What excuses do YOU use?

There are many reasons why people keep too many things; I hear them every day. Some are valid (ie, they need, use or love the item) but other excuses need to be challenged if people want to move forward with a simpler, less cluttered life.

Here are some of my favourite counter-arguments and challenges in response to some common excuses:

1. I might use it one day

This is the most common. I always remind people that for every item you keep for this reason, you are adding to your ‘To Do’ list. After all, if you do actually use it, it’s something to do, isn’t  it? Do you really need MORE stuff to do?  And if you’re keeping it out of obligation (“I really should finish that project”) then it’s not even going to be an enjoyable activity! Why do that to yourself?

When exactly WILL you use it?  How long have you been ‘meaning to’ use it? How is it affecting  your life right now? If you’re pretty sure you will use it, give yourself a deadline. If it’s not used by then, it is a negative effect on your life and it needs to go.

I also ask clients to ask themselves “What’s the worst that could happen if I get rid of this item?”. In most cases, you’ll just need to borrow one off someone else, or buy it again. And that’s the worst case! You can live with that, can’t you? You’ve certainly been through worse. Most  likely, you’ll forget it existed and be grateful for the peace of mind.

2.  I plan to fit into it again

Okay, so you have a few items of clothing that you love that don’t quite fit – fair enough. However, you need limits on how many you keep.  After all, you will most likely want to go shopping again if you lose weight, won’t you?

And the tough question – how likely are you to actually lose weight?  How long have you been that size? It does get less likely as time goes on.  I always encourage my clients to focus efforts and space in their wardrobe on clothes that they can use, and that make them feel fabulous in the size they are, instead of resenting their size.  If skinny clothes could talk, all they would do is call you fat anyway. You wouldn’t keep a friend that called you fat!

3. I spent a lot of money on it

The money is gone – it’s not coming back. If you wasted the money, it’s already wasted; what you do with the item will make little difference to that. Accept the loss and move on. If you don’t use it, you’re wasting both money, space AND sanity. Why not consider selling it or donating it to someone who will get a lot of use out of it?

4. Someone gave it to me

Your affection for someone should not be directed towards items, it should be directed towards the person. Love the person; get rid of the monstrosity that stresses you.

5. It’s a waste if I get rid of it

It’s far more of a waste to keep it and not use it! Donate it to someone who will appreciate it and get use out of it.

6. We’ve always kept that type of paperwork

Just because you’ve always done it does not mean it’s appropriate anymore. Challenge your habits and rationalise your decisions with some logic. Do you need it? Can you reproduce it if you really do find you need it one day? If it’s available anywhere else, get rid of it and simplify your life. Less paperwork = more smiles!

What excuses do you think you need to remove from your decluttering experience?


Are you Dame Washalot?

My daughter loves reading the Faraway Tree books. In it is a character called Dame Washalot, who spends all of her time doing laundry.  Today, sitting on the floor in the laundry, sorting my own pile of washing, it occurred to me that most women (sorry guys, but usually the women do the majority of the clothes washing tasks!) spend far too much time keeping their family in clean clothes. Unlike Dame Washalot, however, they don’t really enjoy it!

I go into people’s homes just about every day. One of the most common causes of clutter that I see is clothes. Clean or dirty (or of unknown status!), they overtake the house! I see it time and time again – and it really bothers people but they don’t know how to deal with it.

Here are a few tips I implemented at home, and recommend to clients, to reduce the task a bit:

  1. Wash regularly and, if you have a good machine that adjusts water usage, with small loads. Don’t save it all up for the weekend.
  2. Reduce the amount of clothing you have by setting boundaries. If I can’t fit any member of our household’s entire wardrobe in their cupboard and the washing basket (and on them!), I cull their clothes (and mine, too, of course!). There should be no overflow whatsoever.
  3. Avoid ironing as much as possible. In summer I drip-dry, then shake and smooth them out before hanging or folding. In winter I either use the dryer (and remove and hang immediately) or I line-dry and then lay them flat on each other for a few hours before putting away. For the perfectionists out there who say this is impossible, let me tell you that this has made the single biggest difference to the efficiency of my washing cycle. I save around 2-3 hours a week, not to mention the elimination of the stress of that ironing pile waiting for me! I was once just like you, ironing everything but underwear. After a month on a family road-trip last year, I returned home realising that I will survive without ironing. And I have ironed only a handful of times since. If I can do it, so can you!
  4. Finish the cycle before starting another.  If you have mounds of clean clothes waiting to be put away, finish that job before you put another load in the machine. “Clean” is not the end of the job. If you regard it as such, you will find yourself and the rest of your family perpetually dressing themselves from the pile of clean washing taking up half of your living or spare room. Regard each load as a singular task, with “Away” as the end of the task.
  5. Engage the help of the family. Have them fold and put away their own clothes, or a load each.  It’s a simple job – one that can be done in front of the TV if there is a need to make it less mundane (although I have found it a great opportunity for meditation when done as a solo task).
  6. Have routines.  Choose a time to put a load on every day, and follow through the entire cycle (wash -> dry -> away) on the same day. Stick to the routines until they become a habit.

