Wednesday, September 10, 2014

40 Pieces of Advice Challenge - Day 14

Today, the average person has more possessions than even the wealthiest of kings ever had throughout most of human history. We have things, organizers to organize our things, cleaning solutions and machines with which to clean our things, storage units to store our things, credit cards to help us get more things - things in our homes, things in our cars, things at our workplaces.  Things here, things there.

Really, we own a lot of stuff.

And, I don't know that we're any happier than previous generations who weren't blessed with such abundance.

Now, I'm not saying that owning objects is, in itself, a bad thing. And, even though I'm liking the rapidly growing minimalist living movement, I'm not even advocating for getting rid of your stuff. Hey, it's your stuff, if you like it, keep it.

But I do know from personal experience that physical clutter and disorder has a real effect on mental and emotional well-being.  Clutter can be a drain on your time, your energy, your productivity. It can play havoc with the flow of ideas and with creativity. 

You've probably experienced it yourself. Have you ever walked into someone's home or office and immediately felt anxious or overwhelmed? Was it because of the visual chaos that confronted you? Conversely, have you entered into a space that had the feel of a calming spa? Was everything arranged in an organically flowing and elegant manner? 

I read a book about cleaning (hey, it was interesting!) that greatly impacted my life. Really. It was about ten years ago, and I still think of this one message even today - every item in your environment should be there because you consciously chose it and you deliberately made a place for it. 

Imagine how your life might change if you had to pick up every item in your home, car or office and figure out whether or not you wanted to own it and decide just exactly where to put it. Might you have less stuff? Probably. Might the things you did decide to keep be more meaningful and useful? No doubt about it.

I have three children. Believe me when I say that between all of their activities, interest, school necessities, clothes, etc., our house is chock full of stuff. And it can truly be overwhelming to keep everything in order. Yes, sometimes our house gets messy - funny enough, it's at those times that the kids' normal clashes become more intense, more frequent. I can't prove it, but I do believe that the clutter that sometimes develops has more than a little to do with their skirmishes.

Is it worth the extra time to clear out the unneeded, organize the necessities, get rid of the outgrown? Most definitely.  Try it in your own life, I guarantee that you will notice positive changes almost immediately.

So, where to start? Well, I know that for me, paperwork accumulates the fastest. So, when you get mail, open it the same day, and decide, while it's in your hands, whether you need to file it, respond to it or throw it away. THEN TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION.

Do you save receipts? Can you get a receipt filing software to keep track of them? If not, can you take pictures of them with your smartphone and keep those pictures in a dedicated file? Are you nostalgically attached to the seemingly thousands of pieces of artwork created by your little artist? Can you save a few of the most meaningful, take pictures of the less important before throwing them in the recycling bin or trash with the rest? Can you sign up for paperless billing?

What about your clothes? Is your closet overflowing with the fads of yesteryear that you just haven't gotten around to donating yet? What's stopping you? Get rid of anything you don't love - you'll be able to truly see what items you own, and, perhaps, what you might need. My children each have a total of 7 sets of clothes, plus a couple of nice things for special occasions. And that's it. I do laundry twice a week so that the dirty clothes don't pile up.

Are your children toys taking over your living room? Could you donate some of those items to those less fortunate? My kids have to have everything neat and orderly in their rooms every Sunday night. If I find a toy lying around as if it is meaningless, such as a stuffed animal under the couch, I watch to see if they truly play with it. If not, no harm done, I give it to someone who would really appreciate it.

For me, freedom is owning very little. It cuts down on housework, clutter, litter - opening up options for how we can best use our time and money. The rule in our house is, if something hasn't been used in 6 months, it isn't a necessary item. And, if we bring home something new, something else needs to leave.

These are just a few ideas, and you don't need to apply them all to your life. Pick and choose to suit your own particular needs. What it comes down to, I believe, is living with intention and consciousness. 

Do you have any ideas for dealing with disorder in your environment? I'd love to have you share them in the comments.


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