I started wading through the clutter in January. One week later I was disheartened. There was still a lot to do. I shared my dismay with my brave friend who had come over and worked alongside me for a bit, she said, “It will take a year.” She reminded me this was a process and that it would take more than a weekend to declutter. And here I am today, still working on organizing, decluttering, de-junking my house. I have made some progress and have discovered some surprising clutter.
The piles of toy parts, the box of notes from high school, and the bags of stained baby clothes, I expected. However, I was surprised to discover hidden pockets of clutter of a different variety. These were things I thought I would never misplace or lose track of. I unearthed encouraging words left unsaid, found compliments piled in the corners like stacks of magazines, and discovered a hoard of fun under the couch.
I found a box full of family time that still had the packing tape on it from our last move. Nothing really prepared me for the waves of regret that quickly eroded my pride in the progress I had made. The cost of clutter had not really hit me until that moment; clutter steals and hoards what we are capable of giving to others.
I had not realized that my disheveled closet was hoarding confidence or that the chaotic art room had my children’s creative tendencies squirreled away in half empty crayon boxes and dried up paint bottles. I started to think that maybe we just weren’t as creative, fun or as kind as we used to be, but it was just that the clutter had taken over and obscured these attributes from our hearts and minds. My creative, kind and fun-loving family was there all along.
It was just that we could only see the mess.
It didn’t take me long to realize I could not hold on to the the regret that came along with this discovery. I certainly could not afford to stockpile regret, so out it went and in came a new way of living and loving.
How to clear out the surprising clutter
As we clear the clutter, we discover that our hearts expand to give more generously to those we love most, and isn’t that what we all want? I don’t need the old train table the kids played with years ago or the 20 reusable grocery bags that have taken over my side entryway, I do need every bit of my capacity to encourage my children and to love my husband well.
My words of affirmation and kindness must be said, otherwise they are just as useless as the boxes of VHS tapes in the basement. The fun hoard, along with the dust bunnies and dog toys, needs to come out from under the couch, so that our home can be a place of joy.
Clearing the clutter allows our hearts to be tuned into what is most important — the people we do life with. As I continue to declutter my home I am now more excited about what I will gain. An expanded heart ready to jump into joy, fun and love versus what I will lose.
You can read more from Bethany Howard at bethanyhoward.com. She writes about finding fuel for joy and growth in the details of the daily. Her greatest leadership exercise has been her roles as wife and mom to three. She is a graduate of Leverage: The Speaker Conference.
Do you feel mental overload? Do you wonder if you’ll ever get your home or office organized? Maybe you think if you just work overtime, or if your kids could stay at Grandma’s for a week, you could finally get it together.
What if I told you working harder or having a child-free home isn’t the solution?
I’ll venture to say 75% or more of our clutter problems aren’t because we don’t work hard enough, or that our homes are too small or our children are messy. Most of our problems start because we can’t think through what needs to be done. We can’t get our minds under control. We can’t make decisions. We are on mental overload.
Do you know that feeling?
How to deal with mental overload
For years, I lived with an ongoing sense that I should be doing something all the time. It ate at me. Even when I focused on something important, there was a latent unease about what else I should be doing. It was an underlying anxiety that hung around, even when there was no pressing deadline or responsibility.
It caused stress and lack of sleep.
It wasn’t until I read David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done, that I discovered a reason for this tension. It seems our brains aren’t designed to store and manage all of the information, deadlines and demands that swirl around us at all times.
Allen writes, “The big problem is that your mind keeps reminding you of things when you can’t do anything about them. It has no sense of past or future. That means that as soon as you tell yourself that you need to do something, and store it in your RAM (your mind), there’s a part of you that thinks you should be doing that something all the time.”
It was a head-slapping moment when I read those words. That was it! Allen goes on to explain that the first step to finding a solution is to get everything out of your mind and store it somewhere safe. Not the “safe” place you stored an important document at home, and now can’t find. But somewhere close at hand.
The right to-do list
I realized my mind tried to manage more stuff than it could hold. One to-do list wasn’t the answer because it wasn’t keeping things in safe places.
With that in mind, I’m going to ask you to do something painful. Not as painful as stepping on a scale, but close. I want you to take a personal assessment of all your responsibilities, projects, priorities and tasks. Everything. Get it out of your mind and onto one document. This could be a paper notebook or digital file, it doesn’t matter. If you have multiple to-do lists, combine them into this one list. Leave this list where you can see it morning, noon and night for a few days.
