5 things to consider when kicking the clutter out of your life

Is it all too much? We have all been there. Your to-do list is longer than Santa’s giving list at Christmas, the bills, the house, and the other demands on you are just mounting too high. It’s overwhelming. How are you going to do it all!? Well, here’s the truth: YOU AREN’T. So you’ve got to set your priorities, boundaries, and start living the life that you WANT to live by getting out from under your cluttered life. That’s right: Your life is cluttered. You are carrying more weight (physical and mental) than is necessary. You have too much stuff to enjoy it all, or even know where it is. Change is hard, and loss is worse, but achievement of your sought after goals is amazing, so where do you start?! Here are five things to consider when you’re looking at your life. Make the decision to live a more simplified and decluttered life. Believe me, after years working on this mission for myself, it’s totally worth it.

What Would Reduce Your Stress?

As you work toward your goals, what would help you to feel less stressed? That’s how you know how to identify what is clutter in your life, and what holds real value: If it adds stress, it’s clutter. I’m not saying that you always need to get rid of it. My kids give me a ton of emotional stress, but I’m not putting them on the sidewalk. I just need to identify WHAT PART of your stress is clutter, and then make a strategy of how we’re going to adjust to make it work FOR you instead of against you. It could be anything:  not being able to find what you are looking for, debt, body issues, work issues, friend issues… Find the problem, and use the next four strategies to help start kicking the clutter out of your life. It not be fun, but if you really want to have a better life, make the decision to do the hard work.

What do YOU want from your life?

Listen up America. There is a reason why you want things you don’t need, can’t afford, or shouldn’t have: marketing. People are out there to make a buck, and they’re going to convince you that it should be yours! It’s not right, but it’s what capitalism means. With that said, you need to stop for a second and ask yourself what YOU want from your life and how YOU want to get there. This is a PACKED question with many answers. Get a bunch of paper, take a long walk, start talking to your dog, do whatever helps you to sort out your brain. Turn off the world, and take a long look at what you want. This will determine how you proceed to create the life you want by removing what doesn’t fit. It’s like that old adage: “How do you carve a statue of an elephant? Take a block of marble and remove everything that doesn’t look like an elephant”. You can’t know when you arrive at a milestone in your journey until you know where you are headed. So turn off what everyone else is telling you, sit down with yourself, and have a good convo. What do YOU want from your life? What goals are you striving toward? What motivates you?

What do you NEED to get there?

Ok, so now that we know where we are headed, what resources do you need to make available to yourself to get there? I’m not talking about wants here, I’m talking about actual needs. I am moving to Oklahoma in June. Would I like to do so in a Porche with the top down and my station blaring on the radio with a lot of time to spend snapping photos along the way? SURE THING, MR. MEAN! But that is not gonna happen. Why? Because I have kids, stuff, and a life to move along with me. So what I NEED is my minivan, and enough supplies to last the journey. So lets get real here. What do YOU have in your life that you NEED to help you get to those goals? Be ruthless.  Break your wants apart from your needs. Put them into two lists in your head, on paper, or whatever works for you. You don’t have to get RID of anything or ADD anything yet. Sometimes just knowing which is which can create an increase or decrease in emphasis on the different parts, portions, and possessions of our lives because we understand better which is most important and worthy of our attention.

With that said, do NOT go shopping until you’ve thought it through. Buying things you do not need is retail therapy, but will land you in a real therapist’s chair, or the financial poor house, if you do it too much. Think it through, and check what you really need to add to your life. Do you have something else that could satisfy the purpose? Does a friend? How can you do this without breaking the bank or filling your space more than necessary. When you’ve really considered your purchase, and saved to buy something, it will mean more to you than something spur of the moment (in most cases). Storage and elimination of our personal possessions actually should take more thought than “drop it off” or “get a bin/basket/bag” statements. I’ll cover these topics in upcoming posts on how to make your stuff work for you, instead of against you. But for now, how about you do more of a mental inventory or maybe just some pile making, mmmkay?

Break it Down Now

While we all want instant gratification, we can’t always have it. Mary Poppins is the only chick that’s ever existed that can use her method of finger snapping to resolve clutter situations. That lady was practically perfect, and totally fictitious. Lets be real here, we don’t have time in our lives to just stop, cut our losses, and change direction all the time. Even if we did, it would be a HUGE waste of resources. So how do we get to where we want to go? ONE. STEP. AT. A. TIME.

