Are You Ready?

March 1, 2010

Have you set an intention to clear your clutter?  Many people do, but I suggest you take one more step and ask yourself whether you are ready to deal with it—touch it, think about it, and then take action with it. 

A client recently invited me to help her de-clutter.  When we approached her bed linen-covered dining table, I was unaware of her feelings about what lay under those sheets.  Because I had been asked to help her de-clutter, I approached the table ready to address whatever was before us.  As I helped her unveil the hidden contents, I sensed her reluctance to start the process.  Mounds of disparate papers confronted us—booklets, brochures, junk mail, catalogues, and files. 

“What is the System?”

“What is the ‘system’ for dealing with this?” she asked.  Perhaps it is a matter of semantics, but I don’t have a “system” per se.  Instead, my approach is this:  sort one item at a time into like-piles (e.g., junk mail with junk mail, bills with bills).  Once everything is sorted, you can see how many duplicates you have, what magazine issues are missing, or what bills have to be paid.  You can then begin to determine which items need immediate action, which can be filed or archived, and which are to be tossed or recycled. 

In the end everything must leave the dining room table and reside in its proper home, be it a filing cabinet, a bills-to-be-paid file, a reading pile, or in the trash.  Every item must be picked up, looked at and dealt with.  Decisions have to be made.  Once I described the process, my client concluded she could do this herself.  Our session ended shortly thereafter. 

Taken aback and feeling dismissed, I wondered why I had been invited to help.  What had just happened?  My client thought she was ready to de-clutter her dining room table, but in the end, she wasn’t.  What could she have done to spare herself the expense of a failed session with a de-cluttering consultant?  Below are my suggestions:

A Step-by-Step Approach

Step 1:  Assess your clutter 

  • What is it (e.g., papers, clothes, household items, artwork, vehicles)?
  • How big is it (e.g., in one room, throughout your home or backyard)? 
  • Where is it (e.g., outside, in your attic, in your home office)? 

Take time see how widespread it is and how you feel about it.  If it seems overwhelming, ask yourself if it is because of the amount of clutter you have, the large size of the objects you consider clutter, or the location of where your clutter resides that deters you.  Does one or more of these factors cause you to resist handling your clutter?   

Step 2:  Assess your willingness to address it

  • Why now?  Is there a catalytic event that causes you to deal with it?  One of my clients was confronted with inviting her daughter’s future in-laws for dinner before the wedding date.  Frantically she had to clear the dining and living rooms of all their clutter before her guests arrived.  She later described her preparation as “traumatic.”


  • Are you willing and able to devote time to de-cluttering?  So many of my prospective clients want to clear their clutter, but they devote the majority of their waking time to their work or their jobs.  They don’t, and claim they cannot, find time for de-cluttering.  They proclaim, “I’m just too tired to deal with my clutter after work.  I need to veg.”  That may be true, but if you can see that de-cluttering is a form of self-care, you may then make space in your schedule to de-clutter a small area to make more space in your home and in your life for YOU. 


  • Can you make a commitment to do the work?  The work I am referring to is setting a goal of clearing your clutter, breaking the task into small steps, and beginning the process.  Many people who express a desire to clear their clutter want to believe they can do so with the wave of a wand.  They forget it took months or maybe even years to accumulate all this stuff.  The hardest work is making decisions—to keep or not to keep, that is the question.  If you decide to keep something, then you must ask yourself, “Why?” and “Where does it go?”  There are other questions, too, but these are the most pressing.  Answering honestly is a must, because holding onto to something for bogus reasons will not serve you well. 

Step 3:  Getting help, if you need it

Shame, embarrassment, and depression can be deterrents to your moving forward.  If you find you cannot make the necessary decisions mentioned above then help may be required.  Is there someone you know and trust who can help you?  Perhaps a friend or family member can support you throughout this de-cluttering process. 

If you can’t identify someone in your own circle, consider hiring a professional.  Professionals are objective, know how to approach your situation, and can accelerate your work.  They have seen a multitude of clutter situations, so yours will not surprise them.  If you go this route, know that it will be an investment in time and money, and will probably take more than one session to get the job done.  Budget yourself and your resources.

Final Note

I advised my client who decided she could handle the clutter on her dining room table by herself to spend time looking at her clutter.  Up to this point she admitted ignoring it.  If she were to make a commitment to look at that table and all that covered it for an extended period of time (5 minutes a day for 21 days), lots feelings inevitably would surface.  Those feelings, if respected, could galvanize her into action.  She would at last be ready. 

So, whenever you set an intention to clear your clutter, take a moment to assess your readiness.  Sometimes we think we’re ready, but we aren’t.  Review my three steps.  If your answer is “No!” then give yourself more time.  If your answer is “Yes!” then go for it!

If you decide you need a professional to help you de-clutter, call me at 703.998.0880 or send me an e-mail at

One Response to “Are You Ready?”

  1. Mary Jane Says:

    Once again,Bev, you have uncovered the subtle, yet necessary steps to make the de-cluttering process be successful. I noticed on your website ( you have a few teleclasses coming up in March. I’ve taken one (Paper Chase) and found it extremely helpful in getting started with eliminating my piles of paper. Your prospective clients are likely to do so, too.

    I plan to sign up for another teleclass (Call Away Your Clutter on the 13th of March. Thank you, Bev, for sharing your insights.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: