Saturday, November 22, 2008

Focus Challenge - Month 9

While reading The psychology of clutter by Heather Grimshaw in the Denver Post, the picture really stood out to me. I feel like this, because I can't get on to the next thing. I have looked at some items, knowing they are clutter by definition, but have not been able to drop the ax on them. Why? It's that mental clutter.

(Maureen Scance, The Denver Post)

I firmly believe that mental clutter, in all its forms, can hinder our lives just like physical clutter, and even body clutter. If you haven’t read the blog tagline in awhile, I'll put it right here so you can.

Clutter comes in many forms--sometimes obvious and sometimes not. Physical clutter is obvious, although defining it is a personal opinion. Mental clutter manifests itself into visual clutter. When you purge the physical clutter, the mental clutter will follow it out the door!

You’ve done fantastic dealing with the physical clutter in your life. Do you want to work on some of the mental clutter too? If so, I’m going to lay out my Focus Challenge…I’ll also add a simpler, "basic physical clutter" one for those who don’t want to join in.

Our Focus Challenge

Examine physical items of clutter that have been able to stay around because of a mental clutter hold, whether it was because of sentimentality (i.e., missing someone), practicality (I can't get another like this if I want it again later), etc.

Is there a way to retain it but in an uncluttered way? For example, if it's a fabric item, do you really need to keep the item in its entirety or could you keep a swatch of it?

If it's not the item itself that you cherish, but the memory that it invokes, can you keep a picture of the item?

What about the mental "have to, should do, etc." that has been placed on the item, whether by others or ourselves? Do you "have to" keep this dish from Aunt Sally? If you feel it is a yes, do what you can to make it a cherished keepsake. Treat it with respect by displaying it yourself, or loaning it to a family member who will, instead of being destined to live its life buried in a box in the attic or closet.

Our Focus Challenge Lite

Examine these 7 areas of your home for clutter. Hopefully, you find an item that needs to go and you say "goodbye". Then celebrate another day of staying true to your challenge!

* Any flat surface in your home (i.e. tops of tables)
* Non-refrigerated food storage (Got canned food to donate to a food bank?)
* Any area hidden by a door that is not a room (i.e. cabinets, desk, etc.)
* Your room (This is our private sanctuary...what's in there that shouldn't be?)
* Your vehicle (Taking along extra stuff in the car reduces fuel mileage!)
* On you (anything that would go on you, i.e. skin care, makeup, accessories, clothing...)
* Seasonal (more holiday item decluttering...or even just decluttering a holiday obligation!)

I would really appreciate reading feedback on your thoughts about us working on purging mental clutter from our life.

Regardless of which Focus Challenge you accept, you can do this! Let's stay focused on our challenge!

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  1. Great post. For me the mental clutter and physical clutter are so intertwined that some of it can't be separated or defined. I just realized that this is one of my real problems. Defining it. When I think about it, doing a mental inventory of the stuff around the house and in storage, it's mostly mental clutter.
    On the positive side, today we decorated the front porch of our house and the blue spruce in the front yard (that by next year will be too tall for even the big ladder so this is probably its last year in lights). We won't turn on the lights until after Thanksgiving, but I really gently pushed to get this done ahead of time to ease up the stress in a few weeks. While we had all the boxes pulled out from under the stairs I found two foot-tall stuffed decorative Thanksgiving gifts that my mother had waiting at our places the last year she was with us. Mine was a "lady" goose in a dress and bonnet and my husband's was a turkey made of different fabrics. I've never used them and amazingly found them easy to give away to the twin 9-year-old girls across the street. I'm finding that the OLDER the attachment to a piece of mental clutter the harder it is to get rid of. You'd think that, because they were some of the last gifts I received from my mother, they would be hard to part with. But I had no history with them, and that seemed to make the difference.

  2. Great job on taking that first step!

    "When you purge the physical clutter, the mental clutter will follow it out the door!"

    Self-awareness is the first step...You're on your way. :-)

  3. Do boxes stored in the attic and in the garage count as clutter? =) I have a hard time letting go. It's definitely getting easier since I'm running out of room to neatly store things out of sight. I'm mostly an "a place for everything, everything in it's place" person. But with the kids accumulating more things and with my sewing obsession (without a room to put it in), its getting harder to store them neatly. My daughter has no problem letting go of most things, but my son is more like me. Of course Mike would just like to see it all go. LOL

  4. Jacqui: First, hello my long-lost friend!!! :-)

    Clutter is any thing you don't Love, Want, Need or Use. Defining your own things as clutter or not is only a decision you can make.

    Items stored in boxes, whether in an attic, garage, on a closet shelf or just on the floor are only clutter if they don't meet the above criteria.

    - Do you want them? This is probably yes, since you've taken care to store them away. But, sometimes, this is the easiest question to answer because we surprise ourselves and realize that, no, we don't want them. So, out it must go!

    - Do you use these things? If no, then they are clutter. Decide to use them and do it, or realize that you need less physical clutter in your life and let them go. When you purge the physical clutter, the mental clutter follows it out the door. Imagine, not having the friction against Mike's desires and your own, not forgetting what you have and spending money on more, not feeling emotional mental clutter about it (see next item), etc.

    - Do you love them...or do they make you sad, feel guilty, make your life feel inadequate (as in you wish you had time for other interests, but don't, and these things just remind you of that dissatisfaction), etc.? If they bring on unhappy feelings, they are clutter.

    - Do you need them? If they are used and loved, then think about whether you need them. For example: Say you have one of something in your kitchen but have another that a relative gave you. That one isn't really your favorite so you put it away for "special occasions". If you bring it out and use it, then only you can decide whether its useful in your life to have a duplicate of something. If you are only keeping the second because of mental clutter, let it go. Find it a better home. Selling or giving things to someone who WILL use, love, need and want them will not be clutter to them, as they were to you.

    Happy Decluttering!


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