Tuesday 16 February 2010

Lent and Clutter Clearing Choices

Today is Shrove Tuesday - Pancake Day in the UK and the time for the festival of Mardi Gras in some other countries. Traditionally, it is a day for having a party before the austerities of Lent, which is a Christian time of abstinence before Easter.

Although I am a pagan, I tend to feel that Lent, in late February or March, seems a much better time for diets and decluttering than January, when many people try to start austere New Year's resolutions.

For me, the cold days and dark nights of January are a time to batten down the hatches and snuggle up in front of the telly while using up all those fattening goodies left over from Yule.

By Lent, with the warm days of spring just around the corner, I feel ready to try to shed unwanted baggage from my life as well as my waistline.

I'm not usually too bad at swapping chocolates for snacks of fresh fruit for a few weeks over Lent, spurred on by my desire not to look like a blob in summer frocks and swimwear, but when it comes to unwanted household baggage, I'm not good at decluttering. As fast as I take stuff I no longer need down to the charity shop, I fill my home up with new things. Neither am I a person who enjoys housework - and I can't afford to employ a cleaner.

So, when I was offered a review copy of the book Clutter Clearing Choices: Clear Clutter, Organize Your Home, and Reclaim Your Lifeby Barbara Tako, I decided it was a good opportunity to get tips from an expert and try to learn some good decluttering skills.

I was a little bit wary that Barbara Tako might be one of those professional declutterers who preaches throwing out everything and anything you haven't used for a month. If I did that, most of my book collection would go - and I wasn't going to let that happen!

However, as soon as I started reading the book I was delighted to find it wasn't like that at all. Instead, it offers a huge variety of tips and suggestions for decluttering with the understanding that everyone's lives and needs are different. The purpose of decluttering is to free up time and space for things that are important in your life, not to junk stuff that holds memories simply because it is a bit old.

The book works through the year, tackling issues appropriate to the season - which seems a very pagan way of looking at life. It starts in winter, and agrees with my view that the best thing to do at that time of year is slow down and pamper yourself. By tackling the winter blues, you will be more ready to face spring cleaning at, well, this time of year.

When you finally decide to tackle the clutter, Barbara recommends starting small. Many of us are put off decluttering because the task seems huge. There is no need to be a perfectionist and try to get everything sorted at once, you are more likely to end up feeling a sense of failure.

Begin with something like sorting out your underwear drawer - matching up pairs of socks, organising undies into sections and throwing out anything with holes in it. You will find it not only looks neater, it saves you time when getting dressed in the morning. Then congratulate yourself for this small achievement.

Once your socks are organised, move on to other drawers when you have time. Sorting out a single drawer or shelf should only take about 15 minutes, so it is something that can be fitted into spare moments without being too daunting.

The 'as you go' method is another way of decluttering that doesn't take all day. This means getting into the habit of decluttering as part of your daily routine. For example, when you are in the bathroom, make a point of checking for expired medicines and empty containers, then get rid of them. Keep a donation box and, as you notice stuff that you would happily give to the charity shop, put it into the box. This could include things like clothes that no longer fit you, mugs at the back of the kitchen cupboard that never get used or ornaments that you don't really like any more.

If you do decide to put a whole day aside for decluttering, get three big boxes. Move systematically from room to room. Put stuff to recycle in the first box, put things you don't want that are good enough for the charity shop in the second box and use the third box for things that are simply in the wrong place.

However, Clutter Clearing Choices is about far more than just getting rid of unwanted household goods - it is also about organising, simplifying and prioritising your life so you have more time to do the things you want and be with the people you love. It is about listening to your own heart rather than being carried along by adverts that imply you will only be happy if you buy a new sofa, car or fitted bathroom.

It is about keeping what you want, and learning to let go of things that are unimportant.

To me, that seems a good lesson to learn for anyone to learn - pagan or otherwise - at this time of Lent.

Clutter Clearing Choices: Clear Clutter, Organize Your Home, and Reclaim Your Life is published by O Books. It is available through Amazon and has an RRP of £11.99.

Clutter Clearing Choices: Clear Clutter, Organize Your Home, and Reclaim Your Life

No comments: