A Great TED Talk On Clutter

“Clutter is postponed decisions.” – Barbara Hemphill

I absolutely love this brilliant quote by Barbara Hemphill which Kerry Thomas mentions in this TED Talk video, because it is completely true. No matter what type of clutter plagues you, it may be impeding you in a profound way from living a free and peaceful life.

I hate physical clutter and fight it all the time by conducting purges throughout the year. But physical clutter is only one type of clutter, and Ms. Thomas breaks down the different types into the following:

Physical
Mental
Emotional
Digital
Spiritual

Although I feel that I have a good handle on physical clutter in my environment, the other categories are more challenging. I control digital clutter by going through my email inboxes on a daily basis, consolidating images and deleting old text messages on my phone. I also think I have a decent handle on spiritual clutter because I meditate daily, take meditation and yoga courses, and also practice breathwork. I try to forgive those who upset me, and I also make sure to avoid toxic people.

The areas where I get hung up (and I suspect many others do) is with mental and emotional clutter. Ms. Thomas states that mental clutter consists of fears one might have, and it also could stem from the judgmental words of others, while emotional clutter consists of negative thoughts and behaviors. The thing is, I have fears which keep my mind racing, and I also fall into the trap of negative thinking from time to time, especially when I am in the middle of a crisis. So by no means am I completely free of clutter. However, I constantly strive to clear up anything which is depressing me or slowing me down.

It’s incredibly liberating to get rid of items which are damaged, unused, or worn, and it’s also wonderful to let go of all the mental blockades to happiness and freedom. One thing I always try to remind myself is that worrying about things will never bring about a solution. The only thing worry ends up doing is eroding one’s demeanor and sparking anxiety.

I suggest that you think about the different areas in which clutter might be adversely affecting your life, and adopt behaviors which counteract such clutter.

How Hoarders Process Information

I found the following article to be incredibly fascinating, and concur with study author Jennifer M. Sumner’s statement that hoarders have difficulties with establishing bulk categories for their possessions. This results in a complete inability to organize items, so they accumulate. I have included a link to the original post for reference.

mind of a hoarder

https://www.braindecoder.com/inside-the-mind-of-a-hoarder-1378787672.html

Inside the Mind of a Hoarder
A new study hints at the real reason behind the mess.
By Agata Blaszczak Boxe

When Paul Hammond, a resident of Mobile, Alabama, started collecting used cars and appliances to sell for scrap metal, he probably did not suspect that his habit would one day turn into a serious hoarding issue and land him in jail.

But, over the years, random items kept piling up in his yard, and Hammond just was not getting rid of them. After numerous complaints from the neighbors, who accused him of turning his property into a junkyard, county authorities got involved and cited him for criminal littering. They also threatened to put him in jail if he did not clean up.

When Hammond’s brother came to visit him for the Fourth of July several years ago, he saw about 90 cars, about 50 refrigerators and 100 lawn mowers in the yard. The brother quit his job for four months to help Hammond get rid of the stuff. But the county officials were not happy with the job the men did and they put Hammond in jail for five days.

“I thought I was a law-abiding citizen,” Hammond told A&E’s show Hoarders. Although he was released after the five days, he was still facing up to 90 more days in jail if he did not clean up around the time the TV crew came to film an episode about him.

Hammond is one of the many people with hoarding disorder who end up being overwhelmed with possessions they can’t organize or get rid of. Hoarding is a disorder that may be present on its own or as a symptom of another disorder, for example, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and depression. To try to understand what mechanisms in the brain may be responsible for hoarding behavior, researchers have recently begun to look at the neurocognitive aspects of the disorder, but studies have yielded mixed results.

For example, one study looked at people with obsessive-compulsive disorder and found that those who had high levels of hoarding behavior performed significantly worse on tests of decision making, planning and properly shifting attention, compared with people with OCD with lower levels of hoarding. However, it’s difficult to conclude that these cognitive traits are responsible for hoarding because another study found people with hoarding disorder actually performed better on the same type of test than participants with non-hoarding OCD.

In a new study, published in Neuropsychology, researchers looked at neurocognitive functioning in 26 people with hoarding disorder and 23 people without the disorder. The researchers thought the discrepancies between the results of previous studies could have been caused by the effects of medications used by some of the participants, so in the new study, they decided to only include people who were not taking any medication that could affect their brain functioning in any way.

The new study found no significant differences in how people in both groups performed on tests examining their verbal memory, attention, or executive functions such as planning, organization and decision-making.

