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Linda Samuels, CPO-CD®

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« Why De-Clutter? | Stepping Back to Let Go »

What's Your Relationship to Clutter?

Are you and clutter on a break? Your space is clear and you’re feeling stress-free. Perhaps everyone around you is clutter obsessed, but it’s not on your radar. Piles that have accumulated on floors, surfaces, corners and closets don’t bother you. Or, does the clutter in your physical space, and also in your schedule and thoughts overwhelm you? What is your relationship to clutter? Are you on a clutter hiatus, oblivious to clutter or overwhelmed by it?

Thinking about this relationship will help locate where you are with your clutter and give you ideas for possible next steps. I recognize that it’s not this black and white. Our relationship to clutter can shift regularly. This is just one concept. Find what makes sense to you.

Clutter Break

  • You know you’re on a clutter break if you can easily move around your space, find what you need when you need it, and are not experiencing daily stress that is often associated with too much clutter.
  • Next Step:  Your relationship to clutter is positive. You have no clutter worries and can shift your energy to other areas of your life. Choose what interests you like focusing on better self-care, having more time with friends and family, or learning something new. What’s possible for you?

Clutter Oblivion

  • You don’t quite get what all the fuss is about. You have some piles here and there. What’s the big deal? You sometimes hunt for things, but for the most part you can find what you need. You prefer your things out and visible, but it’s the people you live that don’t like it. They give you a hard time because their clutter tolerance and yours are not the same.
  • Next Step:  Conflicts arise when needs are contrary. It’s not that your way or their way is right or wrong, it’s just different.  Living with other people involves compromise, if you desire a more harmonious environment. So what might work? One suggestion is to create zones for communal and private areas? Establish boundary rules for these areas. The private areas can be kept any way the “owner” wants. The communal areas can include respect rules agreed on through compromise. What else might work?

Clutter Overwhelm

  • The spaces, the thoughts, and the schedules are overflowing. There is not enough room to do what you need, have mental energy to feel calm, or time to make any changes. Or, at least it feels that way. The days aren’t flowing well. You spend time hunting for glasses, keys, the library book that’s due. You have so much going on in your head that you feel like it’s going to explode. Your calendar is over-scheduled and you feel like there is not time to relax.
  • Next Step:  You always have choices. Especially now because you are so overwhelmed, it’s critical that you take a step back. No prizes are given for those that burn themselves out. Find a quiet space, make a cup of tea, and start to brainstorm about what can be released. For the physical clutter, can a closet, a drawer or a surface be de-cluttered? One small action can make an enormous difference. For the mind clutter, can you take 10-15 minutes to do a brain download? Get those floating thoughts out onto paper, computer or voice message. With the full calendar, think through your commitments. Can you convert any of the “yeses” into “not nows?” Self-care might seem like an impossibility right now. It’s more critical than ever. Break it down. Think small. What single tiny step can you take now?

What is your relationship to clutter right now? What comes next? Come join the conversation and share your thoughts with us.

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Reader Comments (17)

Great post. Sometimes we need to let things be and take the pressure off ourselves to be perfectly clutter-free and enjoy life the way it is. Thanks.

May 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTheresa

You are so wise, Theresa. Letting go of the "shoulds" to give space for the joy is a wonderful perspective to take. Clutter is fluid and our concept about it can be too. So great to hear from you. Thank you for stopping by. If you have a post about clutter, email me a link and I'll be happy to share it.

May 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

thanks for sharing this thoughtful post! I love how you also focus on the mental clutter. More and more I am hearing that "song" with my clients. Just too much! Even we need to step back, refocus, recharge and start anew and fresh. Such prudent and sane advice. You speak volumes with your wisdom.

May 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie Josel

Thanks so much for joining in, Leslie. How often are we called in for the physical clutter, but in fact it's the mind clutter that is the louder "song," as you so beautifully said? Whether it's us or our clients, being able to clear the noise is essential.

I love the "Got Clutter?" post you wrote, which was inspired by Jane Brody's New York Times article, "Making Progress Against Clutter." I'm sure my readers will enjoy YOUR wisdom, so I'm including a link:

May 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

Linda, my favorite words here - "You always have choices." So hard to remember. So easy to forget. I also loved how you broke up the three types of relationships.

