When you’re feeling completely overwhelmed by clutter (and all the other stuff that also needs doing in life, like parenting, cooking, finances, shopping and cleaning), it can paralyse you into doing absolutely nothing. Have you ever had plans to sort something out the minute the kids are in bed… only to put the telly on and pour yourself a glass of wine instead?
(Surely not just me?)
That nagging sense of panic about everything, with the simultaneous feeling that you just can’t do it all, is more common that you think.
Getting To Grips With It All
It’s very easy, when faced with overwhelming clutter, mess and todos, to just stick your head in the sand and ignore it.
The fact that you can ignore it and that the world doesn’t end is the clue to the solution to the problem.
If it was really important that you did everything and finished everything and got everything done, then the consequences of not doing it would be greater than they are. We might miss a bill payment, or forget to return a school form, or never finish the family photo album, but do these things really matter?
Not so much. They aren’t big things to forget, and it’s completely normal to do so. Just ask anyone else – we’re all doing the same thing.
So what does this mean?
We’re Trapped In A World Of Unnecessary Clutter
The fact that we know we can ignore the clutter and the mess is the answer – staring us right in the face.
Most of it doesn’t matter. And we don’t need it in our lives.
If you can go to bed, every night for three months, and never sort to the bottom of that pile of paper in the kitchen, then how important can it really be?
If you can live with the DVDs falling off the shelves and all in the wrong boxes because you have so many, how important are they?
When you see that pile of clothes in the spare room that has been there for six weeks, doesn’t it start to become obvious that there can’t be anything you really need in there?
We Can Only Curate A Limited Amount Of Things
At some point, the number of things we have exceeds our ability to look after them. When this happens, we have to alternate our attention between all the things we own. One month we sort out the bookshelves. Another month we clear out the wardrobe. In summer we sort out the garage. In winter we drag boxes out of the loft looking for a lost book.
Eventually, unless we spend a huge amount of time organising and tidying things away, we end up overwhelmed by the sheer amount of clutter that ends up being stored in our house.
Imagine for a moment that you only had the amount of stuff that you could feasibly use in a week. What would that look like? A week’s worth of clothes, books, toys, paperwork and even food? And what percentage of what you actually own would it represent?
It would be a tiny fraction, I’m willing to bet.
Dealing With The Overwhelm Of Clutter
When clutter gets you down and you don’t know what to do, there is a simple solution that doesn’t involve any decluttering at all.
Decluttering takes time and is not the immediate answer. You can’t declutter your way out of overwhelm in the space of 30 minutes. Decluttering is something you need to build into your life.
What you do need is a solution that will allow you to carry on with a fresh mind and less panic, and then you can build decluttering into your routine and work towards a life where there aren’t so many things vying for your attention all the time.
The human brain functions poorly in an environment with visual distraction. We enjoy clear, clean spaces and they allow us to focus better and feel happier. [1,2]
So what is the answer?
It’s boring, it’s obvious… and it will make everything better. I promise.
Spend thirty minutes doing the following:
- Get everything off the floor
- Pile all the paperwork in one place
- Get all the dishes, cups, etc. into the kitchen sink or dishwasher
- Put all the clothes in the laundry
- Put all the toys back in the right rooms
- Hoover the floors
Six simple jobs that will honestly completely change how you feel about the house.
The overwhelm comes from visual clutter. Visual clutter is stuff being out on every surface and scattered around the house. Clothing, toys, papers, stuff.
Gather it all up and put it in the right place. It’s not decluttering, but it will instantly make you feel SO much better.
In fact, I’d go as far as to say that you could probably do this in less than 30 minutes unless you live in a very large house, or struggle with mobility/pain.
In The Long Run, The Solution Is Less Stuff
Don’t keep wasting days, or entire weekends, having a big clear out. You can spend a lifetime doing this. Instead change the way you view what you purchase. Make owning less a priority because it gives you more free time.
And who doesn’t want more free time?
But In The Short Run, Do A Quick Tidy Up
You can be the most minimalist person in the world, but you will still have to deal with mess if you can’t master the art of putting things away.
Putting things away and clearing the floors means we don’t have to work so hard at visual processing. That makes for a sense of calm and control over our environment.
If you’re reading this post because you feel utterly overwhelmed by clutter, I urge you, right now, to go and spend 30 minutes putting stuff away. Don’t declutter, don’t make difficult decisions, just get things straight and see how much difference it makes to your mood.
Then leave a comment and tell me if it worked 🙂