Erasing Clutter | General Home & Garden | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine

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Act Now!
Bard says the best way to make that sort of endeavor stick is to act upon it before you change your mind. “Whatever is going to exit the house leaves that day,” she says. “If it goes to the garbage, it goes right in the garbage can. If it goes to Goodwill, it goes right in the car. Otherwise it can just sort of get forgotten again. And if it’s exiting the house, you can see what you’ve done.”

For some, deciding what stays and what goes can be an incredibly emotional experience, one that often derails an organizing project before it really ever begins. “I always ask hard questions, and I don’t let people get away with rationalized answers,” Bard says. “‘Oh but my mother gave it to me.’ So what, have you used it? If you love it, do you honor it? Is it in a place of honor in your home? Is it time to pass it on?”

And the emotions can often run deeper than that. “One of the hardest emotional experiences is to go through clutter, the new and the old which you may have been carrying around for decades and putting off decisions about,” Cherry says. “It is very emotional if as a child or teenager you were being told you were a slob, or you were stupid, or you could not find your way out of a paper bag. These painful memories are embedded in the cells of the body and can make the process of letting go even more emotional. This is one of the most overwhelming tasks some people encounter.”

Even so, Cherry adds, the benefits of facing those feelings can yield positive emotional results. “While it is very painful, it needs to be done for a breakthrough to a new and better life,” she says.

One Step at a Time
Another way people find themselves giving up is expecting too much too soon when getting started on organizing clutter. “It’s important to know that in doing a project, things may get messier before they get neater,” Bard says. And once a project is completed, it’s also important to make sure you don’t fall back into bad habits and have to do it all over again. “Just like in recovery for anything, there can be backsliding,” Bard says. “The maintenance is really important. Get support. Engage family members or an organizer.”

Cherry says the best way to ensure the organizing project works out for the long term is to change the way you think, both in what you’ve hung on to and what you might add to your home. “Once everything is decluttered, always put every item back in its place after you use it,” she says.

And when new items are being considered, think about the three questions posited during the initial decluttering, Cherry says. “Also, if you do bring in something new, you must have a place for it and always return it to that place,” she says. “And for every new item you bring in, you can let go of at least one and maybe two or even three items.”

Mendoza agrees. “It’s very simple,” she says. “First, don’t do a lot of impulse buying. And second, if you’re looking around for things, make sure it achieves that design intent. If you don’t, you’ll go back to that same pattern, and it’s hard to control yourself. Don’t not have change. It’s okay to change—accessories, furniture, window coverings—as long as it achieves your design intent.”

Cherry also says it’s important not to do too much planning for future clutter, as it might exacerbate the problem instead. A major pitfall is buying containers before you know if you even need them. “They often become receptacles for stuff you are procrastinating to decide about now,” she says. “And no matter how high-tech the world gets, there will never be anything to take the place of you going through each item one by one to determine what to do with it.”

Going Pro
If you’re still feeling overwhelmed, fret not. There are further options. “Decluttering and organizing are a big business,” Cherry says. “There are new how-to books that come out every year, magazine covers every month that hint they have the answer to finally help, TV and cable shows where the virtues of letting go are extolled, and articles and websites galore.”

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