In recent meetings of the Houston Clutter Coaching Meetup Group, we’ve been exploring the psychology of clutter. We’ve talked about emotional patterns that sabotage our ability to be organized, and we’ve discussed the feedback loop of clutter and negative emotions. Our May meeting examined how living in clutter reflects negative emotional patterns, such as distraction, resistance, and avoidance of pain. We looked at how the decluttering process can serve as a release from bad feelings and a trigger for a brighter emotional landscape.
Inspiration for this topic came from a blog post that cites a TED Talk by Shawn Achor, a positive-psychology researcher and the founder of Good Think Inc. In the video, Shawn disputes the conventional wisdom that success creates happiness and says that positive-psychology research suggests the converse is true: happiness creates success. He documents five proven techniques for achieving success by focusing first on happiness:
- Write down three things about which you’re grateful. This practice rewires your brain for the habit of scanning the world with a bias toward the positive instead of the negative.
- Journal about a positive experience. The act of writing allows your brain to relive the positive experience.
- Get some exercise. The habit of physical exercise teaches your brain that your behavior matters.
- Meditate. This practice allows your brain to focus on the task at hand instead of being distracted by many tasks.
- Practice random acts of kindness. Shawn suggests sending a supportive, positive e-mail to someone every time you open your inbox. This practice reinforces your social support network.
We thought this set of practices was a fabulous idea, so we decided to create our own version tailored toward the challenges of decluttering your life and your space. We’d like to help our readers take an upbeat approach to decluttering, generate some positive emotional shifts in their lives, and build their organizing success on a foundation of happiness.
So here’s our update of the list, which we call “The Clutter Fairy’s Five-Step Daily Practice to Support a Clutter-free Life”:
- Express your gratitude (or positive attitude). Post on our Meetup site, our YouTube channel, or in a comment below when you’ve accomplished a clutter-reducing task.
- Journal. Take a moment to write in your journal about the experience of letting go of something, or call a friend to talk about it.
- Exercise. Set a timer and declutter for 15 minutes a day, or try the “10-things Exercise.” Each day, pick up 10 things to throw away, 10 things to donate, 10 things to put back where they belong—or any combination thereof.
- Meditate. Sit still in a clutter-free space and focus on how you feel. If you don’t possess such a space, find one out in the world. Go sit in a display room at IKEA, in a model home, or a museum or art gallery. Notice how your mind feels in this environment.
- Not-so-random acts of kindness. Give something away as a donation, then tell us about it in a blog comment below, on YouTube, or on our Meetup site.
Try out this “Conquering Clutter” practice, and see how much forward motion you achieve. Greater happiness—and more decluttering success—may be just five steps away.
This article was featured in our July 2013 e-mail newsletter. To subscribe to our newsletter, please use the “Subscribe” form, above right.
The Clutter Fairy is available for one-on-one organizing sessions tailored to your needs. We’ll visit your home or office to perform a free assessment of your space and its potential. Call 713‑816‑9505 or send e‑mail to schedule an appointment.