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Just how did that clutter accumulate, anyway?


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POSTED: Monday, April 27, 2009

My last column on hoarding and clutter really appears to have struck a nerve as almost everyone seems to know someone who lives in clutter, or recognizes clutter tendencies in themselves.

How does clutter accumulate? There are many reasons, but here are four common ones. Do any apply to you?

» Difficulty deciding. Sometimes it's just too hard to decide whether to keep something, so we keep it. That's how piles start. As is commonly said, “;clutter is the result of postponed decisions.”;

We need to realize that not making a decision is a decision. It's a decision for clutter.

Columnist and best-selling author Suzy Welch's new book “;10-10-10”; offers a novel approach to decision making. She suggests considering what effect your decision will have on your life in 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 years. It's said to apply to life's large decisions as well as small ones, and I think it can even apply to purging decisions.

If you dared to get rid of something, what effect would it have in 10 minutes? In 10 months? In 10 years? If it's gone, would it not matter in 10 years? If it's still around, will it still be cluttering your home/office 10 years from now?

» Perfectionism. Sometimes we're afraid to discard something and make a mistake, thinking we may need it one day. If so, what's the worst thing that would happen? Would you have to borrow, buy or rent another? Could you do without and substitute something else? No one makes perfect decisions 100 percent of the time. As long as it's not a fatal mistake, life goes on, and so do we.

Other times, we want to know the “;perfect”; place or person to give items to. Until we know that, we hold on to them. By donating to charitable organizations, the responsibility is placed on them to distribute them. Is it more important to find the perfect recipient or to get rid of the clutter?

» Not being wasteful. Savers can be very conscientious, well-meaning people. Seeing that things are still useful, we hold on to them, to the detriment of our space. If the items are so useful, why aren't we using them? Is it time to pass them on so they can be useful to someone else?

» Creativity. Savers can be the most interesting, creative people! While many see an object and its purpose for what it is, savers tend to be big-picture thinkers who save things because, “;in the future, if I ever worked on such-and-such a project, this would be useful!”; They can imagine many ways to use a common item. Creative types have many great ideas, but more often than not, don't get around to carrying them out, and the items remain and clutter their space. It's time to be realistic about projects we really will and won't carry out.

Which of the above reasons apply to you? In my next column I'll share more reasons clutter accumulates.

In “;Clutter's Last Stand,”; Don Aslett writes, “;Getting the clutter out of your life can and will rid you of more discouragement, tiredness and boredom than anything else you can do.”; That sounds good to me!

See you in two weeks!