Every one has clutter this writer decided enough was enough and challenged herself to rid her home of excess clutter. The feeling after you make that decision and move ahead with ridding your home of excess clutter is exhilarating. Gayle Jacobs
Making Progress Against Clutter
Jane E. Brody
|April 30, 2012,
In a column last fall, I announced my intention to rid my home and myself of a half-century of accumulated "stuff" — everything from papers, books, clothing and shoes to packaging material and shopping bags. I’m happy to report significant progress.
Scores of old files, letters and mementos have been recycled. Bags of books, clothes, coats, shoes and linens have been donated to charities. New and hardly used kitchen equipment has been given to those who need it more than I do.
A decision to re-carpet three of the most cluttered rooms in my house forced me to move — and remove — hundreds of long-unused items. I replaced over-sized and impractical furniture and containers with smaller, more useful items less likely to become reservoirs of dust and clutter.
My formidable yarn collection, which had been stowed in five large opaque bins, is now housed in four all-glass cabinets, easy to see and easy to access. They occupy the space once held by the many file cabinets I've emptied, which were picked up by scrap metal collectors almost as soon as they hit the street.
Progress indeed. The task of de-cluttering has been helped greatly by “The Hoarder in You,” a very practical book by Dr. Robin Zasio, but it is far from over. I still have too many clothes and shoes and face what another author, Barry Dennis, calls “The Chotchky Challenge.”
Mr. Dennis, a motivational speaker, relies on an expanded definition (and Anglicized spelling) of the Yiddish word “tchotchke,” which refers to a trinket or knickknack; he uses it to mean “stuff that gets out of control.” In his view, a tchotchke can be almost anything that takes up space, both mental and physical, that might better be occupied by something else or nothing at all.
Accumulated tchotchkes, in the broadest sense, waste time and energy and cause stress and irritability. Just the other day, I couldn't put my hands on my favorite jeans, which were hanging right there in my closet, hidden under a dozen others. Recently I spent 20 minutes trying on one pair of shoes after another, unable to decide which to wear. I wasted an hour a few weeks ago looking for a report that was hiding in a pile of documents waiting to be filed.
Most of us have little idea how many things in our lives keep us from enjoying life more. But one’s life can be cluttered by more than household objects. The irritating extras can include activities that are no longer rewarding but are continued out of habit or guilt. Perhaps it’s time for a more extended kind of housecleaning.
Mr. Dennis cites several “tchotchkes” I might never have thought of: electronic equipment that keeps us from living in the moment; people who are an emotional drain instead of a joy; piles of CDs and DVDs that are never watched or listened to; food that gets stuffed into an already satiated body; and unwanted or unloved gifts from people you nonetheless care about.
Lightening one’s physical load can brighten the mind and lift the spirit.
Mr. Dennis urges people to think twice before buying anything. “Everything we bring into our lives, we will eventually have to get rid of,” he writes. “And that is much, much harder to do than bringing it in.”
He maintains that a clothes closet should never exceed 80 percent capacity. Gather “everything you haven’t worn more than once in the last 12 months and give it away,” he says. “There are people who actually need those clothes.” (I would make an exception for dressy clothes worn only on special occasions.)
Once this goal is achieved, for every new garment or pair of shoes you buy, an old one must go.
To people who insist on offering gifts that you neither want nor are likely to use, you might explain your desire to de-clutter and suggest alternatives that take up no space, like a movie pass, dinner out, a yoga class or a service like baby-sitting or help bagging books to give away.