9 Common Myths About Clearing Clutter

Clutter_slide01
Gretchen Rubin, author of two New York Times bestsellers, is our go-to gal for the best get-it-together know-how. Every week, she'll be dishing up her wisdom straight from her popular blog, The Happiness Project, to get you on the road to a more productive, healthier you. Here's to a 2014 resolution that sticks!
One of my key realizations about happiness, and a point oddly under-emphasized by positive psychologists given its emphasis in popular culture, is that outer order contributes to inner calm. More than it should.
After all, in the context of a happy life, a messy desk or house is a trivial problem. Yet, I’ve found — and other people tell me they feel the same way — that getting control of the stuff of life makes me feel more in control of my life generally. (Even if this is an illusion, it’s a helpful illusion.) But, as much as most of us want to keep our home, office, car, etc. in reasonable order, it’s tough. Here are some myths of de-cluttering that make it harder than it needs to be.
Myths of Cluttering:
1. “I need to get organized.” No! This is not your first step! Don’t get organized.
2. “The more organized I am, the better.” I fully appreciate the pleasure of having a place for everything, and perhaps counter-intuitively, I find it easier to put things away in an exact place, rather than a general place (“the third shelf of the coat closet,” not “a closet”). However, this impulse can become destructive: If you spend a lot of time alphabetizing your spices or setting up eighty categories for your home library, consider simplifying your approach. Also, some things simply won’t stay organized, so it’s not even worth trying; I’ve spent hours sorting magic markers and Calico Critters pieces, only to find everything a jumble the next day.
Clutter_slide02
3. “I need to run out and buy some inventive storage containers.” See #1. I love cunning containers as much as anyone, but I’ve found that if I get rid of everything I don’t need, I often don’t need a container at all.
4. “I need to find the perfect recipient for everything I’m getting rid of.” True, it’s easier to let go of things when they’re going to a good home, but be wary of letting this kind intention become a source of clutter, itself. I have a friend who has multiple piles all over her house, each lovingly destined for a particular recipient. This is generous and thoughtful, but it contributes mightily to clutter. Try to find one or two good recipients, or create some kind of rigid system for moving stuff along quickly.
5. “I can’t get rid of anything that I might possibly need one day.” How terrible would it be if you needed a glass jar and didn’t have one? Do you need gigantic stores of rubber bands or coffee mugs?
Clutter_slide03
6. “Someday, I might get that gizmo fixed.” Face it. If you’ve had something for more than six months, and it’s still not repaired, it’s clutter.
7. “After I lose some weight, I’ll fit into these clothes again.” If you lose a bunch of weight, you’ll likely want to buy a new pair of jeans, not dust off the pair you bought seven years ago.
8. “I need to keep this to remind me of the past.” I’m a huge fan of mementos; remembering happy times in the past gives you a big happiness boost in the present. But, ask yourself: Do I need to keep all these T-shirts to remind me of high school, or can I keep a few? Do I need to keep a giant armchair to remind me of my father, or can I use a photograph? Mementos work best when they’re carefully chosen — and when they don’t take up much room!
Clutter_slide04
9. “I need to keep this object to show respect for the person who gave it to me.” You can love someone, but not want to keep a gift from that person. It’s okay to pass an item along to someone who will appreciate it more.
What other myths am I overlooking? Do these ring true for you?
Click here to order Happier at Home or to be notified about pre-ordering Gretchen's next book, Before and After, about habits, coming in 2015.

More from Home

While Hermione's life outside of Hogwarts didn't get nearly enough screentime in the Harry Potter movies, it's getting the credit it deserves on the ...
If you, like many people, would do just about anything to own a former Leonardo DiCaprio residence, you have a second chance. It's entirely possible that...
What comes to mind when you think of Japan? Is it the fashion of Harajuku or the electric chaos of Akihabara? Maybe the quiet of a mountain retreat in the ...
Rest assured: Stains are not always your fault. Sure, you experience a clumsy moment from time to time, but you also can’t control the actions of others, ...
It's safe to say that a home — especially in New York City — will be one of the biggest purchases you'll ever make in a lifetime. But let's be real here: ...
Lady Gaga is known for her unique, eccentric, and sometimes downright insane sense of style. So it makes total sense that she would purchase a mansion ...
Take a peek at any design-forward apartment, and we dare you not to spot at least one Ikea item. Like classic wardrobe staples, there are certain pieces ...
(Paid Content) August is a turning point. It might still be peak summer, but all the summer Fridays in the world are not enough to keep our fall fantasies ...
Lighting candles is a great way to relax. The luxurious scent, the small burst of warmth, and the dim light all come together to help you unwind. But can...
A change of season means a change of style. It's the perfect time to update your wardrobe with the newest fall trends and freshen up your home with some ...
If you've rented an apartment, chances are you've had a kitchen like redditor ElizaB's, which she described as "yellow and sticky and ALWAYS dirty." Not ...
Time to celebrate, little spoons: There's a chair that will literally cradle you. A student in Moscow delivered the design for our dream lounge chair. ...
Though Ikea offers stylish home furnishings for insanely affordable prices, a visit to the store can be a true test for any relationship. The hordes of ...
In 1998, not too long after the release of Titanic, Leonardo DiCaprio put his well-earned Jack Dawson money toward a beach home in Malibu. According to ...