Three Ways to Clear Clutter

(Author of Listful Living) Paula Rizzo gets inspired by Marie Kondo to get rid of lots of stuff while undergoing a deep cleaning.

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Why is it so difficult to just get rid of stuff? As a recovering pack rat, I totally get it. 

I know lots of people started getting rid of clutter last spring during the Stay-at-Home orders. Being around all your stuff can make you realize how little of it you really need or use! I know I went into a cleaning frenzy!

But now that we’re all starting to get out of the house now that vaccinations are up, regular clutter might be making its way back into your home. 

And that’s especially problematic if you’re working from home or transitioning to hybrid work. A cluttered space can hamper your productivity!

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Decluttering is easier said than done, and sometimes there are items that just stick around — like those boots you never wear, or that candlestick holder your friend gave you when she moved out of her apartment. 

The important thing here is to know that you’re not alone in struggling to get rid of stuff. A few years ago, I went to a networking event that totally changed my perspective on why it’s so hard to get rid of clutter. The dinner I went to featured productivity expert Julie Morgenstern, who kindly wrote the foreword to my first book Listful Thinking.

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The topic of discussion was clearing clutter and why it’s so difficult to get rid of our stuff! This included a heartbreaking story of how Julie often found her kitchen over stuffed with cookbooks she never used.

She realized she hung onto them because they represented the mother she wished she could be — a mom who was well known for her delicious home-cooked meals.

Once Julie accepted that these books represented a fantasy alternate self she was then able to finally purge them from her kitchen and get that space back!

It’s true that it can be difficult to get rid of personal clutter until we really get to the root cause of why we’re holding on to it. Even the “Hoarders” reality TV show represents this on a much more extreme level, there is almost always an unresolved emotional incident or trauma that started the behavior. 

If you have some clutter that you keep holding on to, try to think about why that might be. 

Here are three of Julie’s top tips for clearing clutter to create a space that works for you:

1. Identify your concentration threshold.

There’s only so much time you can spend clearing out before you start to lose interest. Often people try to clear out everything in one go, which can be a mammoth task and requires a lot of patience. As you become more frustrated you act more impulsively, which could lead to you making a decision you may later regret. Julie recommends clearing clutter a little bit at a time, so you can really focus on what you want or don’t.

2. Pick a theme.

As part of decluttering in stages, Julie also suggests picking a particular theme to work on. For example, you could pick coats, then books, and then kitchen stuff. It will help you stay focused and clear on the task at hand.

Breaking down tasks into bite-sized pieces is one of my favorite productivity tricks, and it works really well in this context. 

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3. Account for the evolution of your stuff.

Everyone who knows about decluttering knows about Marie Kondo. I just love her (and I even met her a couple of years ago!)

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However, Julie pointed out that the KonMari Method doesn’t really allow for how the importance of your possessions can change over time. Just because it doesn’t spark joy in that moment doesn’t mean it never will. For example, a boring every day shirt could one day become the shirt you were wearing when you got promoted. It’s important to give your stuff the chance to have it’s moment in the sun before you toss it out. (You can always give your stuff a timeline to make its mark — and if it doesn’t, time to go!). 

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BONUS FREEBIE: Want even more ways to stay organized, productive and less stressed? Click here to get access to my List-Making Starter Kit. It will boost your efficiency and get you back to doing more of the things you love.

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Listful Living by Paula Rizzo

Listful Living

A List-Making Journey to a Less Stressed You

A best-selling author and Emmy-award winning television producer for nearly 20 years, Paula Rizzo produced health, wellness, and lifestyle segments with a range of top experts, including JJ Virgin, Jillian Michaels, and Deepak Chopra. Rizzo brings her experience to this new project. Readers will learn their stress style and strategies for shaping their days in more productive ways. With self-assessments and exercises, this guide will bring readers to better patterns and better, more organized lives.