On this list write down everything you need to get done. You might start with your home and add repairs, cleaning projects or laundry.
Put down things you need to do for your family, such as make a dentist appointment, write a letter to a teacher or take clothes to the dry cleaning.
Then move on to other areas of your life: church, community involvement, sports teams, etc. Include big projects and little things, like errands and emails that need to be sent. Nothing is too small to include.
You might want to dedicate one page for future projects, such as planning this summer’s vacation or researching colleges with your daughter. Another page might contain things you want to do years from now, but you don’t want to forget.
This process will take you days. If it helps, you can organize this list however you see fit if it helps you remember things. Or just write things down as they come to mind. Whatever works for you.
It’s okay if there is no order to it. Actually trying to organize it now might hinder you if you are a perfectionist. You might not leave yourself enough room in a certain category and then you’ll be frustrated.
For now, capture it all. Don’t be surprised if you feel a bit panicky at how much you have to do. Just take a deep breath and ask for God’s peace.
I promise you feel a sense of relief soon because finally, maybe for the first time in your life, you have everything in one place.
There are many things you can do with this master list. You can organize it in to tasks (one action) and projects (more than one action). You can organize it by area of your life or deadlines. You can sort it by things that need to be done today, this week, next month, in six months, etc.
Hold on to that list. Add to it. Next month, I’ll share how to create a project management planner.
If you enjoyed this article, you might enjoy Glynnis’ 15-Minute Morning Refuel.
Today, decide where you will create your master list and list five action items on it to help you deal with your mental overload.
Hello, my fellow FLINGERS!
I’m so excited to fling 1,000 things with you between now and July 14. Are you ready to suit up and show up over the next five weeks or are you still on the fence? If you haven’t committed to the Five-Week Fling, what’s holding you back? Fear of failure? Shame? Or are you too overwhelmed to know where to begin?
Well, let me tell you, friends. I have been there and back, and here’s what I have to say about all of that: Take my hand and let me lead you out of despair.
Ground rules for the five-week fling
I know. 1,000 things in five weeks sounds daunting, but we’re going to tackle it in bite-size chunks. More importantly, we’re going to do it together. But before we begin, let’s set some ground rules:
- Progress beats perfection. Whether you fling 10 things or 1,000 things, you’re one step closer to winning back your home – and your life – than you were before you began.
- No blame, no shame. We are all at different stages of our Clutter Free journey, and that’s OK. We’re going to jump in where we’re at with a focus on moving ourselves forward.
- Weekends off (if you want). The program is built around the idea of taking weekends for rest, but be flexible. You can use all or part of your weekends to catch up or, if you prefer, average out your flings so you’re tossing 30 a day every day instead of 40 a day five days a week.
- Pick your pain point. Every single one of us has a part of our home that makes us cringe. The place that allows Clutter to scold you. Start thinking of that place now so you confront it first when we begin.
- Join us on Facebook. The No. 1 perk of this program is the 24/7 support you receive from our private Facebook group designed for you by people just like you. This is where you see how Clutter Free changes lives, and where your life changes as well.
Now that you know the ground rules, you can jump into the Five-Week Fling with the confidence of knowing you’ll succeed. Make sure you subscribe to our blog so you don’t miss out on program updates and other resources related to Clutter Free. Are you ready to fling 1,000 things? Join us today.
Many of us who struggle with clutter are reluctant to part with certain items because of the money we spent on them. The problem is, we won’t recoup even a fraction of what we paid for those items.
And that’s OK.
There is no better deterrent from bringing new items into your home than seeing that candle you bought for $24.95 re-sell for only $2.50. This is the Clutter Tax we all pay for excess stuff. If you’re ready to face the music and rid yourself of the surplus items in your home, a garage sale is a great de-cluttering option.
Hold a clutter-free garage sale
Here’s a no-fail, step-by-step strategy to make it work.
- Strategize. First, sit down with your family and talk about the possibility of a yard sale. Are they willing to participate? Do they have old clothes, toys, or books to donate to the sale? I’ve found it’s easier to get buy-in from the whole family if you have a common goal in mind. Perhaps you’re looking to save for a family vacation or a play set for the backyard. Get your kids excited about contributing to the family goal.
