How to Organize and Declutter Your Life

by Danielle Samuels

overwhelmedIs a cluttered house the sign of a cluttered mind?

Many poets have alluded to as much over the centuries. With the pace of our lives becoming ever faster and more tools at our disposal to stay organized than ever before, it’s fair to say that most of us are a hot mess.

Clearing up clutter – in your mind, in your life and in your space – requires stepping back and making some clear decisions.

Here’s a four step process that can get you started on the right path:

  1. Understand your priorities?

    Most of us go through life reactively, rather than proactively. Our days are spent responding to emails as they come in, fulfilling other people’s demands, and allowing ourselves to be interrupted at the slightest whim for another person. But if you step back and ask yourself: What is my priority?… are you optimizing your day, your schedule, your routines, and your workspace to serve that? If your goal is to write a book and you’re spending all day on social media sites, then you’re not serving your priority. If your goal is to be available eight hours a day to offer remote customer service for a product and you’re constantly getting interrupted by your kids, you’re not serving your priority. So get clear on what matters.

  2. Learn the difference between need, desire, and expectation.

    Much of the clutter that accumulates in our life, from objects in our home to meetings in our day, can be blamed on a lack of understanding the difference between needs, desires, and expectations. What do you need – really need? Food, water, shelter, perhaps some critical medication. Could a simpler house that would require less work or fewer hours at the office suffice? Do you really need a four bedroom house on a five acre spread? Maybe not – but maybe you genuinely desire that. When you close your eyes and think about what really makes you happy, what are those things? A beautiful house, a fast car, or an expensive watch might be on the list. But take the time to understand what truly brings you pleasure, versus what you spend your time pursuing because it’s expected of you. If you focused only on those things you truly needed and desired, and jettisoned the activities and possessions tied to expectation, how much energy could you free up?

  3. Set a plan.

    Once you understand what you’re truly trying to accomplish and what matters to you materially and spiritually, take control over your day. You may have things that are required of you, such as meetings with clients or time spent on deliverables you don’t enjoy. Everyone does. But ask yourself what chunks of time you can carve out of your life to accomplish your goals. Do you have health objectives that aren’t being met? Prioritize work-out time before or after work. Do you spend your whole day obsessively checking email? Could you schedule it into blocks throughout your day? Could you focus on your family without checking your phone throughout your entire dinner each night? Even for one night. Decide in advance what your day looks like and then do your best to stay on target with that.

  4. Eliminate one thing from your life each day for thirty days.

    As we grow older, the sense of the “weight of responsibility” grows because we tend to accumulate things without letting other things go. These can be commitments, relationships, or objects that no longer delight us. Set the intention to let one thing go each day for 30 days and see how you feel at the end of the experiment. Do you feel lighter? Were you able to let go of certain things without the universe ending? Did you gain a new appreciation for something when it wasn’t in your daily life? Don’t be overly serious or regimented, but try this as an experience and see if it creates a sense of moving in the direction of a less cluttered mindset and by extension, physical space.

An uncluttered space starts with an uncluttered mind. By following the process above, you can begin to remove some of the limitations that hold you back from achieving the things you want and creating the sense of a cluttered existence in the first place.

About Danielle Samuels
Danielle Samuels works with Chicago decorators. She feels like she’ll never be able to clean out her basement storage room no matter how hard she tries.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Karim Saleh August 31, 2012 at 11:34 pm

Hey Danielle,

Loved the article especially the part on learning the difference between needs, desires and expectation. That has been a major change in my life that has really shifted my ability to stay focused on my goals. If I do something that someone else expects of me, it is almost always because I have chosen to which is very different from acting out of reaction. 🙂

I was wondering if you could give some examples of things you could eliminate from your life each day for thirty days. Maybe an example of things you have eliminated?

Thanks 🙂 Keep up the great work!!

Socialkenny PUA September 2, 2012 at 1:17 pm

I really needed this at this moment. Timing is impeccable.

I’ve been procrastinating on finishing my 1st. e-book. This’ a nice boost to get it done.

Cam September 2, 2012 at 5:23 pm

Happy you found value in it Kenny. Get it done 🙂

Zach September 12, 2012 at 1:09 pm

This is basically how minimalism works. Only using what you need and getting rid of the clutter in your life. Interesting concept to look into.

Cam September 12, 2012 at 2:20 pm

Thank you Zach for commenting. I’m heading off to Travel in the fall so getting rid of my stuff is a fun process to go through. 🙂

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