Clean House, Clean Head


When you walk in the front door of your home after a long, hard day, do you feel soothed, comfortable, and truly at home? Or does it look like a scene from the film Animal House?

Imagine looking around you and only seeing, feeling, hearing, smelling appealing things. Imagine coming home from work to a home where you love every single thing you see. Where every single thing has a purpose and a space, and you know exactly where everything is, and it all functions beautifully.

You CAN live this way!

Do you have clutter in your home or office? Are you behind on bills? Are there stacks of papers or other items that have been there since the 80’s, and you are waiting to get “a round tuit?” Are you simply a busy person, or are you a pack-rat or a hoarder? If you are a chronic packrat or hoarder, you may consider seeking professional help and/or medication to feel safe without the “protection” that all your “stuff” provides.

Well, there is a direct psychological parallel to “stuff” out there; whatever is going on in your head is generally reflected in your house. Certainly some of us are more affected by our environments than others…some of us are more sensitive than others…some seem to frankly be completely oblivious to mess. Some actually swear that they do better with a mess, but it is generally an organized mess, yet they’d be even more functional if their environment were more efficient.

Yet underneath it all, they are simply comfortable with the familiar.

Many people would love to have an organized environment, but keep procrastinating while their piles of stuff and their guilt/fear/anxiety increase! Here are Ten Tips – – some really simple steps to help you get started on a cleaner house, head, and life:

1. Make a List of Every Closet, Drawer, etc. That Needs to Be Cleared

For example, master bathroom: 8 drawers, one linen closet. Home office: 6 desk drawers, 5 filing cabinets drawers, sofa stacked with papers. This crucial first step is not to overwhelm you; quite the contrary, it’s to give you the big picture so you can break it down into easily manageable baby steps. Allow yourself all the time you need… or two hours a day or a week. This entire project may take you weeks or even months to complete. But you will feel better every single step of the way…..just imagine the burden being lifted by simply starting! Some couples and families find creative ways to do this together.

2. Next, Prioritize Which Area Needs to Be Tackled First

If you are close to bankruptcy, you might want to handle your office first. If your spouse is researching divorce attorneys because of the bedroom clutter, you might want to start there. Get your list in order, and choose one room, one area to make your debut. Pick your favorite time of day and day of the week to work on this project. Write it in your calendar/datebook/Blackberry and honor this date with yourself as if it were as important as a DDS or MD appointment so you are psychologically geared up for it. If letting go is already difficult, why not set yourself up for success by making it easier in every way possible? Enroll a friend of family member to help you, but only if he/she can be lovingly decisive. If you have children, allow them to help you. Know that you are modeling excellent behaviors for them to take on and pass on to their children. You are training them to be more decisive, organized, and let the small stuff go. Wear comfy clothes, put on your favorite upbeat music, and have your favorite meal and beverage (or fresh flowers, etc.) ready for you as a reward when you complete this.

3. On D-Day (De-Clutter Day)

Take every single thing out of the closet or drawer. Vacuum and/or clean out all dust and dirt. Thoroughly. Have rags and antibacterial cleansers handy and perhaps an air freshener. Polish the furniture. You may wish to line drawers with paper, and/or add organizational dividers.

4. Next, Sort Items into Piles

Next, sort items into piles of (A) must keep because I use it frequently, (B) not sure, haven’t used in a while, and (C) haven’t used in years and frankly forgot I had it. Remember, nothing is gone forever. If you find later that you discarded something you still need, you can get another…perhaps an updated, better one. When we hold onto the past, we deny the future possibilities of improvement.

5. Label Bags

Put all of C items in a garbage bag and label for your favorite church, charity, homeless people, shelter, mission, or Salvation Army. OR, label for the garage sale you will plan when complete with the clearing phase.

6. Sort A Items in an Organized Fashion: Color Code, Size, etc.

You can get very inexpensive racks and containers for drawers and closets that will keep all your items neat and orderly. Call me anal, but my closet is arranged (and labeled) DRESSES, SUITS, BLOUSES, PANTS, SWEATERS, and all color coded within the category. A REAL time saver when I want to mix and match.

>> Nesting: How to Get Rid of Unnecessary Clutter

7. Revisit B Items and Rate Each on a Scale of 1-10 in Attachment

10 being you really feel attached/scared to let it go. Anything scoring 5 or lower goes you know where…….in with the C items for recycling or garage sale. Another way to deal with the Bs is by asking yourself: Is this item a reminder of my past, or in line with my future?

8. Repeat This Cycle in Every Area of Your Home or Office

You will probably feel like your home has “lost weight,” as indeed it has. Enjoy the feeling! Celebrate with that favorite meal, beverage, flowers, etc. You’ve earned a treat.

9. With All The Items You Are Letting Go, Have a Garage Sale and Make a Few Extra Bucks

Or take to a local eBay seller and have them do it for you. Or give away the items to a friend, a college student, to a shelter or Salvation Army or a church. Remember, you are not losing these things… are recycling, sharing with others who can really use them. You’ve outgrown them. Others need them more than you do.

10. Hire a Feng Shui Master or A Personal Organizer

If even the thought of this is overwhelming, you might consider hiring a master of Feng Shui, a personal organizer, or a clutter buster, to come in and work with you patiently through every step of the process. Be prepared for emotions to come up. A good Feng Shui master or organizer will know how to walk you through this crucial phase. Keep a journal close by if you are working this alone, and write out your feelings. Bottling them inside you is exactly what is bottle necking your home’s energy.

After you’re done, you want to put a maintenance plan in effect to insure continual comfort and psychological health. Once a week, more or less, check in and survey your home or office. Throw away or file away everything you can. Organize bills in a chronological fashion and keep in some sort of TO BE PAID stack. Look at it every week and see what needs to be paid. Debts (like excess pounds!) are definitely a form of clutter. Check out your closets and clothes drawers with every season’s change, or just at the New Year, to clear out the C items, and survey the B items.

A healthy psyche can flow as easily as a ship on an open sea. Imagine how difficult it would be for a ship to sail through cluttered waters. It would take enormous energy and time to maneuver around obstacle after obstacle.

Here’s to smooth sailing on the sea of life!

The Author:

Dr. Irwin is a psychotherapist/therapeutic hypnotist, author (YOU-TURN: CHANGING DIRECTION IN MIDLIFE) and speaker based in Los Angeles, CA.

Photo. Tirachard Kumtanom

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