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How an Outside Perspective Can Help You Clear Clutter

Get a fresh, outside perspective on your stuff

When decision fatigue sets in and you find yourself staring at your things, unable to get rid of anything, it is time to bring in a fresh perspective. My husband always complained about my storage closet full of china. I couldn’t seem to see the issue with it. It looked neatly organized to me. So, I had a friend take a look and asked her if she could see the problem. In a matter of minutes, she had found a few pieces of chipped china, serving dishes that didn’t really match anything else, and a few other bits and bobs. Quite quickly and painlessly, I was able to clear out a box of stuff that I definitely didn’t need.

I had become blind to my own stuff, which is actually common. My friend is just a good friend. She doesn’t have any professional organizing credentials or training. I’ve agreed to do the same at her house and tackle one problem area for her. It is so easy to clear someone else’s clutter. Yet it’s so darn hard to clear out our own that I actually think no one should do this alone. (This is contrary to what Marie Kondo says about clearing clutter.) Let’s face it. No one is attached to your stuff the way you are. Having a fresh, outside perspective makes it so simple and easy to do.

A super quick and speedy closet clear-out

When I was working with an image consultant in New York City, she came to my apartment and in the space of an hour cleared out my entire wardrobe! I didn’t even have to try on most of the stuff because she could take one look at it and say, “Nope. Not the right color or cut.”  And out it went.

I donated about six large trash bags full of quality designer suits to Women in Need, a charity to help women find professional jobs. In the end, three suits remained. Of these, two were marginal. So, the image consultant took me shopping at Saks 5th Avenue to find something that looked good. Nothing like a qualified, outside perspective to speed up the process! If left to my own devices, I know I wouldn’t have gotten rid of a fraction of the clothes because they were in good condition and quality items. She was ruthless and fast and had a good reason for every decision.

Our sole criteria: Does this look great on me?

The great thing is that once I learned what colors and styles worked best for me, I saved a bundle of money on buying new clothes because everything now coordinated and worked with everything else. More outfits with less clothes = less hassle when deciding what to wear in the morning.

If you find yourself struggling, get an outside perspective. If that person has a great eye for style, then you’ll be more likely to listen to his or her advice. Because I was paying a hefty fee by the hour for her advice, I wasn’t going to waste time questioning her!

If an image consultant isn’t in your budget, try this quick and easy free solution.

Simply turn all your hangers the opposite way around as you wear an item. After three months, you can see what you actually wear. Donate the rest. Do this seasonally and you’ll have a clutter-free closet after a year without any thought or much effort involved. It’s the “use it or lose it” method.

 Get the right mind-set to clear clutter effortlessly

Recently, I’ve had an epiphany about letting things go. My natural default is to keep things because they might be useful someday. Invariably, I end up keeping more than I actually use because my overactive brain comes up with all sorts of imaginary potential uses. However, I also don’t like wasting things.

I now realize that keeping things neatly stored but not using them is still wasteful. If there is a chance that someone else could get use out of these things, then it is wasteful for me to keep them just in case I’ll need them. Far better to get them out in the world by donating them to the appropriate charity. If they aren’t fit for donation, then they can’t be that useful and should go into recycling. So now, instead of asking, “Might this be useful?” I ask, “Could someone else use this who needs it more than I do?” That helps me pass things along instead of storing them.

What if you truly want to keep all of your things, but don’t have the space?

As another outside perspective, I asked my house cleaner what she does when faced with more stuff than comfortably fits into the allocated space. This could entail clothes too tightly packed into a closet or kitchen gadgets that end up on the countertops because the cupboards are full. She said she boxes up the items that she isn’t ready to part with and that don’t fit. She then gives them to her father to store at his house. Every so often, he calls and asks, “Do you need this stuff you boxed up?” She then says, “No.” Then he drops off the box at the charity shop.

I asked her if there was ever a time she actually missed something and asked her dad to pull it out. She said, “No.” Not once has she ever missed anything once it was boxed.

I then asked her, given that she has never retrieved anything from the boxes, “Why not take a leap of faith and donate the objects immediately?” She thinks she could do this now. But only after realizing that she has never once wanted anything back out of the boxes.

I’ve had clients do something similar. They box things up that they weren’t ready to part with, write the date on the box and outline the contents. Then six months later, they take the unopened box straight to charity. If you have a garage or attic space in which to store boxes, then this tip could work. The danger is that you may be tempted to open the box, peek inside, and start rummaging around. Far better if you can get it entirely out of the house.

The rule of thumb is to keep only what comfortably and easily fits into the designated space. Overflow just feels like too much. In addition, it is hard to keep tidy and easily accessible.

As John Maxwell wisely said, “You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.”

With that front of mind, get your boxes ready! And remember to get an outside perspective when necessary.

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