Do you have any tips or tricks of your own to help keep on top of the washing? Do tell!

Love me, love my stuff….all 5 tonnes of it…

You have a problem. Your partner/mother/son/aunt/neighbour has a lot of stuff. They have more stuff than you think is necessary. Their life seems to revolve around their stuff.  You’ve watched Hoarders and Oprah and have seen what hoarding does to people. You’re worried about your loved-one.

However, how do you know if they’re a compulsive hoarder, or just chronically (or acutely) disorganised? According to one of the biggest hoarding experts in the world, Randy Frost, compulsive hoarding is the “acquisition of, and failure to discard, possessions which appear to be useless or of limited value“.

I get calls from worried family members and friends a lot; wondering what they can do to help.  Before I can help, however, we need to establish the level of hoarding, and whether they are indeed a compulsive hoarder.

I personally attempt to identify compulsive hoarders with three main lines of questioning:

  1. One of the biggest characteristics of a compulsive hoarder is their denial of the condition. If they frequently lament that everyone is against them, that noone understands how important their belongings are, and that they don’t need to change (in fact, everyone else does!), and if they have pushed away family members and friends that have tried to help, then they may be compulsive hoarders.
  2. Next is their emotional state when asked to discard items. If they get very upset (aggressive, highly emotional or even hysterical) whenever anyone touches, moves or removes their belongings, they may be compulsive hoarders.
  3. Another key indicator, as previously touched on in Randy Frost’s definition, is the volume of and type of items that they keep. Are there excessive amounts of them? Are they of little value? Do they include such items as newspapers, rubber bands, ice-cream sticks, pipe-cleaners, or plastic bags, toilet rolls or something similar? Are they possibly animals or old food?

So how do you help if it appears they are very likely a compulsive hoarder? I won’t sugar-coat it – it’s not at all easy. Few compulsive hoarders successfully overcome the condition. However, you can certainly try.

Before I tell you what to do, I want to make it very clear what you shouldn’t do. What you should NEVER do with a compulsive hoarder is send them away while you go and clean up. Never, never, never. NEVER.

The first thing those with the condition need to do is recognise that they have it, and that it is unhealthy and possibly (especially with food and animal hoarders or those with fire hazards) life-threatening.  At best it threatens their personal relationships. One experienced psychologist I spoke with on the condition suggested asking them to read a book (Overcoming Compulsive Hoarding) in the hope that they may recongise themselves in it.

If you manage to get them over that step, the next is to convince them to undertake therapy with an experienced psychologist.

Finally, when they are ready to begin culling and starting their life anew, you can call in the Professional Organisers to help hold their hand and provide physical and technical assistance in the road to recovery.

And if you recognise yourself in this post, well done – you are on your way to a better life already 🙂

 

The ONE thing that can get you organised

A line in the sandI had a  journalist ask me recently that if there was only one thing she should do to get organised, what would it be?  Of course, there are quite a few things you can do, and quite a few adjustments in your thinking that you can make. However, if there is one thing that could singularly make a change to your life now, it would be boundaries.

Boundaries are everywhere. There are physical boundaries (the block of land your home is on, the walls of your house; curbs and fences), legal boundaries (one must not shop in the supermarket without any clothes on and you can’t take a stranger’s car just for the fun of it), social boundaries (we don’t sing at the top of our voices in the library nor take our own dinner to eat in a restaurant) and self-imposed boundaries (being vegetarian, a teetotaller or a non-smoker or never ever ever wearing runners with jeans, for example). Not all boundaries are ‘good’, nor are they all ‘bad’, but they are there nonetheless.

And you can also use boundaries to help you get organised and stay organised. And if you stick to them, you can’t fail!

If you’re cluttered:

  • The 1-in, 2-out rule will put your home on a diet and ensure that you have more going out than in. Every time you bring a new item into the house, 2 have to go. Useful for all collections of belongings, especially shoes, books and magazines. If it’s a particularly large and overwhelming collection, you may want to have 1-in, 5-out!
  • The ‘nothing lives on this space’ boundary. Visualise your home as the way you want it to be. Which horizontal spaces were empty in that visualisation? Pick one, and make a rule that no matter what, nothing is allowed on there anymore. If something turns up on that spot then it immediately has to have a home found for it. Once you’ve got that as a habit, choose the next spot.
  • The “Don’t Put It Down, Put It Away” rule: this is self-explanatory. Make a home for it if it doesn’t have one – don’t just put it down on the closest horizontal space
  • Shopping with awareness. Shop with a list and determination not to buy anything not on the list. Try to avoid shopping at garage sales or op-shops (as most of this type of shopping is impulsive and unstructured). Also ask yourself when you are purchasing something “Where will this live? Do I have room for it?”.

Once you’re decluttered:

  • Shift to 1-in, 1-out and keep that rule in mind on an ongoing basis
  • Spread your awareness of empty horizontal spaces to the whole home
  • Every time you open a cupboard, check that everything is in its home (it only takes a few seconds)
  • Set up routines to maintain your wonderfully organised spaces.