But the researchers did find a difference between the groups: when they asked the participants to categorize different stimuli in a separate test, the people with the hoarding disorder appeared to use different learning strategies during the categorizing task, compared with the controls. Namely, they tended to use explicit learning, which is about developing and verbalizing rules to remember something, explained study author Jennifer M. Sumner, of the University of California San Diego School of Medicine. In contrast, most people without the disorder used implicit learning, which is an unconscious, non-linear and non-verbal way to learn new information.

The researchers don’t know for sure how these results should be interpreted. But the findings do make them wonder whether, in people with hoarding disorder, the inability to organize and sort through their possessions might have something to do with how they process information, Sumner said.

It could be, for example, that people with the disorder try to come up with rules as to where different objects should go, but because they may end up creating too many rules, “it ends up being chaotic and cluttered,” Sumner said. Conversely, people without the disorder “might look at objects in their home and have this implicit, intrinsic subconscious ability to know where objects go, to know what is not important and what they can get rid of,” she told Braindecoder. “So they don’t have that clutter.”

In fact, previous research has suggested that people with the disorder tend to be under-inclusive in how they categorize the things they have, Sumner said.

“If you give them 10 objects to sort, they may put them in 10 different categories because they are all unique and complex in their own way,” Sumner said. But if a person without the disorder is given the same 10 objects, they may be able to put them in just two different groups, so they are easily organized and there is no clutter, she said.

“So we have this ability implicitly to decide where things should go,” which many people with hoarding disorder may not have, Sumner said.

An Organized Person’s Approach To Decluttering

Before After Closet 2

The images above are NOT from my house, but are great examples of a before and after organization transformation.

I often take my intense need for organization for granted and assume that other people are just like me. However, I know that this isn’t the case, and that many individuals tend to get literally and figuratively buried in their own stacks of paperwork, unfinished projects, and unused items which have sat in storage for far too long. One of the reasons why I am able to remain relatively organized on a consistent basis is because I go through every item I own several times a year and assess its value and function in my life. If it no longer serves a need, it goes to Goodwill, the trash, or a pile of items which will be part of a garage sale. I fail to see the point of hanging onto things I don’t need, because those items only collect dust and take up space. In addition, items of value which sit in storage are better utilized by being sold, because then the money can go towards paying bills or fattening up a vacation fund.

When I conduct my regular organizational purges, I move in a clockwise or counter-clockwise fashion, starting in one corner of the room. I make sure to COMPLETELY sort everything in that area before I move onto the next portion of the room. I have discovered that this method is very effective for decluttering, especially for individuals who become easily overwhelmed with the task of cleaning and organizing a space. As an example, I may start at a storage cabinet. The exterior of the cabinet is cleaned, and any items which are on top of or around the cabinet are assessed. Once the area outside the cabinet is done, I will go through each shelf in the cabinet. Whenever I assess an item, I ask these questions:

1. Does this item belong where I found it?
2. If the item doesn’t belong where I found it, and I am going to keep it, where does it belong?
3. When was the last time I used this item?
4. Is this item damaged and in need of repair?
5. Will I have a need for this item in the future?
6. Does this item have sentimental value?
7. If I decide to get rid of the item, does it have enough value to put into a garage sale, or does it belong in a Goodwill pile or the trash?
8. Is this a collectible or specialty item which requires research and appraisal?

People who have hoarding tendencies have strong emotional attachments to objects, and will have a particularly difficult time answering these questions, especially numbers 5,6,7 and 8. In their minds, EVERYTHING has some sort of value which warrants a permanent spot in their home, even if it isn’t being used.

When I conduct these semi-annual purges, I have the following on hand:

trash bags
cleaning solution and paper towels
box designated for Goodwill/Salvation Army
box for items which need to be repaired or professionally cleaned
area for garage sale items
area for collectibles to sell

Once I get started, I am pretty ruthless about getting rid of things I don’t need. To be honest, I love making money back on items I bought which haven’t been used in a while, and I also get great joy out of donating things to Goodwill. Above all, I am very honest with myself about emotional attachments to inanimate objects. There are some items I will NEVER get rid of, like the little yellow musical stuffed dog that was in my crib, jewelry my mother gave me, my Pro Card watch, and all my trophies, but I am not going to develop anxiety about getting rid of a sweater I have had for 15 years which I haven’t worn for over 5 years!

If you are long overdue on spring cleaning, now is a good time to clear up the clutter. You’ll end up with a cleaner, more organized home, you will know where everything is, and you may make some decent money selling some of your belongings!