Are you on Instagram? I am. Let just say I've fallen for Instagram hard. As a beauty craver (is that even a word?) I can get my fix of lovely and inspirational images on a 24/7 basis! I now follow and am followed by like minded Instagrammers, including other professional organizers. For the most part, I've learned that my aproach to being an organizer is unique. For one thing, I am not a regular at The Container Store buying multiple boxes to contain my clients stuff. Nor am I a Minimalist, per se. My approach is more as a home healer and possession editor. I see photos of massive, meticulously organized closets that other professional organizers post and I can't help but wonder why anyone would ever need to own so much clothing and shoes! The same can be said for organizers that proudly post their client's semi-empty closets with their itsy bitsy capsule wardrobes. What's up with that? But Instagram delivers different perspectives and I appreciate them all!
This meme came across my Instagram feed a few weeks ago. I'm the first to say these types of memes can come off as trite. But this one, as goofy as it looks, delivers some powerful truths. Decluttering does have huge benefits, and I am going to break it down for you right now.
Living in clutter is hard on your body. The potential to trip and fall in a cluttered space is high. Dust and dirty surfaces can wreak havock on your lungs and cause asthma, allergies and infections. Cluttered homes can also invite a host of pests and vermin. Trust me. I've seen it all firsthand. And I'm not talkiing about homes that are in squallor. Even a little clutter in the yard, garage, basement or attic can make pests feel right at home and cause all that stuff you've been so dearly holding onto to become ruined.
I had clients who lived in a subdivision near Sacramento hire me one spring to help them declutter their adorable jewel of a home. This was a significantly smaller house than their previous home and despite their best intentions, they had not downsized accordingly prior to moving. By the time I was brought in, they were literally bursting at the seams. Only one out of three bedrooms was functional and the garage was literally a verticle wall of clutter. It took us several sessions to get the remaining bedrooms straightened out, but the garage remained essentially untouched. The wife, who works in a creative field, had grand ideas for the garage, but couldn't let more that a few things go. I did my best to get her to downsize the garage, but everything she kept had potential in her eyes and was therefore important. We ended our work together with the garage still in that state. Unfortunately, once the winter rains began, field mice moved into the garage. Since the garage was so cluttered, my clients had no idea they had a problem until that spring. By then, just about everything in the garage was either ruined or contaminated and ended up going into the dumpster, including things that I know we cound have saved.
Paper clutter can feel like the monkey on your back, but dealing with it head on can have financial rewards! I cannot tell you how many times I have worked with clients on sorting through their unopened mail and found uncashed checks, refund checks (one for $1,500.00!) and cold hard cash. This also goes for stashed away birthday cards. You think, oh I'll cash that check later, or, I'll put that money in my walet later, or, I'll use that gift card later, then close up the card and forget about it. And of course, paper clutter can easily cause you to rack up late fees, lose important documents, and bring your credit rating down.
I have found expensive jewelry hidden in some random, crazy places for "safekeeping," that were then long forgotten.
Here are a few examples:
A diamond ring inside a paper bag along with crumpled gift wrap and ribbon jammed in the back of a closet shelf. My client tossed it into the recycling bag, and I pulled it out and emptied the bag to see what was inside. She just about fainted whe she saw the ring she almost threw away!
Several pieces of precious stone jewelry hidden inside baby socks that were tucked into old, beaten up purces, piled inside an old cardboard box in a rodent infested storage room. Got that image? The urge was to throw the whole thing in the dumpster, but fortunately that's not how I roll!
Ruby and sapphire earrings inside a cloth pouch, inside a cloth shopping bag stuffed with a dozen other shopping bags, hanging in a utility closet. This jewelry was presumed to be stolen. This client had no memory of how it got in there.
Had we not thoroughly gone through everything as we were decluttering, these items would have been inadvertantly thrown away or donated.
Mood & Mind
If clutter had sound, it would be so loud and distracting you would never be able to think straight. Clutter is what I call Visual Noise. Just as distracting. Clutter sucks the joy out of your home, and can facilitate depression better than just about anything I know of. It stifles focus, creativity and makes normal everyday living just that more difficult. Imagine running a marathon in waist deep water. Exhausting! The most common feedback I get from clients after we declutter a space is how soothing and pleasurable it feels. That's the way a home should feel all the time!
Additionally, living with items that remind you of difficult, upsetting, and sad times are just as damaging to your psyche. This type of clutter - including furniture - can totalally mess with your mind and prevent you from moving forward. I have seen my client's mood instantly lifted simply by getting rid possessions that represent a difficult time in their life.
Friendship & Relationship
Clutter can be a major cause of friction in relationships, especially when one person is the clutterer and the other person isn't. Clutter is also isolating. It can hinder your social life and the social life of your family. Do you avoid hosting playdates because you don't want other parents to see your house? Do your kids avoid having friends over for the same reason? Is entertaining, even having a friend over for a cup of tea, out of the question because your house is a mess? These are just a few ways that living with clutter keeps you isolated and prevents you and your family from truly enjoying your home!
I encourage you all to give Instagram a try, even if you never post a photo! You can find me there at @kempjane. Unlike my Clean & Kemp Facebook page and blog which focuses on organizing tips and practices, my Instagram feed is nothing but images that capture my eye. Some from my own home, and some from other Instagrammers. Give it a try and let me know what you think!