When it comes to clutter, a good rule of thumb is that you need at least as much space as you have stuff in your home. The minute you have more than 50% stuff, you start slowing down your chi, lessening opportunities in life and stopping your optimal amount of money, love and general good health from flowing in. With that in mind, let’s talk about clutter. CONTINUED BELOW THE VIDEO
Clutter is anything in your environment that is not used, loved, or has not moved in at least two years. I also define clutter as having more than 50% stuff to space – period. You have to think 3D here. It’s not like I want to see half of every drawer bottom in your dresser to meet the 50% rule. I’m talking about the top half of the volume of drawer space, so there’s enough room to move things around and find items in that drawer. In other words, I don’t want to see spring-loaded sock balls jumping out of the stuffed drawer as you open it. I’m also not talking about seeing half of the clothes rod empty either. It’s about having a quarter or half an inch between each hanger instead of all the hangers jumbled up and crossing over each other as they hang on the rod.
Can you pass the 50% test? That’s 50% of your wall space, 50% of the mantel top, and 50% of the bookshelf left open. For bookshelves I usually pull all the books forward, flush with the front of the shelf. Then all the different sizes of the books and the “space” is actually behind the books. If you are having trouble getting there, try these tips.
If you are starting to hyperventilate while reading this, or if you have the “I can’t even see the possibility of ever getting out from under it so what’s the point of trying” attitude, then try this technique:
Get a pack of post-it notes. Each post-it note represents one increment of time that you decide is your threshold amount of time to give to one clutter-clearing session. Perhaps each one equals fifteen minutes, or perhaps it equals one eight-hour day. It is what you decide you are able to do. Next, go around and place a post-it note or several posts-it notes on each pile or area that needs work to conform to the 50% rule. Next, count up the notes. You can see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that there is a calculable length of time to become clutter-free. Perhaps you have 365 post-it notes around your home. Then you will know that if you do one a day, then it will take you exactly one year to be clutter-free. Ready? Let’s begin the de-cluttering process.
Get 5 boxes capable of handling the amount of stuff in the pile. I usually use those banker’s boxes (or “dead file” boxes) from an office supply store. Label each of them as follows:
#1 Give Away / Sell / Recycle
#2 Keep But Store
#3 It Belongs Elsewhere in the Home
#4 It Belongs Here
#5 I Don’t Know
Along with these five boxes, you’ll need a trash container.
Next, place these boxes near the “pile du jour.” Then, take everything from the pile (or the shelf, or from the closet, etc.) and place it in one of the five boxes or the trash can like a robot. Make it a goal to spend no more than about five seconds per item making a decision about it.
Box number one is easy: This box is used for stuff that you can easily get rid of: stuff that you are willing to sell or give away. There is very little or no attachment to it.
Box number two is for things that you need to keep, but they don’t need to be or should not be where you’re de-cluttering. This box is for stuff like tax receipts, out-of-season holiday decor, etc. These items you must keep, but they don’t need to be cluttering up the space where you are working.
Box number three is for items that you use, but they are simply in the wrong part of the house: like a drinking glass or a plate in the bedroom. Instead of walking to the kitchen to put these items away, you simply place them in this box for later distribution.
Box number four is for the stuff that actually belongs in the space you’re de-cluttering. You’re not going to reach around this stuff that stays. It goes in box number four.
Box number five is for anything you don’t know what to do with it. Go ahead – feel free to fill this box. A lot of the time, clutter collects because of the inability to make a decision about it.
And of course, the trash container is for trash, dust balls, etc.
If your heart is palpitating just reading about how to de-clutter, you may find it necessary to call in a sympathetic friend or professional organizer. I know this process requires total trust that de-cluttering is going to really do something good in the end and I’m here to tell you it does. Please take a leap of faith here. You won’t regret it in the end!
Let’s say you’ve got everything separated into five boxes. Now you can do any maintenance on the shelf or drawer, or vacuum the closet, or do any cleaning that is necessary. If you haven’t moved that piece of furniture in years, I highly recommend pulling it out, and wiping down the wall behind it and every part of it. The payoff is BIG I tell you!
Next, let’s deal with the five boxes and the trash can. First, the trash can gets taken out (hopefully with recyclables separated!) The stuff in box number one goes to a charity, friends or family, etc. Pretty easy, eh? The stuff in box number two gets neatly stored in the designated storage area (remember – everything has to conform to the 50% rule – if you don’t have the storage space, then you must choose another box for this stuff! Or at the very least, and I’m not big on this; you rent space. The items in box number three get distributed around the house where they belong. The items in box number four get placed back on the area you just cleared out and cleaned up – strictly adhering to the 50% rule.
This is what you do with box number five. Put the lid on the box. Either give it to a friend or family member to hold for you for three or four months (make sure they have the space!) or tape it closed and put it in your storage area (if you have the space.) Write down in your calendar to call a friend or family member in three to four months to help you deal with this box. After the time has gone by, get together with your helper and the box. Your helper opens the box in such a way that you can’t see in it. They ask you “What do you need from this box?” Whatever you need and ask for they pull it out and give it to you. (You have to have or make space for it.)
The rest of the stuff is removed by your friend. They will decide what to do with the stuff. It’s no longer your decision. That’s it! If you don’t name it – you don’t ever see it again.
I use this method because it is an easy way to “rip off the band-aid” so to speak. Basically, what ends up going in this box are guilt trips. “I might fit into it again someway.” “I paid a lot of money for it.” “I got it for a wedding gift.” “My kid made it or gave it to me.” “I might be able to use it for spare parts someday.” “Even though it is broken, it is the only thing from Aunt Edna.” “I inherited it and have to keep it for the next generation.” “My kids left it when they moved out.” Blah, Blah, Blah. This stuff is obviously not in use at the moment. It is not loved. It is not needed at this time. Therefore it is clutter in your home, plain and simple. Have a conversation with family members that live elsewhere if you must. Perhaps they will want to take some of this stuff on, but for you it is clutter and is slowing you down. What is going on in your home is going on in your life. Do not bog yourself down with space-stealing, health-robbing, and opportunity-missing stuff please.
I hope you find these feng shui tips helpful in creating a safe and empowering environment for you.