‘Trying to be happy by accumulating possessions is like trying to satisfy hunger by taping sandwiches all over my body.’ —George Carlin
Over time, “stuff” collects in all sorts of funky places in our lives. This can cause an array of debilitating issues. We are more focused, intentional, and clear when we don’t have to deal with so much stuff.
For Earth Day, let’s do some decluttering and purging in areas that are no longer beneficial. Below are four main places where stuff can collect. You can make an immediate impact on your focus by paying attention and taking action:
Closets: Your Closet Is Not a Museum, Nor Is It a Hope Chest
It takes a certain amount of determination to clean closets out. You need time, energy, and, most importantly, you need to focus on something that you might not want to: how your body looks and feels at this exact moment. This is an easy area to continue to push away because we have hopes and visions about how we used to look, how we want to look, and how that cute jean jacket that used to fit so well and we KNOW will fit again one day. Your closet is a perfect analogy for life. Get clear on where you are RIGHT now and organize yourself and your wardrobe around that person. Looking into a closet of past and future every day is a surefire way to keep you from enjoying your life as it is now.
Kitchen Pantry and/or Cupboards: Normalize Disorganization
Kitchen areas are utilized so much and so often that disorganization is just part of the overall process. We almost need to just normalize it. If your pantry is picture-perfect all the time you either (A) live alone, or (B) don’t have kids. To serve its purpose, a functional pantry needs shelving, strong storage compartments that you can see into, and labels. This is especially true if you have people other than yourself using these areas. It’s also an area that requires a solid clean-out every month, so you can find the food in the back again that you haven’t seen in about 28 days and clear out anything that is outdated. Other ideas for pantry/kitchen organization are to use lazy Susans, to hit the dollar store for clear bins, to give kiddos their own shelves, and to organize similar items together. Most importantly, give everyone who will be using the pantry an orientation. This is the most important step to keep everyone on the same page and set clear expectations!
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Garages: The Last Stop on the Way Out
Garages are often the hardest to get organized because you don’t really “live” in the garage. You don’t have to be in the garage too much, so it doesn’t feel as important as organizing a space that you actually live in (like the kitchen). However, consider how many times you walk or drive in and out of your garage and see the disarray. We get desensitized to things we see daily; however, on some level, the clutter and extraneous stuff that lives in the garage lives in your brain and is a constant reminder of something you need to do.
Desk Drawers and Paper: Whatcha Gonna Do with All That Paper?
Let’s be clear: 75 percent of the papers on your desk and in your drawers right now could get tossed immediately and you wouldn’t miss any of them. Amiright? When I used to do professional organizing, I would find all sorts of things inside desk drawers that weren’t “desk” type of things: lunch, supplements, coffee mugs, or snacks. Important items, perhaps, but not relevant to what that drawer is truly for — storing projects, files, and papers in a vertical way. The reason for this is because you keep what you need closest to you. The rest of it is just a purge waiting to happen! Consider the statistic that Americans save 452,819 trees per year for every 5 percent of households that switch to electronic bills, statements, and payments. If you’re struggling with the paper issue, try this: Put everything in a box, and put said box in a closet or out of sight for three months. If you never go back to anything in said box, throw it away!
Decluttering and purging can be life-changing. These are perfect exercises for Earth Day and every day.
Sara Caputo transforms how individuals, teams, and small businesses navigate workflow and increase workplace efficiency. Her work has been featured in Working Women, Success, and Forbes, as well as other national and regional publications. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.