May 5, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersue west

So great to hear your voice, Sue. Yes! The idea of choice is something that we forget we have, especially when we're overwhelmed. But it's ever-present and so powerful. Even the smallest of actions can unleash the beginning of positive shifts.

Glad you liked the clutter categories. Can you think of any others? Would love to hear your thoughts.

May 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

Hi Linda,
I love the points you made about how even a small action can make an enormous difference and the effect of mind clutter.
So often it's our mind sabotaging us, telling us how impossible the task on hand it is or why we can't let go of stuff.
Your point about taking even a tiny step is extremely valuable. Often, all it takes is one tiny step before an avalanche of positive action is generated.
As always, right on target:-)
Thank you!

May 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterYota

Yota- Isn't it interesting what each of us notices? I see that "tiny step" resonated with you. I'm sure in your work as a coach, you see this theme over and over again. And frankly, on a personal level too. What seems so impossible in our minds becomes very doable once we take that small movement forward. We often spend too long thinking and when we actually do something, we're amazed at how that releases more positive action and diminishes negative thoughts. As always, I appreciate our dialogue and continuing conversations.

I'm excited to be sharing over on your blog in the "Meaningful Conversations" feature. We're having a great discussion about clutter, letting go, change and more. We're also doing a book giveaway for a copy of "The Other Side of Organized." I invite all of you to come join us. Here's the link:

May 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

Other clutter categories you asked -- Well, there's "mine" vs. "yours" and "ours." I don't know what you'd call that, but there's a time when someone focuses more on others' stuff in the household. It's a time for letting go and focusing on what you can control. In those small, tiny steps you mentioned.

May 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSue West

Thank you Linda! I always appreciate your responses to our comments. They are generous and thoughtful. You never miss a chance to take the issue at hand a step further. I love our conversation too and I am very grateful for our collaboration on my blog.
Thank you for inviting people to join us there as well. For me, it's these conversations that add depth and purpose to everyone's marketing efforts.
What we do comes alive and hopefully plays a positive role to the life of those who choose to accompany us along the way.

May 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterYota

Sue- Maybe we can call that category you've identified as "Clutter Boundaries." Does that quantify what you were talking about?

May 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

Yota- What I find especially wonderful is hearing all the various perspectives from coaches, organizers, those that are struggling, and those that are not. I love the rich dialogue that comes from these conversations. It furthers our understanding, makes us more compassionate, and connects us to something larger. I'm so happy that you are a regular participant in this sharing.

May 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

Yes! That's the title/meaning.

May 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSue West

Based on this assessment, I am on a Clutter Break. Although it's true that my primary living and work spaces are well-organized and relatively clutter-free, it seems that I could get rid of stuff every week and never be finished. But, since that stuff isn't in my way, I tend to postpone it until I need the space for something else.

May 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Barclay

Janet- It sounds like you're spaces are working for you right now. You bring up an interesting point that releasing can be a continual process. But at this point, you are clutter-free enough to be able to enjoy living, being and doing. Enjoy your Clutter Break!

May 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

I think I'm definitively in the "overwhelm" category. I'm pretty sure I don't know what color my desk is, and if I need a pair of socks I have to sift through the 6 piles of laundry I dumped on the counter and never folded! Here's a really big annoyance: I spent so much effort getting rid of stuff, giving it away, recycling, donating. And yet I feel like I could do that all day long and never see a clear path to sanity. Somehow "stuff" multiplies. I'm not a shopper and not even really a "keeper'. I think most of my stuff accumulates through work and being time crunched. Laundry is clutter when you don't fold it for six days!

And here's another challenge: husbands. I sometimes feel that I could literally take everything I own short of one plate and the TV and toss it. But he has more of a sense that we need to keep stuff for some vague reason. So I get stuck with it.

I've been here before. Usually I do what you've suggested which is stop and just make a space - any space! Clearing off my desk alone is like a mini miracle. And writing down my thoughts to clear my head is another biggie. I like the idea of reminding myself that I have a choice. that's so huge, since being cluttered can make you feel out of control. Good idea to remind myself that there are always choices and I can still make them! Thanks for that.

May 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarol Lynn

Carol Lynn- What a wonderful journey you took in writing your response. I could see the thinking as you described your experiences with clutter overwhelm. What was particularly amazing was how you coached yourself into finding a perspective that feels positive: "there are always choices and I can still make them!" What becomes possible?

May 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

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