Wednesday, May 21, 2008

To Pitch or Not to Pitch

Living in a mid-western university community I feel we get a couple extra “new years” -- opportunities for making resolutions, changes. Spring is filled with rebirth and “newness” in nature, from crocuses and tulips poking through the dark earth, to robins hatching from pastel blue eggshells. In a community that revolves around the University of Illinois, the beginning of the school year also seems like “a new year.” After a slow quiet summer the community blossoms and prospers while the locals cry out, with forked tongues, “Oh no! The students are back!” And lest we forget that our traditional new year begins January 1. I don’t know about you, but I feel more energized in the spring and fall, than I do in the dead of winter, when it comes to making (keeping) resolutions.

One resolution that keeps rearing its ugly head at me is, “Clean out the house!” Notice I said clean “out” the house, not “up” the house. Accumulated clutter -- where does it all come from? We’ve heard the rhetorical question – If a cluttered desk is indicative of a cluttered mind, what does an empty desk convey? Well, I’d like to switch words: instead of an empty desk, how about an organized one? I don’t think anyone can argue with being more organized. There are tons of books, websites, blogs, and even TV shows on the subject of decluttering. Why are they so popular? Well maybe there’re lots of clutterbugs, like me, out there. People who spend too much time “looking” for lost items, wasting money on unnecessary stuff and having difficulty parting with certain objects. These behaviors can lead to stress, frustration and negativity.

The first step to effective decluttering starts with our “mind,” not a dumpster. Just like successful dieters have to change the way they think about food and examine what “needs” food is meeting in their lives, we need to ask some similar questions about “things,” and what they represent to us. Lifestyle changes need to come first if we’re to achieve and sustain our new behaviors, be they dieting or declutturing.

But, doesn’t it all seem overwhelming? Where do I begin? Karen Chan, Illinois Extension Educator, of Consumer and Family Economics has developed a comprehensive guide on, "Dealing with Clutter.” You can read all about it at the Extension website:

Karen addresses all kinds of clutter, from the paper clutter of magazines, kids’ art work, junk mail and utility bills, to clothes we hope to some day get back into, keepsakes that hold special sentiment, and all the stuff/junk and things that stack up in our garages, basements and attics. The kitchen has its own section, as she shows us how we can organize this very busy room in our house.

Like so many big, overwhelming jobs, we get stuck in our tracks, paralyzed, “can’t move.” But Karen breaks the big jobs into small manageable ones. She introduces us to the Clutter Emergency Card – a series of six questions to aid us in deciding whether to keep or pitch, give away or sell? She shows us that we don’t need enormous blocks of time to tackle the jobs, but we can make good use of small pockets of time. She gives me hope. I can see the light at the end of my attic. I can put my house on a diet and we’ll all be the better for it. Yes I can, yes I will!

This entry submitted by guest blogger, Cathy Colbert Inman