Mastering the Mess
Whether you’re the type to keep sentimental objects around or one who loves to put off cleaning, determining your reasons for holding onto clutter is the first step in letting go of it
QUESTION OF THE WEEK: I like to keep things because I am sentimental. My friend has clutter because she is too lazy to clear it out. My other friend has a lot of stuff because she doesn’t like throwing things away. The bottom line is we all have clutter for different reasons. We find this interesting and wondered what you think.
As you’ve noticed among your friends, you each hold onto things for different reasons. If you don’t understand why you accumulate clutter, no matter what you do to rid yourself of it, it will keep coming back.
I’ve found that people fall into certain “clutter personality” types. You and your friends represent three of the five main recognized clutter personalities, though you may see yourself in more than one.
The Sentimental One
The sentimental personality type has a hard time letting go of anything, because he or she attaches sentiment to every meaningful event or cherished person. Sentimental personality types hold onto memories in the form of things — school projects, Halloween costumes, jumbled keepsakes, old greeting cards, movie tickets — and never really get to enjoy any of them. Think of what to discard by asking yourself what you would grab if your house were on fire. By being more selective, this personality type can reduce the mass of mementos.
Advice: Everything you own should have value, because it is truly functional, beautiful or cherished. Of course, being the sentimental type, you may cherish everything. Instead of thinking you have to “get rid of all of it,” which would be overly painful, make it easier by saving only the items that represent the most important memories. For example, instead of keeping every drawing your child has ever done, save the best drawing of the month and then digitally store any surplus sentimental clutter by taking a digital photo of it.
The Deferring One
The deferring personality type tends to put everything off, not just clearing clutter. Those who defer things — paying bills, cleaning the house, returning emails or phone calls — figure they’ll do it later or the next day, never really getting around to it. This personality type has unfinished household projects, accumulates old newspapers and items that need cleaning or repair and has to clear the backseat of the car before anyone can sit there.
Advice: One way to overcome this is to take action, recognizing that getting started is the hardest part. Have someone hold you accountable or give yourself a “reward” for your efforts, and set a goal. Once you get started, momentum will kick in.
The Gathering One
The gathering personality type fears that future resources will be scarce. They keep everything from pieces of string, to old plastic bags, to clothing from 30 years ago believing these items might come in handy one day. This person’s life may be rooted in insecurity, financial or otherwise. Often, cabinets and closets are crammed with new things that have never been used as well as things that others see as “useless.”
Advice: The first step is to assure yourself that you will always be able to get what you need. Our lives are filled with so much abundance that you will likely always be able to find what you need. Start today and let go of the things that you don’t need and look for all the items you have more than one of and start there.
The Rebellious One
The rebellious personality type has an inner child who says, “I don’t want to,” or, “You can’t make me do what I don’t want to do.” This personality type usually holds onto things that center around the household — strewn laundry, unwashed cups and other general messes.
Advice: Defuse your inner rebel’s imaginary power struggle. Remind yourself that you are no longer living with your parents and that you are the adult now. Tell your inner child that you are the authority and you want a nice house to live in. Sometimes it just takes some awareness for a change to happen.
The perfectionist personality type puts off decluttering until he or she has time to do it perfectly, ensuring that all the tools and such are in place. This “all-or-nothing” attitude creates a barrier to decluttering, because living with anything less than perfect is intolerable.
Advice: Give yourself permission to complete your clearing in stages. Break the job at hand into bite-size pieces, and look at each piece as a whole. For example, you may choose kitchen drawers as one project and shelves as another.
What is your clutter personality? Do you relate to one? If so, embrace who you are and use the advice to yield your greatest clutter-busting success! Anything in your physical environment that stands between you and the vision you have for your best life is clutter — broken appliances, inherited or broken furniture, a stack of read or even unread mail, books or magazines, old keep-sakes or a mishmash of kids’ toys, just to name a few. Whatever the case, ask yourself, “Does this item move me closer to my vision for my best life?” If not, discard it, and make certain that you check the basement and garage. Moving clutter from public to private spaces is merely deferring the process.
Alice Inoue is the founder and Chief Happiness Officer at Happiness U, an educational establishment at the Gentry Pacific Center on Nimitz Highway. Learn things about life that were never taught in school about how to be happy. Happiness U offers classes such as Feng Shui 101, Clutter Clearing Plan 101, Positive Mindset 101, Happiness 101 and more. Visit www.YourHappinessU.com for more information.