Thursday, January 13

Destress Your Life, One Room at a Time

I awoke last Saturday morning with one clear, concise thought—today the Christmas decorations HAVE to come down!

Ordering my family around in a manner General George S. Patton would find intimidating, the ornaments were pulled from the tree, neatly wrapped in tissue paper and placed in their green bins—the ones with the individual dividers. Stockings, candles, poinsettias, wreaths and crystal garland moved from walls, tables, banisters and chandeliers into large cardboard boxes marked “Christmas.” And finally, the artificial tree was dismantled and placed into its seven-foot storage container.

Glancing around the sun room, now void of the tree and the large Santa decoration adorning the table, it suddenly felt voluminous, like the inside of a cathedral. I felt liberated, my breathing slowed, my shoulders dropped, my mind relaxed. My now minimalist surroundings were a welcome respite from the excesses of the holidays.

It’s no wonder I get a little purge-happy this time of year. What begins innocently as removing the holiday decorations turns into a whole-home decluttering project.

“If I feel this good by simply cleaning up the sun room,” I tell myself, “imagine how good it’ll feel to go through my closet, and the kitchen, and, oh my God, the garage!”

Yes, it’s my favorite time of year. Time for a fresh start. Time to get organized.

The Affect of Clutter

Surrounding yourself with piles of paper, overflowing closets and desk drawers that won’t shut sends the message that your life is out of control. The disarray, seemingly too large to correct, leads to procrastination and ultimately, more chaos. It’s a vicious cycle that contributes to chronic stress.

Chronic stress is serious business. It’s been linked to heart disease, digestive problems, headaches, back pain, osteoporosis and psychological disorders.

To combat stress and regain control of your home, get organized.

Tips for Decluttering

1) Start small

It’s too daunting a task to declutter an entire house in one session. Even professional organizers like those on the TV show Clean Sweep need a crew of six and several days to pull that off.

Don’t set yourself up for failure, pick something small.

I like to start in a place where the disorder really bugs me. This year it was the kitchen pantry. Maybe for you it’s the junk drawer in the kitchen. Or the linen closet upstairs. Or the coat closet in the foyer.

Wherever it is, by selecting and completing a small project, you’ll build momentum.

2) Use the clean slate approach

Clear out the drawer, closet, or pantry completely and start with a clean slate. Only items considered useful or appropriate to the space are allowed back in.

Believe me, after taking the time to empty the space the last thing you’ll want to do is move everything back in there.

3) Use the “three piles” method

Put items into either a “Keep”, “Donate” or “Trash” pile.

My rule of thumb—if you don’t love it, let it go.

For years I kept knick-knacks I didn’t like because Aunt So-and-So or Uncle Blah-d-Blah gave them to me. I didn’t want to offend them by not displaying their gift in my home.

It was difficult but one year, I just let those things go. Those items were purchased with love and the givers thought I would like them, but tastes vary and inevitably your style changes. Let those items go.

You’ll discover that by getting rid of the things you don’t love allows you to showcase the items you do.

4) Get rid of stuff immediately

Don’t store your “Donate” or “Trash” bags in the garage. Put the “Donate” bags in your car to remind yourself to drop them off and toss out the “Trash.”

5) Stand back and admire your handiwork

After finishing my first decluttering project of the year, my kitchen pantry, I dragged my husband Michael over to bask in the glory of my organizational skills. My face beamed with pride and excitement. You’d think I just won the Nobel Peace Prize. Although I did not contribute to world peace, throwing away expired cans of black beans, half-used portions of Raman noodles, and three-year old pearl barley gave me some much needed personal peace.

For more information and tips check out these websites:

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