- Plan. Next, put a “Garage Sale” date on the calendar. Make sure it’s at least a month out. This gives you and your family time to go through closets, drawers, basements, and garages and come up with the items you’ll sell. (What a great goal in decluttering!)
- Organize. Start off with some empty boxes in an out-of-the-way place in your home (the garage, the laundry room.) Then as you come across items you no longer need, add them to the boxes.
Plan a day to work with your kids in their rooms. If they waffle about whether to sell an item, encourage them to put it in the garage sale box. If they want to retrieve it and play with it, great. If they never think about it again, then it’s probably safe to sell. I can’t guarantee there won’t be a change of heart on the day of the sale, but often the excitement of selling something makes letting it go much easier.
As you start to gather more and more items, sort them by type (kids’ clothes, kids’ shoes, toys, books, household gadgets, DVDs). Items will be easier to price and display if similar objects are grouped together.
I encourage you to start pricing items a few weeks before the sale. It’s easy to print price stickers on your computer’s printer. Younger kids will have a great time putting stickers on things.
If your kids part with some toys that have a lot of little parts, gather up everything in a resealable plastic bag to keep things together.
Start collecting paper bags for shoppers to use to take home their treasures.
- Advertise. There are several ways to get the word out for successful clutter-free garage sales.
On the web. The best way to know where to advertise is to google “garage sales” or “yard sales” (whichever is the common terminology in your area) and the name of your city. You’ll see where most people look for the information and then announce your sale there. But don’t spend a lot of money doing this. Most of your traffic will likely be of the drive-by variety. Be sure to highlight the kinds of things you’re selling (tools, kids’ clothes, furniture, etc.) so you attract the right buyers.
On the street. Signs most likely are your best means of getting people to your sale. While it’s tempting to let your kids create the signs, you should manage this project. Cute is not your objective—readability is.
My favorite kind of sign is made of neon poster board (think hot pink or neon green) cut in the shape of an arrow. Clearly label your cross streets. Kids can definitely be part of the sign-hanging process the night before. Make sure you bring copious amounts of clear packing tape, scissors, string, and even some balloons to attach to each sign.
Your friends. Tell your friends about your sale and even the goal you have in mind. Your kids will have a lot more fun if they know some of the people who stop by. Be sure to let your Facebook friends know as well.
Newspaper. Running a cheap ad in your local newspaper or an online classified service will bring you more shoppers.
- Merchandise. Before I was an author I worked as a sales rep in the gift industry, and now as a speaker, I have a book table wherever I go. One thing I’ve learned in both these roles is the power of merchandising—staging items for sale.
Clothes. You are going to sell a lot more clothes for much better prices if you have a garment rack to hang them on. Even a shower rod hung from your roof or garage door is a big help. The next best option is to fold clothes neatly on a table (this is a great option especially for kids’ clothes). Unless you have a stash of wire hangers you’re dying to get rid of, be sure to put up a sign that says “Hangers Not Included.”
Books, CDs, DVDs. Drag a bookshelf out of your house as a temporary display. If you have enough shelf space, place the front covers face out. To keep the shelves looking full, put one of your kids in charge of moving items from the bottom rows to the top as books begin to sell.
Put the wows up front. You want items up front that literally stop traffic. Furniture, tools, and electronics are your best bet for getting hubby to pull the car to the curb.
Group items. It’s helpful to have similarly priced items on one table. You can have a dollar table, a fifty-cent table, and so on.
- Capitalize. When the kids were little I would help them set up a lemonade stand to serve those thirsty shoppers in the summer heat (and for my kids to make a little extra cash). This was great for the kids when they were young. They could still be a part of the action, but they didn’t have to negotiate with hagglers. Who is going to dicker over a fifty-cent lemonade?
The only problem was that running a lemonade stand is as much work as the actual garage sale. Finally, I wised up. For our next garage sale, I went to Costco early in the week and bought sodas and bottled waters. All we had to do was ice the drinks and replenish the supply throughout the day, both of which my kids could do without my help.
The kids were thrilled to see their bank grow, and many of the adults were just as excited to get a cheap soda in the middle of a July day.
- Improvise. Garage sales aren’t rigid. You aren’t working for Sam Walton, so things don’t have to go a certain way. So if something isn’t working, improvise!
