Clear the Clutter, Find Happiness – that was the title of a keynote presentation I delivered earlier this month. In that talk, I presented some of the most common reasons why clutter accumulates – and some simple strategies for making it stop. Which of these 7 reasons are the reason(s) why clutter has accumulated in your home?

1. Later-it-is – That’s when you set something down and tell yourself that you’ll put it away later. It might be shopping bags, mail or other papers, your coat, your keys, your clothes. How to put a stop to later-it-is: Get in the habit of asking yourself: Is this where this belongs? Don’t just put it down. Put it away.

2. Homelessness is another reason why clutter accumulates. How can you put something away if it doesn’t have a home? You have to find homes for the homeless. Or in other words, find a place for everything so that you can always put everything in its place. Be mindful about the plight of the homeless when you go shopping. Before you buy something, you should know exactly where it’s going in your home – or what you plan to remove to make room for it.

3. Fear creates clutter – You think, “I might need this someday.” Right? Well, maybe you will. But if you haven’t needed it in a year – or 20 years – you probably won’t need it in the next year or 20 years. And if you do, could you maybe borrow it from a friend? Sure. A good question to ask yourself is “What’s the worst possible thing that could happen if I needed this again?” You could probably beg, borrow or steal – I mean buy – another one. Right?

4. Is guilt contributing the accumulation of clutter in your home? You think about how much you paid for something – or overpaid – and you hang on and hang on to it. The thing is, there’s a great second market for items that are current and in excellent condition – things like cell phones and clothing. But the longer you hold on to them, the less they’re worth. Here’s a helpful guideline that I learned from The Minimalists: If you can get it again in under 20 minutes for less than $20, let it go. Sell it or donate it and take the tax write off. Boom!

5. Not knowing what to do with stuff. This is a big one. But guess what? You don’t have to take on the job of figuring out what to do with stuff because there are organizations that are really good at that – places like Goodwill and The Salvation Army. And they’ll even come and get it from your driveway! You don’t have to find new homes for your stuff. All you have to do is go to Donationtown.org to find a charity near you that will pick up for free.

6. Perfectionism – People ask if my house is perfectly organized. It’s not perfectly organized because perfection isn’t necessary.  If you’re a perfectionist, you need to get out of your own way. Perfect is not the goal. Done is perfect. And the sooner you start clearing clutter, the sooner you’ll be done.

7. Lack of time – You know what? You’ll never FIND time for organizing. You have to MAKE time. Organizing is one of those things that we tend to put off because we don’t have time right now. I don’t know what makes us think we’ll have more time later. It only looks like that right now. But you know as well as I do that by the time you get from “now” to “later,” that imaginary block of free time will have vanished.  Here’s what I suggest: pick an area or project that needs organizing and then commit to spending 15 minutes a day on it. Make an appointment with yourself. Write it in your daily planner and honor that appointment as you would any other appointment. Now, 15 minutes may not seem like a lot of time. But do the math: 15 minutes a day adds up to one hour and 45 minutes a week which is 7 hours a month. You can clear a lot of clutter in 7 hours!

Can you think of any other reasons why clutter builds up? Leave a comment below!

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