Posts Tagged ‘de-cluttering’

2013 Goals – It’s all in the language

January 14, 2013

Popular targets people set for themselves are around what they want less of in the year ahead …

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  • I want to eat less chocolate
  • I want to lose weight
  • I want to be less stressed
  • I want less clutter
  • I want to work less evenings during the week

Have you ever found yourself phrasing your goals in terms of what you are trying to avoid, reduce or give up?

What we say to ourselves about the changes we want to make is crucial in achieving those changes.

When I was doing my coaching training, one thing I learned stuck in my mind … apparently the brain doesn’t process negative language the way we intend it to.

So for  “I want to eat less chocolate”, the brain doesn’t interpret that you want to reduce your chocolate intake, rather it focuses on “I want to eat ___ chocolate”.

Thinking about how I used to set goals it makes sense that this was happening with me on a conscious as well as a subconscious level. Whenever I thought about my goals I found myself reminded about what I was trying to avoid!

So focus on what you want, rather than on what you’re aiming to avoid – even if you start from the latter point, you can always re-word your goals to something more positive and achievable.

For example:

  • I want to eat fruit (or other healthier) snacks between meals
  • I want to be ___ kg (or stone/pounds!)
  • I want to have strategies I can use for stressful situations
  • I want to create a tidy home/work space
  • I want to have 3 evenings a week to spend with family/friends/chilling out

How have you worded your goals this year?

De-cluttering tips

April 11, 2012

Easter is another one of those times in the year when people feel the need to set goals / make a fresh start. I’ve recently been having a clothing clear-out, although with the weather extremes lately, it’s difficult to know whether I still need my winter wardrobe!

I know it’s one thing to think about de-cluttering and something else to actually do it. But thinking about what’s going to motivate you to do it is a start.

For me it will be about having the end result in mind – what will the wardrobe (and the recovered space under my bed!) look like when I’ve finished? It could be this for you, or perhaps it’s about other spaces in the house. How do you want the bookcases, the spare room, the garage, the kitchen or your desk to look when you’re done?

Here are some tips I’ve found useful when de-cluttering:

1. Know what you’re aiming for. Create a visual image if this helps, and be realistic.

2. Don’t try to do it all at once. Whilst coaching several people towards de-cluttering their households, small steps have usually worked best. Perhaps go for one room per week.

3. Enjoy the new space you’ve created for a while. Rather than immediately fill up the space you’ve created with new things, think strategically about adding new stuff if that’s what you want to do.

4. Think of productive things to do with the stuff you don’t want. Recycling or charities are a good start, but you may have other ideas. This way, not only will you have cleared your “clutter” but someone else will benefit too!

Are you having any spring cleaning or de-cluttering urges yet?

Do you have a plan or any useful tips you can share?

(Photo credit: nuttakit)

De-cluttering Part 2: Mental clutter and tipping points

April 24, 2011

In De-cluttering Part 1 I explored the idea that physical clutter is different for each individual. We all have tipping points beyond which our ‘stuff’ becomes clutter and we feel the need to do something about it.

In Part 2 I turn my attention to the other dictionary definition: clutter = a state or condition of confusion. In other words, our mental clutter. Extending the idea of tipping points from Part 1:

What might the tipping points be that take us from clarity to confusion?

Here are some scenarios to explore this further …

1. Having too many choices


Sometimes with blog posts I start with a few ideas on a topic and I have a clear thought-train. Then, as I begin to write, I add other ideas and things can escalate until the clarity turns into fog! So at some stage, the tipping point came with one idea too many, or allowing myself to stray from my original path. The solution then was for me to strip away some of the less relevant ideas, or choose one aspect to write about, and save the rest for another post!

2. Not saying “no”


I’ve worked with several clients who talk about too much to do and no time for themselves. As we explore why this is happening, it becomes apparent they find it hard to say ‘no’ to requests/demands from others.

Thinking about everything you’ve agreed to, and trying to juggle the additional stuff with your regular things, is bound to lead to mental clutter. So recognising the tipping point between what we can manage realistically and what just becomes unwieldy is important. Learning to say “no” is useful to avoid additional clutter or confusion. Check out some tips to help with this here.

3. Negative thinking

Do you find yourself thinking, “I can’t do ____”, “I’m no good at ____” or “I’ll never be able to ____”?

These limiting beliefs about yourself can overpower your more positive, constructive thoughts. They clog up your moments of clearer thinking.

I would suggest that the tipping point here is when you find yourself opting for the negative belief rather than an alternative. Finding alternative beliefs is key here. Ask yourself what would be a more useful belief to have. For example: “I’m no good at expressing my opinion in meetings” can become “I can express my opinion with confidence and clarity”. Even if you don’t feel you do this at the moment, following the belief up with a good plan to achieve it will get you there!

What form does your mental clutter take, and how can you avoid it?


(Photo credits: Too many choices ; Say no! )

De-cluttering Part 1: The physical stuff and tipping points

April 6, 2011

I’ve spent quite a lot of my spare time recently clearing out old books, clothes, games, ornaments, etc., and generally spring cleaning. During this process I’ve been considering why, every so often, we feel the need to de-clutter. Not everyone is the same, and what constitutes ‘clutter’ for one person might not be for others.

So how do we define clutter for ourselves, and what makes us feel the need to de-clutter?

A dictionary definition states clutter is a “disorderly heap” and “a state or condition of confusion”. The first deals with the physical aspect (a clutter of ‘things’), the second suggests clutter within the mind.

