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Spring Cleaning: 3 Simple Steps to Decluttering

Andrew McNaughton, LCSW, CADC

Most of use have too much stuff, and probably do not use even a fraction of it. Our material possessions may bring us comfort and joy, and may even serve practical purposes that can help us be more productive with our time and effort. That said, most of it is probably just clutter. We generally do not truly need any of these things, and in many cases, may not even really want them anymore, and yet for whatever reason, we hold onto these things and allow them to clutter our homes and places of work. This is a blog about how to identify clutter, plan to get rid of it, and decrease your chances of re-cluttering.

Get rid of it!

This process begins with identifying what we own and determining if it still serves any purpose. If we have not worn an item of clothing in a year and it does not carry significant sentimental value, get rid of it. The same standard can be applied to our books and other collectibles, as well as our furniture tucked away in the corner, old or new technology, and kitchen appliances. Once we identify what we can live without, our options are to throw them away, give them away, or sell them. I suggest identifying ways to donate or sell our unwanted items. We can donate to charity, sell on eBay, sell at a flea market, or hold a garage or yard sale. Let’s not just throw our clutter into the trash, because there is a good chance someone can benefit from these unwanted items.

Make a re-cluttering prevention plan!

Real change comes with a viable plan. While it is not impossible to find success while winging it, our best chances for successful outcomes are significantly increased with a written step-by-step plan. Let’s identify what we use and how we can use it more consistently and efficiently, especially before we are tempted to go out and buy a bunch of new stuff to fill the clutter void. We can be intentional about using what we already own, and then buy only what we anticipate using for our benefit. Otherwise, we will just find ourselves in the same cluttered predicament again. I also strongly suggest developing a written Relapse Prevention Plan that identifies our early warning signs of a possible thought and behavior relapse, and provides structure for overcoming our urges to engage in our previously problematic behaviors.

Execute the plan!

Our long-term goal is to achieve consistency, not perfection. Perfection is usually unattainable, definitely unsustainable, and ultimately self-defeating. Let’s be on the lookout for falling back on old patterns of thought and behavior that we have identified in our Relapse Prevention Plans. Remember that a slip up, lapse, or even a full blown relapse does not mean we are failures. Rather, it only indicates a momentary failure in our behaviors. Since we are practicing Unconditional Self Acceptance, we rate our actions and thoughts, but refuse the urge to engage in self-condemnation. No matter what happens, we can always choose to re-engage in our change plan. We can modify our plans as needed to increase our chances of sustained success in making long-term positive changes in our thoughts and behaviors.

Spring is not the only time of year we can do some cleaning and decluttering. I recommend regularly taking inventory of our stuff and asking ourselves if we really need or want all of it anymore. Decluttering is a process, and can be made easier with the structure and support of one of our trained behavior change specialists at Symmetry Counseling. Contact us today to start making positive changes in your life!

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