In a courtroom, if a judge exclaimed, “You’re out of order!” you’d know to shut up, but when your home is out of order, there’s no one to shout at you but the stuff that’s been left out all over the place. When your house is out of order, it causes you to be out of order. Clutter has a voice and it won’t shut up until you deal with it.
Shut the Fuss Up!
There are only two ways to shut the fuss up! Either get rid of it or put it away. If you get rid of it, throw it away or give it away. Why not sell those unwanted items? Simple – because you don’t want to give yourself another task to do! If you give yourself that option, you set yourself up for a garage sale project with a mountain of pricing or a bunch of time spent on craigslist.org, both of which requires a lot of follow-through and dedication to the task.
There are different categories of clutter, but they all nag, taunt, shame, badger, heckle, scoff, jeer, and pester. You’ve tried to organize some of it, but most of it just gets moved around. Trying to organize clutter is like trying to get a bunch of tone-deaf people together to start a choir. You can’t clean when you have clutter because you can’t find your surfaces. So your house gets dirty.
Clutter is also insidious. If it’s left in one place for more than 21 days, it becomes invisible and it lowers its volume, becoming white noise in the background to which you become accustomed. Have you ever noticed the relief you feel when that white noise gets turned off? Your ears are suddenly enveloped by a silence you didn’t even know you were missing! You’ll get that same relief when you deal with your clutter. You’ll be amazed at the peace you’ll feel that you didn’t even know was possible!
Take a few minutes and look around you. Let what you see speak to you. Where is the most noise coming from? What’s clacking the loudest? What’s drumming in the background, more quietly, yet persistently? By using your imagination to add make-believe sound to your clutter, you are actually sharpening your awareness of what you want to kick out or make a place for.
You’ll also begin shopping with a new awareness. Everything you bring into your home has a voice. Have fun with this new awareness. Talk back to your stuff and warn it of its pending eviction, and ask everything that comes into your life if you need it and love it. If you don’t buy it, it can’t talk to you.
Paying attention to the voices is fun and enlightening. There are also those tired voices of stale, outdated ideas from a stack of old magazines, chanting, “Read us read us! See what you missed in 2006!” We keep old magazines because we paid for them, haven’t read them, don’t want to miss anything, and we think we’ll actually take the time (at some point) to peruse their pages. Chances are really good you have last month’s magazines sitting there unread too, and they’re at least still current possibilities. So dump anything that’s outdated. If you’re still feeling guilty, know this: thanks to the Internet, all the old information is archived online. Google it.
Another voice of clutter comes from the homeless. That’s all the stuff you love and use, but don’t have specific places to put it. It’s probably stuff you’ve had to look for in the past. You’ll catch yourself saying, “Oh, there you are! I was looking for you yesterday.” Just think how much time you spend each year looking for stuff! (It’s probably at least a couple of days.) It seems easier at the time to just put those items down somewhere, or out of sight in a drawer, because there’s not a dedicated place to put it.
To quiet the noise from your homeless stuff, you have to establish homes for each individual voice. Cramming a voice in the wrong closet, drawer, or cupboard, the basement, the attic, or under a bed, is like hushing a gossip and putting him or her out of sight. Clutter shoved out of sight may go out of mind, but the minute you open a drawer or closet that holds an assortment of muzzled clutter, you’ll be like Britney Spears opening her front door to a mob of ravenous paparazzi. It isn’t pretty.
If we minded the rule “A place for everything and everything in its place,” we’d never have to search for our glasses, car keys, purse, coat, cell phone, shoes, scissors, or tweezers again.
Included in the homeless clutter is what I call IPODs—Important Piles Of Decisions. These IPODS are in strategic places throughout your home where you chronically dump your indecision. They are piles of miscellaneous items that you didn’t want to put away either because there was no “away” or because you were tired or just didn’t want to deal with them at the time. Piles are very personal and we don’t like to talk about them, but they need to be cured if we are to enjoy a peaceful home not one that’s out of order.
You’re not out of order when your house is in order. Start listening.