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Declutter Your House, Declutter Your Mind

If I could declutter this countertop, I thought with a frown, I could conquer anything.

That night, I had no mercy. Everything that was not kitchen-related was removed from the counter. Books and toys went back to shelves, old junk mail to the recycle box, mislaid jars to the pantry.

cluttered countertop
Within two days, the counter was covered in stuff again.

How I wish I could blame my husband. Or my son. But I am as guilty as anyone. As I write this article, a book about coaching, a folder, and a notebook sit next to my laptop, which is sitting on top of a copy of Web Marketing for Dummies.

Which are all sitting, of course, on the kitchen counter.

It's our delegated household dumping ground. You know what I mean. You have one, too. Yours might be the entry way, or the living room coffee table. Or maybe the surface of your dining room table hasn't seen the light of day in ages.

It's the one place in the house where everyone puts their stuff that they don't want to put away immediately. Perhaps you have more than one such area.

There's nothing wrong per se with having such a place. However, if it is a constantly growing mountain, it's high time to declutter.

Clutter equals chaos; declutter equals calm

Has this ever happened to you? You are invited to somebody's home. You get there, and it is neat as a pin.

(Probably because they spent the entire morning running around like chickens with their heads cut off trying to get the house to look presentable for you, their guest. Just like you do when you invite them, right?)

So you spend a few hours in this tidy home, and it feels nice. Tranquil.

Then you go home. To dishes in the sink, mail on the table, shoes in the middle of the floor, toys on the stairway, etc., etc.

And that peaceful, easy feeling flies out the door. Suddenly, your blood pressure goes up just a little, and your eyebrows start to meet in the middle of your forehead.

Why? You are a busy person with a full schedule and your mind going a hundred miles an hour. Visual clutter adds to the clutter in your mind, and it actually causes you stress. Maybe not very perceptible, but after dealing with finicky clients or crabby colleagues all day and then driving home in rush hour traffic, do you need even a crumb more of stress?

Judi Culbertson, author of  The Clutter Cure: Three Steps to Letting Go of Stuff, Organizing Your Space, & Creating the Home of Your Dreams futher expands on the connection between clutter and stress. "Too much stuff," she says, "does more than clutter your life; it affects you emotionally, making it impossible to live with real freedom."1

Want more freedom? Let's get down to the declutter business!

How to declutter your home in 4 simple steps

uncluttered countertop

After that evening when I ruthlessly tidied up the counter, I began to notice my habits that contributed to the mess. Slowly, I began to change my habits. To discipline myself to do things a little bit differently.

I followed these simple steps to declutter. If you want to get control of the clutter in your home, you might consider trying them out as well.

1. Make a place for everything. Yes, you can have a junk drawer. I have a junk drawer. Everyone has a junk drawer. Just make sure the things you're putting in the junk drawer don't have another place. Screws and nails, for instance, belong in a toolbox. Pens go in the desk.

Reserve the junk drawer for things like an piece of string that might come in handy later, or that plastic thingamajig you're pretty sure came from the widget on the ceiling fan.

2. Box it or basket it. Store as much as you can in cabinets, cupboards, closets and drawers. But if your home lacks storage, or there are things you prefer to keep out for convenience, keep those items in boxes or baskets. Using plastic containers is also very useful when organizing things and storing them in your home. See the variety at www.schaefershelving.com.

I actually like to have some stuff on my counter to discourage the cats from jumping up on it. However, much of it is contained. For example, I have three baskets, two for fruit that is in the process of ripening and one to hold our nutritional supplements. The items look much neater and can be found easily.

3. When something lands on the “dumping ground,” take care of it ASAP. Immediately is best. At least put it away before you go to bed. I used to just let store receipts pile up for a week or more before filing them. Now I try to file them the same day they enter the house. Suddenly, we have a lot less paperwork floating around.

4. Clean as you go. This morning, making breakfast, I ended up with an empty egg carton, a Tupperware container with bananas, and a flat of pea shoots on my kitchen counter. They were all returned to their respective places before 8:00 a.m.

Result? When I get home from the grocery store later today, I will have room as I organize and put away the fresh food. I estimate that cleaning as I go saves me at least fifteen minutes of clutter-clean up and immeasurable misery every evening.

Do I still have clutter on my counter? Yes. However, it moves off more and more quickly these days. And my decluttering habits have moved to other rooms in the house it become a more peaceful place to be.

May I coach you? Declutter your home, and watch your mind grow more at ease.

1. Culbertson, Judi.The Clutter Cure: Three Steps to Letting Go of Stuff, Organizing Your Space, & Creating the Home of Your Dreams. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007, p.1.

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