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Cleaning Your Clutter

By Dr. Linda Sapadin

Stuff, stuff and more stuff. How are you going to deal with all that stuff?

Somewhere within the deep recesses of your brain, you know what you should be doing. Create categories for your stuff by deciding what to keep, what to toss, what to file, what to organize, what to put back in its place. Do this and soon your closets, your bedroom, your basement, your garage may actually look like "AFTER" photos in a "House and Garden" makeover article.

Wow, wouldn't that be great! Go ahead, revel in your illusions a little longer. But before too much time passes, return to reality. When you do, it will be obvious that your stuff in disarray contributes to your feelings of dismay. It's easy with a lot of clutter to throw up your hands, heave a deep sigh, and remind yourself that you're a disgrace. You'd die of humiliation if the "got it all together" people got a first-hand glance at the disorder in your life.

Of course, you will not die of humiliation. You will survive. You will go on to the next day and the next and the next. But will you live your life with a defeatist attitude? Or, will you get your blood pumping as you take action and build confidence? I hope your answer is the latter. If so, here are some ideas that just might make it happen for you.

—Lower your goals. Forget about having a model home. Your goal should not be to have a place free of clutter, but simply to tackle a task or two that makes your life easier, your place neater, your stuff more organized.

—Set a kitchen timer for fifteen minutes. Then make rapid-fire decisions about what to do with the stuff in your messiest area. Toss it, file it, put it back where it belongs, or create a home for it. Rush around and do as much as you can until the timer goes off. You'll be amazed at how much you can get done when your adrenaline is pumping.

—During those fifteen minutes, did you get stuck on making any specific decision? If so, take a deep breath then on the exhale tell yourself, "it just doesn't matter." When cleaning clutter, it's more important that you do something rather than get stuck on what's the right thing to do.

—If you view yourself in divergent ways (i.e. you're wildly ambitious yet admittedly lazy), make room to express both sides of your personality. Though your lazy side may need no encouragement, your ambitious side probably does. So, at least once a week, put your ambitious side in charge. Let it give commands and demand follow-through until there are visible results.

—Regret for wasted time is more wasted time. So, if you're feeling regret for what you "should" have done, stop. Instead, focus in on what you could do right now to move forward.

If you still harbor doubts about your capability, heed the wisdom of Dr. Seuss:

"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself any direction you choose
You're on your own and you know what you know
And you are the one who'll decide where you'll go."

Linda Sapadin, Ph.D. is a psychologist in private practice who specializes in helping people enrich their lives, enhance their relationships and overcome self-defeating patterns of behavior. For more information about her work, contact her at or visit her website at

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