that chaotic desk, jammed cupboard or overflowing bedroom isn't just a mess issue -- it can also be a stress issue. That's particularly true if the confusion leaves you irritated, self-critical or overwhelmed.
Letting stuff pile up clutters our mental landscape with should-do's. It's a burden that can keep us from exploring exciting could-do's. But cleaning up is just a quick a fix. To create lasting order, we need to get at the messages our messes are communicating.
Do piles of junk mean you're afraid of making decisions? Are you feeling guilty about how you think your space should look by someone else's standards? Are you unable to part with an object because you haven't resolved issues with the person who gave it to you? Letting go of a half-finished project will mean facing -- and forgiving yourself for -- a failure. Bringing this kind of awareness to clutter clearing will not only spruce up your physical space but bring greater inner serenity.
When you're ready to clear your space, start with a small, well-defined area. Ask yourself about each object "Do I need it? Love it? Use it?" If the answer is yes to any one question, keep it. If not, give or throw it away. Assign a place to the stuff that's left. Then sit back and enjoy the new room you have for letting your creativity flow.WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY
"If the top of your desk isn't clean, it's a garbage can, filing cabinet or to-do list. The average person spends half an hour a day trying to find stuff, because they use a piling system, not a filing system. People leave stuff out because the work isn't done yet. That's a to-do list. Use an agenda instead. If you want to be artistic or creative, you've got to get all this noise out of your head. People feel overwhelmed, so they do all the quick things. Larger projects get procrastinated on until they become a crisis. When clutter is cleared, people have a sense of control."
ANDY SHERWOOD, president, Priority Management Toronto
"Sometimes you want clarity, joy or sexiness -- declutter on the basis of your intention for a room. Be brave, be bold, be relentless. Once a room is set up, when you bring one thing in, take one thing out. You have to attend to it the way you attend to a garden. It's about how you nurture yourself: if you're not doing it with your home, you're not doing it with yourself. Decluttering is about the transformation of self. The relief you feel when you let go is amazing. You cannot carry your life around with you."
CHERYL FISHER, home decor consultant
"Not knowing how to let go of something will make you keep it even when you know it's time to let go. When parting with an object you're still fond of, assume that it's a live thing and thank it for its time with you, for its service. Reminisce and celebrate your life together. Then ask it to go in peace -- send it off to its next life. That completes the relationship, and there'll be no hang-over. You give it a dignified exit and it goes happily."
CARROL DOWNEY, personal coach, clutter specialist
"As soon as you have a place for something and put it in its place, you're combatting clutter. In a household, some people can be creating the clutter and others can be extremely frustrated by it. When it's a shared space it can be harder to maintain because people have different methods around tidiness. Anything that causes you frustration wears at you and causes stress. Controlling clutter can definitely help alleviate stress."
EVELYN PAGE, design consultant
"When we're doing something but our mind is cluttered with what has yet to be done, we lose clarity and focus. If we're not fully focused we don't see all the resources available in the moment. And potentially, we lose opportunity because we don't see it. It's great to look at (clearing physical clutter) as an adventure, saying, "What am I going to find in here?' Some people would rather use their time differently. In that case, they can hire somebody to do it for them."
BONNIE CULVERHOUSE, Procys Consulting, life coach