The Incredible Lightness of Decluttering

by Donne Davis on June 12, 2012

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I consider myself a reasonably organized person and my friends often describe me that way too. But over the past year the paper piles on my desk and all over the house have been getting out of control. There were so many stacks of files on my desk I could no longer see the surface. The bookshelves around my work space were cluttered and disorganized and the room next to my office was serving as an overflow area for files and miscellaneous papers. When I worked at my desk, I was constantly distracted by all the notes and papers surrounding me.

While gathering papers for my tax returns, I spent an hour searching for an important document. I finally admitted it was time to consult a professional organizer for help decluttering.

The first organizer I called said she wasn’t taking any new clients (I guess I’m not the only one who needs help!), but recommended Elizabeth Treccase of A Clean Slate. She’s a member of NAPO, the National Association of Professional Organizers. I described my problem over the phone and scheduled our first session for three hours. She told me not to clean a thing or be embarrassed by the clutter.

I felt both relief and dread about our appointment. I didn’t see how we could possibly create order out of the chaos. Within minutes of arriving, Elizabeth assessed the situation and we began to work. At first it was hard to toss out old papers, but the more I tossed the more liberating it felt. I went through files I hadn’t looked at in years and discarded class notes from college that I’d been holding on to for decades. I also discovered treasures like the travel diary from my cross-country train trip with my grandmother.

Elizabeth explained that the goal is not to get rid of everything, but to create useable space for the things you want to keep or decide on later. She called it a “shell game.” You move one thing to make space for something else. Things may look worse before they get better. When you figure it all out, then you move it into its place and “make it look pretty.”

By the time we finished, I had filled a 32-gallon recycle bin, created a pile of 50 books to donate to our local library, made space to display art on my bookshelves, and reorganized my books so that the ones I use most are within arms reach. I felt totally exhilarated and just kept looking around me at the spaciousness.

Organizing does require getting into the right mindset. Once I got into a groove, it became easier to toss stuff like a collection of old fountain pens that don’t work. It’s a very freeing experience. I felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment.

Now that I have my beautifully organized and decluttered space, I realize that organizing is about beautification and tranquility.

As we all struggle to conquer the clutter and chaos building up in our lives, more people are turning to professional organizers for help. Organization is a process, not a state achieved in one day. Think about it as “being organized” or “staying organized,” not “getting organized.” After that, the challenge is to continuously maintain it and work on it one day at a time. The good news is, once you learn good systems, habits, and tools, change becomes easier, as does bouncing back from an unexpected detour or period of feeling overwhelmed.

{ 1 comment }

Susan Adcox June 30, 2012 at 3:30 pm

“. . .organizing is about beautification and tranquility.” So true! It’s a much easier job if we think of it in that way rather than as a business operation.

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