In terms of physical clutter, I know people who function effectively with plenty of ‘stuff’ around them … various heaps of paper, files, etc.  A previous mentor of mine operated in what others called a cluttered environment. He would argue that he could find logic and order in the clutter; he needed the clutter to find patterns and answers to work-related tasks / challenges. He was the most creative mentor and line manager I’ve ever had!

You may be nodding and agreeing, “this is me, too”; or you may be thinking “I couldn’t work like that”. Either way, I suggest you know your boundaries and there’s an inherent tipping point beyond which you can no longer function effectively – at home or at work.

What’s your de-cluttering tipping point?

The tipping point may well be different for home than it is at work. (I’d be interested to hear from those who also work from home!) It is when we reach, or even pass, this point that the urge to de-clutter kicks in. It’s about knowing when your ‘stuff’ is becoming a distraction (i.e. clutter), resulting in making you unproductive.

Some possible tipping points:

– not being able to find what you are looking for within a few seconds

– not having enough room for the things you have

– thinking “this is a total mess!”

– other people telling you your space / area / room is a mess (here you are responding to other people’s tipping points!)

What are your tipping points for the physical stuff?

Do you consider yourself a creative person? If so, can you function effectively with lots of things around you?

Once you’ve recognised your tipping point, will you go beyond it and procrastinate about doing something?

Would love to hear your comments.

Part 2 will focus on the mental clutter, alluded to earlier.

Why the clutter?

February 24, 2011

28 Day Blog Challenge – Day 24

Coinciding with the appearance of snowdrops, daffodils and tulips, I’ve been thinking about spring cleaning and de-cluttering.

With the de-cluttering bit coming before I can clean any spaces, I’ve so far sorted 2 bookcases (although not like this!) and emptied half my wardrobe. It also felt satisfying de-cluttering my Inbox, although there’s nothing I can physically clean there (in fact that’s a bonus!) So I’m now wondering what else I can clear out / tidy up, and how I ended up here in the first place!

Why do we ‘clutter’?

I often hear people saying they find it hard to throw things away … “because they might come in useful sometime”. Is this you? Or is it about not knowing where to put things / how to organise your possessions?

In Dejunk Your Life Helen Foster suggests a few reasons why we clutter:

1. Age – older people have a “waste not want not” philosophy, having experienced difficult times / depressions. With our recent recession period I see this age group including younger generations too!

2. Right-brained – people who are creative, often late, don’t like working to a schedule, and use lots of visual stimuli, have a tendency to clutter. They find it hard to file / categorise things because they can think of a few different places where things could go.

3. Parents – we pick up habits from our parents or significant others who we live with. Foster suggests that if your parents were over-tidy you might rebel by not clearing up after you; whilst “deprived” children will develop a tendency to surround themselves with things out of security.

4. Gender – when encouraged to de-clutter, men like to keep things, but want to be helped to compartmentalise things better (particularly paper). Alternatively, whilst women like to buy lots of stuff and don’t get around to throwing things out, once they are shown what’s useless, they want it gone!

I realise these are generalizations, but you might recognize yourself in there somewhere! I fall into categories 2 and 4.

Do you have a tendency to clutter?

Have you had this habit in the past, but no more?

When is clutter a good thing?

Would love to hear your thoughts on this one!

(Photo courtesy of Maggie Smith)

Feeling the urge to ‘Spring Clean’ this month?

September 5, 2010

Photo: Suat Eman

Not quite the right time of year – I hear you say?

Nevertheless, September is one of the 4 main times over a year where we have urges to make a fresh start, de-clutter, spring clean, etc. The others are:

  • New Year
  • April
  • Our birthday

Some believe this is perhaps to do with seasonal changes or conditioning as children around birthdays / school holidays. If, like me, your birthday also falls at one of the other times, you may feel an even bigger pull towards making a new start at that time of year.

Linked to ‘clearing out’ is the need to free up time / space, or replace the old with the new. This can be new systems, not just new possessions. While we’re feeling like a change, this is a good time to set new goals or targets for ourselves.

So what goals are you setting yourself right now?

  • How are you de-cluttering? What criteria are you using?
  • What changes are you making? What impact will they have on others around you?

If you’re setting goals, to help you on your way, here are my 5 top tips to ensure a positive start.

1. Make sure your goal is about what you want, rather than what you don’t want.

For example: I want a clutter-free desk / office (rather than ‘I don’t want to work in this tip!’) You get what you focus on, so focus on something positive!

2. Make sure you understand exactly what your goal means to you.

What will ‘clutter-free’ look and feel like? What will be classed as clutter? What essentials do you still need?

3. What’s your time scale?

Rather than leave it open-ended, which – let’s face it – can result in the “I’ll do it tomorrow” state of mind ….. give yourself a deadline.

E.g. I’ll be working from a clutter-free desk in 4 weeks’ time.

Then break this down into smaller chunks….. What needs to be achieved in 2 weeks, to be on target? What do you need to do in 1 week? etc. What are you going to do to ensure the changes are consistent?

4. List the benefits

To take my example further, what will having a clutter-free desk give you? More space to work? A clearer head to think? More focus and direction? I’ll be able to find things more easily. I’ll be less annoying to be around! …..

5. Staying motivated

You may be motivated by the goal itself (a tidier desk), or by moving away from your current situation (a cluttered desk), or even a bit of both.

If the goal excites you – keep reminding yourself of the benefits of what you’re aiming for, and visualize the end result.

If your motivated more by getting rid of the mess, in this example, think about the consequences of doing nothing. What will it be like in 2 weeks if you’ve not changed anything?

If you’re motivated in both ways, you’ll probably need to use both of the above strategies.

Enjoy your “spring cleaning”, and feel free to share your goals / successes (photos also useful of before and after, if relevant!!)