by Susan McCarthy
Everyday practice: Declutter before organizing.
I’ve heard it before. Someone is holding an item that they’ve just admitted they haven’t used in ages and don’t foresee themselves using anytime soon, when they say, “Well, I might as well hold onto it – I have the space.”
This is a variation of, “I should hold onto this, just in case I need it.” In fact, noting that you have the space to store something, kind of gives you permission to keep those just in case items. But, this thought doesn’t really help you get or stay organized.
My parents were forever complaining that the house was cluttered because it was small. They bought freestanding cabinets, bins, and boxes to store – and organize – everything they felt that they needed to keep. All these organizing tools allowed them to keep more stuff … but, because it was hidden in a box or behind a door, these items became invisible and forgotten.
Even when they used some of the things they had squirreled away, they used only a fraction of what they owned. And, when they acquired more stuff – and decided they needed to organize it, they’d identify a bit of empty space where they could put a new cabinet or stack of boxes. But, these cabinets and bins took up valuable floor space, making small rooms smaller.
The Benefits of Empty Space
Empty space encourages a mindset of welcoming possibilities – Think of empty space as breathing room or potential (and by ‘potential’ I don’t mean ‘potential to be filled with something’ but more like the mindset of looking down an open road and thinking, “ooh”).
Empty space can also be practical – Think of how much easier it is to clean an uncluttered counter or find an outfit in a closet that isn’t crammed with clothing.
Empty space can help you feel calmer – Instead of looking at stuff that’s demanding to be cleaned or (re)organized, or fixed, or even used, you see clearer spaces. All those potential demands on your time, energy, and attention just aren’t there.
Declutter to Create Space
So, how do you avoid the thinking error of, “I have the space” and end up keeping things you don’t need, use, or even like? Unfortunately, there’s no secret tip or trick to do this. Ultimately, you need to catch yourself thinking that you have the space to hold onto something, stop yourself from putting the item on its shelf, and question whether you’d keep the item if you didn’t have the extra space.
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Susan, chief (and only) organized squirrel at A Less Cluttered Life, pursues learning, practicing, and sharing information about the everyday habits that can lead to living a better life.