By the age of 16, I actually became closer to my parents because I wanted to be the opposite of my unruly, partying brother. I continued to get straight A's, and then actually enjoyed cleaning up my room, making it my sanctuary. As a kid and teenager, we actually cannot truly control much of our lives, so cleaning was something I could be in control of, like studying to get good grades. I was rewarded for the change in behavior. My parents took me to special places reserved for the A student, the one who cleaned her room. I thought I was the favorite out of 5 kids. It felt good to be in alignment with their values and traditions. On the opposite side of this, my mother was clean and tidy, but had a habit of flea market shopping and then putting the clean cardboard boxes full of junk (my opinion) all over the first floor and basement. Sometimes there was a small, neatly aligned path in the dining room and bedrooms where one could walk through. Laundry was brought up from the basement in cardboard boxes as well. If they weren't put away immediately, they were added to the stacks and rows. Talk about a conundrum! It drove my dad crazy at times and he would bring the boxes down to the basement once again (instead of putting away the laundry), and sometimes threw them away. He would get punished too, for throwing away my mom's treasures.
When I began modeling around the globe, I learned from my husband the art of eliminating things. At first, I brought a huge suitcase that had 3 extra levels of zippers that made it taller and taller. Over time, the suitcase became shorter and shorter. I truly enjoyed giving away things that I put my energy into, having owned them and taken care of the things for a while. Now, as a parent and one who grew up with a lot of things, I am anxious if I have too much stuff showing around the house. I can have my trinkets, but I rotate the art and knick-knacks, so the rooms look more minimal than cluttered. Each month, I give away at least 2 boxes of stuff. I strive to have one small part of each cupboard or shelf completely empty to create a space for new and wonderful things, ideas, classes, learning opportunities, and activities to come into my life. It creates within me a calm feeling.
Recently, I taught an online class about decluttering for the mental benefits. Some folks are distracted by the clutter and it is a way to not do the daily work one is assigned to do. Tasks can be delayed. Even mental illnesses can cause one to be messy. Messiness can also contribute to higher mental stressors, like anxiety, ADHD, depression, etc.
Here are some tips to help you declutter your home:
Start small: Rather than feel overwhelmed, begin with one closet in the smallest room. Maybe start with one corner of the smallest room.
Get rid of things: Collecting things need not mean we cannot share them. Recently my adult friend who collects superhero dolls from years past decided to give half of the collection away to kids who had no expectations of Christmas presents. It felt good for all of them, and still he kept a choice few collectibles.
Sort the items as they are removed them from their spots: Make 3 piles, one to keep, one to donate, and one to throw away or recycle. Place everything in its new spot by the end of the day, and get rid of the items that are going outside of the home.
Hire help: Sometimes hiring a cleaning crew or an organizing service can really put things into perspective, even if it is for a short period of time. If one pays for a service, there is a sense of accountability in keeping up with what one paid for.
Get a friend or family member to join you: As with an exercise routine, an ally creates a level of accountability. Adding music one likes always makes every chore more fun (in my opinion).
Let me know if these ideas resonate with you.
-Author and Creator of the Superior Self Series
-CPT, CFI, Life and Wellness Coach
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