Anything worth achieving is worth working your tail off to get. But working without a plan is not smart. So break it down. One of my favorite blogs, FlyLady, says “You can do anything for 15 minutes, so achieve your big goals in lots of 15-minutes-at-a-time”. Another quote I’m loving lately is, “No matter how slow you run, you’re going faster than anyone on a couch”. Whatever platitude works for you, the message is clear. Baby steps and baby bites add up to BIG results through SMALL moves. So what’s the FIRST step? Give your house 15 minutes a day and you’ll have almost 2 hours of work done in a week! If you lose .2lbs a week, you will lose the weight eventually. What tiny step can you take TODAY to achieve the goal of making your life what you want it to be? DO IT. Start saving, start cleaning, start walking, and set milestone goals. If you can achieve smaller goals at a consistent level, you will be less likely to give up on your way to your larger goal. While you are at it, go ahead and plan some little celebrations of achievement along the way. You deserve to recognize your own mini achievements! Be proud of your little stuff. For me, I turned 30 years old without ever feeling like I knew how to use the gym. I couldn’t do a bare-bar-bench press, and I couldn’t do what I felt was a “real” pushup. I am proud to say that through the use of a personal trainer, I can do 10 full presses of a bare-bar (45lbs), and 10 on-your-knee-girly-style pushups. I’m on my way! It sucked to not be good at it at first, and it was frustrating when I failed, but man, when you realize that you are able to do something you couldn’t before? Yeah. AWESOME. Even though my “achievements” are giggle-worthy to some, to me they’re big, and I’m proud. Break it down, and celebrate when you get to your mini-milestones.

Who Can Help?

Often times, goals are best pursued with a team. Friends, family, acquaintances, professionals, who do you need to help you to acheive your goals? Is it that you need to get the people that you live with on board to achieve a decluttered home? Do you need to borrow your friend’s truck to unload some household goods, or maybe to pickup the loam to finish off the yard? Do you need to hire that pro to take care of a task that sucks up your time, and well, you think really sucks? You know, that job that your life would be better without? Do you not know what you’re doing, and need help figuring it out? Believe me, some of the best investments that I’ve made in my life were outsourcing and instruction investments:

  • Maids made it possible to survive when my husband was gone 250 days in the year that my two kids were under age 3.
  • A dog trainer made it possible to build the relationship with my dog (please, call him my canine companion…) Barkley. He was out of control, and now is my best little buddy. She taught ME how to work with HIM, and HIM what I was trying to say. I couldn’t have done it without help, and my life wouldn’t be the same without him.
  • I was a gym-phobic. I KNEW I’d look like a fool if I tried to work out, and no matter how bad I wanted THAT body, I wasn’t going to make a fool of myself. Then a friend told me she worked with a trainer, and asked me to be her workout buddy. Seven months of personal training later, I can lift more than I ever thought possible, I know the machines and what they do. I know which ones I hate and what I like. I also have learned that there are cardio methods I hate (running on a treadmill) and others that surprisingly are awesome (spinning and kickboxing)… Without the friend’s suggestion, and the assistance of my trainer, Chris (who admittedly gets the giggles sometimes as I learn and make mistakes in at my form) it wouldn’t have been possible to stay motivated or keep my sense of humor.
  • My entire family-of-origin joined Weight Watchers. They’ve lost over 200lbs (collectively).  Talk about motivation! They go to meetings together and know one another’s stats. They cheer for one another and commiserate over the challenges they face. I live 3000 miles away, but this alone motivates me to weigh in and workout. I could do better with the actual tracking and measuring, but hey, baby steps, right?
  • My family, friends, and especially hubby listening to me and supporting me as my team of “you’ve got this” people make everything I do possible. Their support gives me endless confidence, and I only had to learn how to accept a compliment and ask for help when I needed it. Took me a LONG time, but well worth the work it took to be humble enough to ask for help, and open minded enough to believe them when they had nice things to say.

You get the idea. Build your team. Who is going to help you get THERE? They don’t have to do it FOR you, WITH you is arguably a better choice. Don’t go it alone. Be accountable to someone else. It will help you when you’re ready to say forget it.

You are worth it. The work will be hard, but the rewards will be great! Listening to YOURSELF and making decisions based upon what YOU need isn’t selfish. It gives you the opportunity to present the best of yourself to the world, give more of your happiest self to your family and friends, and create the life you’ve dreamed. I don’t have it all together. There is a lot of work I have to do, and I will be faced with lots of challenges. This post is as much for myself on hard days as it is to motivate you on yours. But in the case that I’m a step ahead of you on this journey, and my words may help motivate you to move toward your best life, then they are worth sharing. 

This is only one post in a series called Kicking the Clutter. If you enjoyed what you read here, come back, and read more on how to target specific areas of your clutter and break them down to kick them out of your life! I’m glad you came, and look forward to seeing you come back to get just a little more wicked awesome with me :)!