Saturday, April 26, 2008

Decluttering by Doing

I’ve been asked by several people if doing something, i.e. an unfinished hobby project or a household repair, counts as decluttering for the challenge. According to my opinion, it does. We declutter to rid ourselves of anything unwanted, unloved, unused and unneeded, and doing these jobs replace the decluttered stuff with good stuff instead.

Then, we go on to talk about how unfinished things make us feel. Some feel mad, some feel guilt and some feel frustration with themselves, but not one person I’ve known has felt good about unfinished things in their life.

In my eyes, the completion of an unfinished thing is one of the top three ways to declutter. Why? Well, let’s start with the obvious: physical clutter. The item in its unfinished state, i.e. a box full of pictures that you want preserved in an album or a small hole in the wall from the doorknob, doesn’t make you feel good when you see it. It might be something that nags at you, like the unfinished pictures project, or unsightly, like the hole in the wall.

Additionally, you may have other pieces of the project that, by themselves, are clutter. For the pictures, you may have a photo album and a myriad of scrapbooking supplies. For the hole, you may have tools and supplies for patching the wall. Once the project or repair is completed, those items will no longer be sitting around waiting to be used. So, you’re actually decluttering many items instead of just one!

Then there is the mental clutter. If you’ve walked by that hole and every single time you see it, you think “I need to patch this”, mental clutter is growing in your mind like cancer. That thought will infect all other thoughts around it and poison them. That small “need to do” thought will become thoughts where you attack yourself (Uh, I can’t believe I haven’t taken care of this yet), where you attack others (Those darn kids need to stop running in and throwing open the door) and, worse, when your ability to overcome this clutter gets weaker by the minute (Geez, I can’t do anything right….which leads us to feel defeated and why bother doing it at all).

For the picture album example, it gets worse. Undone things that would result in happiness are the ones that make me feel the worst, anyways. It’s put away in a cabinet and one would think that it doesn’t enter our thoughts too much. In my opinion, we are happiness and fulfillment driven beings. When we are denying ourselves of these things, the resulting feelings permeate our more conscious thoughts, and, the negative feelings we are experiencing throw a shadow over many areas of mind.

You may not realize how unfinished “happiness items” make you feel bad now, but, when you complete them, you should notice that you tend to feel better than the item should make you feel. That is because the happiness that you now receive from the unfinished item (being able to share and enjoy those pictures more readily is but one part). Overall, you may be feeling something more--joy, a sense of being connected to your past, and a surge in your motivation meter, for example. All of those feelings allow us to feel a more authentic sense of happiness than just the literal representation of a photo album.

I encourage you to Declutter by Doing during your 365 Days of Decluttering journey. You will love the results!

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