- Tired of sorting through piles of trinkets that are really worth nothing? Give them away for free with a purchase. Or set out a free box for people to sort through. Better them than you, right?
- Play music to encourage people to stay a while.
- Put out a plate of cookies or some lemonade.
- Have a plan for the end of the day. The objective is to get rid of everything–do not, under any circumstances, let it back into the house.
At the end of the day, figure out what you are going to do with the leftovers.
Last Call: In the last hour or two, let people know that you will be selling everything for a dollar. Your objective is not to make money, it’s to get rid of stuff. Bringing it back in defeats the purpose of having a clutter free garage sale.
Make Arrangements: At the end of the day, have a plan to make everything go away. Load up the van and take everything to the donation center. Don’t let it come back into the home!
Don’t be fooled. Having a garage sale is a lot of work. But if you are looking for a way to recoup some of your Clutter Tax, this is a great way to spend a day. Pad your bank account and clean out your house at the same time.
Now it’s your turn–tell us your best tips for clutter-free garage sales!
But all things should be done decently and in order.” 1 Corinthians 14:40
Ever felt frustrated or overwhelmed in your work efforts due to clutter around you?
You tell yourself you will get to it . . . eventually.
You don’t have time to declutter because your workload is pressing in on you.
Frustration turns into condemnation, so now working is made more difficult by the mental energy you must utilize just to do work. Deadlines are missed. Papers cannot be found. And the demands of life around you make it seemingly impossible to focus.
I get it. As a mom of five in a crazy busy life, sometimes I have felt like managing all the work around me, along with everyone else’s work (because moms are evidently supposed to manage everything), is overwhelming.
Our work environment matters.
Like a hamster, we keep running on our wheel thinking our work will be different, but the cluttered area surrounding us keeps us hampered and confined.
We could do so much more, but we continue to operate in the same manner, hoping we will still get the work done. Sounds kind of like that definition of insanity . . . doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Seems like a hopeless situation. But the very thing we tell ourselves we can’t make the time to do will actually give us the space to be able to work in a more effective manner.
We accomplish more when we have space and organization to work.
There is a misconception behind work clutter that needs to be debunked. It is not necessarily the amount of work that is the problem – it is how we work that does.
I have found that having more responsibilities requires me to be more organized. When every task has its place in space and time in my life, then I am not overwhelmed by tasks that seem to be too much.
Creating a clutter-free work zone is done physically, mentally and spiritually.
- What is it that is in our space that we don’t regularly use for work? Is there a space in our home where we can do some of our work that frees us up to think? Perhaps taking a laptop and working on the back porch for some projects will rejuvenate our vision for work and not make you feel trapped in between 4 walls.
- Maybe shelving units or a closet can also store work items (not thrown in the closet – too many skeletons in there) so we do not feel encumbered or stressed by a lot of “stuff” around us.
- Utilizing tools like Evernote to track “to do’s” that infringe on brain capacity takes the mental energy out of busy work lives.
- We don’t have to allow our “to do” list to rule us. Make changes as needed.
- Having a specific time for projects frees us up to do the work at hand, knowing we have time to do the other projects, too.
- God is a God of order and having structure glorifies Him. When we are not hindered by our environment, we are better able to glorify God in our work and all we do.
Maybe it is the work itself that you dread. This article on The Hope in Work is motivation to keep pressing on in the work God has given us to do. Every task matters when it is offered as service to the King of kings.
Ultimately, we determine where and when we will work. Let the truth behind this power free you to set up your work space in the way that works best for you. Doing so will increase your productivity and help you to create a place in which God can use you mightily. Don’t have time to do it, you say? You don’t have time not to.
Look up from your work and around your work space and take five minutes each day to make your space more enjoyable to work in. What distracts you in your work space? How can you be creative with the space you have allocated?
Denise Pass is an author, speaker and CCM worship leader from Fredericksburg, VA, where she lives with her amazing husband and 5 children. Denise is passionate about writing devotions and music that foster unshakable hope and healing in the face of seemingly insurmountable circumstances. Her ministry umbrella, Seeing Deep in a Shallow World seeks to be a compass grounded in Scripture and a place where real problems meet real, transparent faith and needed answers in Scripture.
You can read more about Denise’s ministry, read and hear her talks, blog and original music over at www.denisepass.com or connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.