Clearing the Clutter for a Better Life

Clearing the Clutter for a Better Life

By Diane “Dee Jay” Johnson

Dealing with clutter is a common struggle in the US. Americans continually buy new clothes, new books and new gadgets without getting rid of anything. Those who lived through the Depression were conditioned to never throw anything away. Closets, attics and garages swell with “stuff,” especially for those who have lived in the same home for many years. However, clutter can be a real problem for senior adults. It can be a health hazard, and it quickly becomes overwhelming to get it under control. If you have a clutter problem, what can you do?

Where do you begin?

First, think about the importance of an organized, clutter-free home, and how your life style can change. Think of your safety. A cluttered home is a fire hazard. Mold, mildew and bugs can cause respiratory and other health problems. Perhaps the most common safety issue with clutter is that it is a trip hazard, which can lead to broken bones and long-term debilitation. There should always be ample room to easily move through your home, so that in case of an emergency, emergency services can quickly access each room. Another proven benefit is that our mood improves when we live in a clean, organized environment — and it’s much easier to find things.

Think about the benefits of donating items to a second-hand shop or charity. Some organizations will even pick up the items at no charge. Selling items in a yard sale or on eBay can generate extra spending money.

Now that you are serious about this project how do you proceed in a way that will not overwhelm you? First, think small. Do just one thing at a time — one closet, one dresser drawer, under the bed, etc., and do it for only one hour. Think about these guidelines when you cannot make an immediate decision:

  • If an item is broken, toss it.
  • If an item of clothing does not it fit, isn’t used or has not been worn in a year, give it away.
  • If shelves are crammed with trinkets, pick out a certain number of your favorites and sell the rest. With collectable items that will be willed to someone after your death, think about giving them now, so that you can see the enjoyment the gift brings.

If you hesitate in parting with anything at all, box up the items, label the box and put it into storage. However, do not just store the items indefinitely. Choose a time to revisit those boxes and mark it on your calendar. If you haven’t missed the items, get rid of them.

Once your hour of de-cluttering is up, find a meaningful way to celebrate the progress. It could be something as simple as having a cup of tea or getting an ice cream cone. Think of a special treat like visiting a friend in another town or having someone come and visit you. This will help you to feel good about the process and make it more likely that you will want to tackle another closet soon. Finally, set a date for the next de-cluttering session.

Maybe you are not the only one that needs some de-cluttering. Once you finish your project, you might want to help someone else. We all have projects on our to-do list that we have put off. The benefits of clearing the clutter are a cleaner, safer, and more organized home, with room for the things that we really need and enjoy. Do it now. Get the item off the list and enjoy life!

About the author: Diane “Dee Jay” Johnson and her husband, Earl, have been members of Advent Christian Village since 1996. She spent her career in the housekeeping industry, much of it as the Director of Housekeeping for the Franchise Division of Days Inn. She was responsible for the set up and training of the housekeeping staff for all new Inns from Texas to Indiana and the Southeast. After moving to ACV, Dee Jay was not quite ready to retire, so she accepted the position as ACV’s Director of Housekeeping. Now, in retirement, she periodically shares her expertise through seminars called “Got Stuff?” in which she motivates attendees to clear the clutter. She and Earl travel to Europe each year and both enjoy photography, which is periodically displayed in the Village’s art gallery.

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