Right now, it is vital to keep our physical space free of clutter. “You are kidding me?” I hear you cry. “How can I possibly keep my home clutter-free when everyone is home and creating a mess wherever I look!”. Toys and other ‘stuff’ are probably swamping you now that everyone is entertaining themselves at home. You perhaps feel you have no control and just have to get through this time any way you can.
There are several thoughts I have on this. Everyone can do their part; it’s not all up to you. Even young kids can be encouraged to pick up after themselves, and teenagers and college students at home will quickly see how much better they feel when they are not surrounded by clutter. There is scientific evidence that clutter causes anxiety. Having a mess around us is overstimulating and stops you from being able to relax.
Having an uncluttered space leads to a more relaxed mind; this leaves space in your mind for more creativity.
Right now, we are all at home and potentially have more time to do significant projects. I regularly declutter our home, putting things in a donate bin nearly every day, but our garage is another thing. We had penciled it in as a task to tackle later in the spring, probably trying to get it done in one weekend, so it didn’t impact other more fun activities. Now, with not much else to do, we are starting to clear it out one section at a time. We don’t feel under pressure to get it done, because we have the luxury of time. Last weekend we went through two boxes that we haven’t opened since we moved to Seattle sixteen years ago! One was our wedding keepsake box, I had no idea what was in the other. It turns out it had photos from our teenage and college years and another keepsake box from the first year my husband and I were dating twenty-six years ago. We had a great time going through it, it was so fun, and it felt good to recycle all the pamphlets from places we had gone.
So how do you start decluttering and making your home the restful haven it should be? Here are some of my ideas:
Start small. Don‘t look at the whole house in one go, that is too overwhelming. What space is most important to you right now that will have the most impact? Is it a cozy reading corner that, if it was uncluttered, will give you a sanctuary away from the business of the rest of the house? Or one room such as your bedroom, that if you tidied it up would allow you to get better night’s sleep? What few things could you find a place for out of sight?
Now make it even smaller. You have decided which room or area to start in, now break that down even smaller. Start with the table next to your bed or cozy chair. Do you need that stack of books? How many are you using? Have you already read them and they can be donated, or waiting to be read so that you can put them on the bookshelf until you are ready?
Start with what you can see. Remember, right now you might be feeling the effects of too much stuff around you; it is overwhelming to see clutter, once you have cleared that layer you can start to think about the drawers and cupboards. Mess inside spaces is also energetically disturbing, but you will be in a better place to deal with it later; once you start to feel the effects of reducing ‘stuff,’ you may feel ready to start clearing out the hidden clutter too.
Tidy up as you go. After you have finished a project with the kids, make it part of the plan to clear up afterward. Leave behind the feeling that you should clear up and let the kids go off and do their own thing. Many hands make light work. If this is not something you typically do, expect some resistance, but keep a cool head and stick to your guns, the kids will soon understand what the plan is and what is expected of them.
The family sweep. Since my kids were small, we have done a nightly sweep. Each evening before bedtime everyone goes around the whole house and picks up everything that is theirs; hair ties, books, toys, opened mail that has been left on the countertop, you name it if it is yours; pick it up and find a home for it. Invariably when the kids were small, their stuff would just get dumped in their rooms, but it’s out of the main living space, where I would be most of the time and I’d be happy.
Have a donate bin in the garage. I keep a tub in the garage that I can put items I want to donate in as I find them. Once it is full, I take it to the donation center. Of course, right now, many centers are closed, so you may have to keep this for a while, but it’s out of your living space.
I hope you find a new peace once you start clearing the clutter. It’s so important right now to do everything we can to keep ourselves in a good mental space, and this is one easy way to do just that.