I always thought it was funny how we have a “spring cleaning” season. That one time of year where everyone looks at their homes and thinks, “Time to clean house!” And every year, people across the country trash heap-loads of stuff in order to declutter and cleanse their homes.
There are a lot of reasons why we choose to do this in the spring. But it seems only logical that once you’ve decluttered and cleaned your home, you wouldn’t need to do so again. After all, decluttering is the act of removing mess or clutter from a place, and organizing and prioritizing one’s material possessions.
So why is it that every year people find themselves right back where they started — amidst a pile of clutter that has no true purpose?
What people should be thinking this spring isn’t, “Time to clean house!” but, “How and why did this stuff find its way into my house again?”
Unless you fix the root of the problem, the cycle of clutter > declutter > clutter will continue.
1. You haven’t self-examined or self-reflected on why there is clutter to begin with
Before you do anything to your home and the stuff in it, consider why every item is there in the first place: Did you put it there? Was it a gift? Is it something you use regularly in your daily routine? Does it bring you happiness? Can you live without it?
We need to ask ourselves these hard questions in order to effect change. Decluttering will not work for those who do not self-reflect on why things come into and remain in their lives. Neither will it explain your attachment to items and objects that have sentimental value.
Decluttering can change your home temporarily by removing the obvious things (junk, trash, expired foods, etc.). However, it cannot change your lifestyle and/or personal habits (what and how often you buy things, etc).
Stuff is imminent, and will always come into and out of your life. But you can control what stays and what doesn’t…
…for the most part. This brings me to my next point:
2. You may not have considered the other people who live in your home
The above sentiment is also true for any other person living in your home. Decluttering is simply about removing stuff that shouldn’t be there, so it won’t change the habits of your husband, wife, partner, kids, mom, dad, etc.
If you want to bring permanent change to your home, then make decluttering a family affair. Sit down together and discuss a plan of action, and small changes you can each make to work toward your collective goal.
If you have kids, this can be especially tricky. One small way to help children make changes is to set ground rules for new things that come into the house: if a new piece of clothing or toy comes in, then a piece of clothing or toy goes out.
This small act of continual decluttering can also teach responsibility and charity. In our home, we love supporting our local shelters and non-profit organizations whenever possible.
Note: Don’t set goals that are unattainable. It is difficult to change our personal habits (especially for kids), and requires time and effort to do so. Not to mention, it can be very hard and literally painful to let go of things, so remember to take it one step at a time. Change is possible!
3. Your possessions give you an inaccurate view of your financial standing
We all buy things with the understanding that they are worth something. Everyday, people invest in things (food, wares, services, etc.) that they view as essential to living. No one would spend money on something they thought had little or no monetary value.
The value we give to an item in our home is it’s economic value. More often than not, our notion of the economic value of things in our home is significantly higher than other people’s perceptions.
Free Bonus: Check out this segment from the TV show Adam Ruins Everything: The Economics of Gift Giving for a visual and more eloquent explanation of economic value.
Often, we hold onto things because we think they have value. But value to you might mean junk to someone else — the saying could just as well be, “One man’s treasure is another man’s trash.” If you have stuff you want to sell, go for it: but don’t hold onto it forever thinking it will eventually make you a pretty penny.
4. You aren’t actually removing the real clutter
Trash is trash, but that china from your wedding that you’ve never used? Clutter. The extra Christmas lights dad gave you just in case yours ever go on the fritz? Clutter. Those old college laptops you kept in case you ever needed something on it but haven’t touched since? Clutter.
Anything without a current, meaningful purpose in your life is clutter by definition. Anyone can throw out trash, but it takes a keen eye and serious contemplation to identify the real clutter in your home.
The important thing to remember when taking on a challenge such as decluttering your home is don’t despair: order can be created from chaos. Truly decluttering your home will take longer than just a couple of days of spring cleaning, but with determination and the right guidance, you will be able to finally declutter your home — permanently.
Jennifer Ferrari is the owner of The Chaos Boss Organization Solutions. Through her work as a professional organizer and organizational strategies blogger, she helps clients consolidate, organize, and simplify in order to optimize their lives.