Clear the Clutter for a Simpler Life


A new year brings to mind hope for a fresh start as well as the promise of spring. It’s a good time to clear away clutter — in the home and in the workplace — and simplify life, says Joy Rouse a family life program specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

“Perhaps it’s the extra time we spend inside during the winter that allows us to really see all the ‘stuff’ taking up space in our lives. We open a closet door, venture into the attic or basement, stumble over the piles of toys or pull open some drawers. And then we ask ourselves, ‘How did all this stuff get in here?’” “We don’t intend to see how much we can cram into our homes and workplaces. Somehow over time it just happens, and then we’re faced with an overwhelming task to clear away clutter,” said Joy.

The clutter clearing task begins like any other major effort – one small step at a time. Pick a room, any room. With a fresh eye, look at everything in that room. “Ask yourself if there are changes you want to make. Are there things that haven’t been used in the last year? Are there items you want to get rid of? Set aside 15-minute segments to begin work. Open a drawer and start clearing out, cleaning and organizing. The good feeling you get from that accomplishment will be your incentive to keep going.”

Joysuggested enlisting your family’s help in clearing away clutter in common areas. Schedule a couple of hours in an evening or on Saturday morning. Make a favorite treat to eat, put on some energetic music and dive in.

“Place big boxes or bags in the middle of the room for items that you decide to toss, recycle or give away. Have fun with this by turning the work into a game. See who can fill up the wastebasket first. When the time is up, celebrate with a fun family activity.”

Once an area or room is uncluttered, it’s important not to fill it back up. Before making any purchases, Rouse suggests asking these universal shopping questions:

  • Do I really need this? Is there anything I already have that I can use instead?
  • Will this item bring enjoyment and beauty into my life?
  • Will it benefit others?
  • Will this item help me engage in life more fully?
  • Is the cost of the item worth the time it takes to earn the money to buy it?
  • Could I buy it used? Borrow it? Rent it? Share the purchase with someone else?
  • How will this purchase affect the environment?

“You might try another idea: for every new item that comes into the home, at least two items must be removed,” Rouse said. This helps everyone, from parents to children, think twice before making a purchase and is a way to keep that clutter from growing. In simple terms; one in, two out.

“Soon your home and office will feel more open, organized and pleasant. It’s almost like the space can breathe and so can you. When you walk into a room you can relax, feeling refreshed, and be able to focus on a simpler, uncluttered life,” Joy said.

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