, gives you back a piece of your life.
The Selfish Empty Space is a baby step to maintain an entire room and an entire room is a bigger baby step to maintain an entire house. I call it selfish because you get to protect it. Noone gets to leave clutter in your selfish space. It’s kept empty solely to jump start your declutter journey. Let’s get used to getting rid of stuff and also keeping stuff gone. The selfish empty space is practice in the keeping stuff gone part.
Pick one space in your home that is cluttered, for example underneath a console table, or a cluttered end table, or perhaps a bed piled up with laundry. You may have several cluttered spaces but you want to pick one to focus on above all else. Even better if it can be a place of retreat, like a special chair by a window.
Regardless of how much you purge, commit to keeping that one space clutter-free no matter what. It’s much easier to commit to keeping one table top clean than a whole room. This may sound too simple, but what it will do is give your eye a place of rest on days when clutter seems to be creeping back up in the rest of the room. Even if you end up on the cycle back to reclutter, that one space is still progress you’ve made.
Once you’ve maintained that Selfish Empty Space for a while and the rest of the room is following suit, then it’s time to keep a Selfish Empty Room. Start small. Perhaps, keep two selfish empty spaces before keeping an entire room. Use those baby steps to expand your habits throughout the entire house. It takes time, sometimes a long time but keeping one space dedicated to progress reminds you that change is possible. You can do it!