Today's a good day for cleaning house here in New Orleans, and January is National Organization Month, so what better time than now to talk to clutter-buster extraordinaire Virginia Barkley? The professional organizer's first book, ClutterBusting for Busy Women, was published this month and is a number-one bestseller on Amazon in its category (Home Improvement & Design). Here, Barkley explains why the psychology behind clutter and how to get rid of it, one piece at a time.
What's wrong with having clutter?
It creates a domino effect in our lives causing exhaustion and distraction. The definition
of clutter is confusion, which leads to distraction. Distraction is what builds the bars between
us and our dreams, and whittles away at our confidence in our ability to be productive. While
we may try to tune it out, our subconscious is on call 24-7 taking notes about everything, and
and exhausting itself trying to catalogue all the clutter surrounding us. This affects our mood,
our sense of calm, and our ability to focus and be productive.
Where should you begin if you want to de-clutter your house?
Begin in the area you see first thing in the morning. It could be your bedroom or your kitchen. Seeing calm breeds being calm. Einstein proved that everything is energy, and clutter is a signal of stuck energy. Just as dams are built when beavers stop the flow of water, clutter accumulates when items stop moving and start bumping into each other. When our eyes are bombarded with paper piles and mess mounds, we are more likely to get off track and feel ungrounded for the rest of the day.
Any tips for de-cluttering?
Consolidate things to see how much of one item category you have: like likes like. For example, put all your vases or books together, or organize your closet by long and short sleeves. If we categorize our belongings, we can better assess our options, keeping those items that we love and use, and letting go of those items that are no longer serve to nourish and lift us up in our present lifestyle.
Sometimes I try to get rid of clutter, but then I think "What if I need this?"
The number one reason it's hard to let go of things is uncertainty about whether you'll need them in the future. When you're assessing items in your closet, for example, ask yourself, "If I need this, would it be the first thing I'd reach for? Or are there other things I'm more likely to choose?" If I haven't worn something in years,
and I am still having trouble letting it go, I make an effort to wear it within the next two weeks. If I put it on and then decide to wear something else, chances are that that has been the recurring scenario.
The other reason is regret. We let go of a memento and the very next day wish we hadn't. But my philosophy is that it's not the thing or the experience that we're attached to. It's the feeling these memories elicit. What can you do in your present life to elicit those feelings?
How does more living involve having less stuff?
If we care about our items, we need to care for them. Clutter steals time and energy from everyone living in a home. But clutter isn't just in a home. It can be calendar chaos. Being surrounded by clutter on our calendar or in our homes impacts our productivity and quality of life. That's why I'm on a mission to help women lift this veil of clutter and confusion and approach life with more energy and passion.
Virginia Barkley will sign copies of her books from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 24 at Garden District Book Shop (2727 Prytania St.), and will appear on WWL-TV's morning show Wednesday, Jan. 23.