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How many times have you cleared the clutter and had a mini celebration only for the mess to come back by next week?
You come home from work, go looking for that important paperwork only to have to dig through piles of God only knows what and hoping it’s there somewhere. Or perhaps your kid’s driving you mad looking for their ice-cream lego brick; you swear you saw it the other day but now there’s piles of madness everywhere you look and all motivation leaves you. Screaming and whining continues.
Even as a minimalist, that kind of madness has happened to me a good few times.
Somehow, stuff will have filled an empty space and sprawled out in every inch of it, paperwork will have snuck out of its home to join the piles of procrastination, and my kids’ toys have multiplied behind my back seemingly without even introducing themselves.
This is almost always when life has become hectic and I’ve left the guard position for a spell to deal with whatever else is calling for my attention.
Before I know it, Grandma has treated her grandkids to 3 new toys and several new books, 6 letters need dealing with which I hastily shoved in a drawer as I rushed to make dinner after work, and there’s even a few sentimental bits crept in there from other things which are ending in our lives (my eldest is finishing year 2 at school, and my husband is starting a new job).
The increase in stress also leads to a cluttered fridge as junk food, convenience meals and booze are bought in a futile and unhealthy attempt at numbing and slowing down. Guess what? It all makes you feel much worse in the end.
To maintain a peaceful minimalist lifestyle, you need to stay at your post and instantly deal with whatever comes through your door. That might be every evening before bed, every few days, or every weekend.
Go through your kids schoolbags, empty your bags and pockets, deal with your paperwork in the first 48 hours. Whatever you do, don’t store it ‘for later’ where it can’t be seen. Once something’s out of sight it’s out of mind, but the silent to-do stays there at the back of your mind cluttering it up like a losing game of Tetris.
When it comes to kids toys, do an inventory about once a month and see what’s being played with and what’s gathering dust. Explain to your children (if they’re old enough) that once a drawer or container is full, they must get rid of something else if they want to keep their new favourite toy or pieces of art work.
Decluttering and creating physical limitations is a great skill to teach early on, and a valuable one to model.
But don’t take it all on yourself. Make others responsible for putting away their own messes before it can make a home where it doesn’t belong; this also takes pressure off of you and helps to declutter your schedule, saving precious energy.
Finally, be mindful of your shopping habits. If you tend to shop when you’re stressed or get tempted by 70% off, think if you really need it or if you’ll end up digging through it in frustration and bagging it up for donation 5 months from now. Today’s one-click purchase pleasure is potentially tomorrow’s to-do.