In her new book, , professional organiser Amanda Sullivan makes the case for a home that is — you guessed it — organised enough. Her method is not about Kondo-style perfectionism, where everything must be discarded and surfaces kept entirely bare; rather, it’s about streamlining your current systems and ensuring that your home is as organised as it can be, within the parameters of your lifestyle (ie. one that probably includes kids, work and maybe even a pet or two). In this extract from her book, Sullivan talks us through five ways that anxiety can result in a house full of junk. Do any sound familiar…?
1. Anxiety about letting go
Do you have a hard time letting go of possessions? Are certain areas of your home “stuck”? Are you overwhelmed by old clothing you can’t bear to part with? Facing your fears will enable you to get rid of clutter. Fear comes in many flavours, and even the most successful and confident people can have irrational worries that cause them to cling to things.
2. Anxiety about being wasteful
I frequently see people hanging on to something that they no longer want or need because giving it away or throwing it out would be “wasteful.” They think it has some monetary value, but they can’t quite get it together to actually sell the thing. The truth is that usually it isn’t really worth their time. Whether it is a dining table or a set of china, they might be able to sell it, but they would have to make and post an ad, ship the item, and so forth, and the net gain might be relatively small. Sometimes it’s easier to just give it to a charity.
Don’t be afraid to let stuff go. Giving away something you no longer want that might be worth a hundred dollars doesn’t make you profligate, it makes you generous. (Of course, if you have the time and energy to sell stuff, by all means, go for it.)
3. Anxiety about money
In a related fear, many people get anxious when it comes to dealing with their finances. Whether caused by debt, uncertainty about the future, or just being unsure about the rules, fear around our finances can be so uncomfortable that we avoid the subject at any cost, which of course becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The result is often an instinct to hold onto stuff— every mutual-fund report (garbage!) or old, decrepit piece of clothing. Most of my clients are relatively affluent, but when it comes to letting go of stuff, they get scared. It’s as though holding on to an old duvet could save them if they lost their job. When my client Kristi was moving into a beautiful townhouse, she was reluctant to let go of an old alarm clock. “Do you use it?” I asked her. “No, I have a new one that’s much better.” “So why not throw it out or put it in the donation bag?” “What if the new one breaks?” “Well, you will replace it.” “But what if I am out of work then?” In the grand scheme of things to worry about, her mortgage and renovation costs would be a much bigger issue if she lost her job, which was not really likely anyway, because she was well respected in her industry. It was almost as though her anxiety had attached itself to little stuff like old alarm clocks so that she didn’t have to face the anxiety caused by the much larger commitment of her mortgage.
4. Anxiety about not being able to find it again
Many of my clients save things because they think they aren’t going to be able to find that exact thing again. They save clippings of sofas they like and printouts from the Internet, and they make duplicates of important papers and file them in multiple places to ensure that they can find them when (if ever) they need them. Stop! The fear of not being able to find things is pernicious, because it causes you to save more things, which only makes it harder to find the things you need. Remember, one is better than two. Have a little faith. If you really need it, you are going to be able to find it.
5. Anxiety about being perfect
Perfectionism is often a big part of fear. “What if I need it?” “What if it’s valuable?” All of these questions are about perfectionism. Underneath these busy, successful women, I hear anxious, high-achieving little girls, who don’t want to do it wrong. It’s a trap. You’ll never be perfect, just frustrated, and, really, is that how you want to live? When I first met Christine, she was in her late thirties, but her apartment had the temporary look of a college dorm room. Christine’s perfectionism had paralysed her: she was afraid to buy a filing cabinet for fear she would buy the wrong one, and she was afraid to paint because she might pick the wrong colour. Slowly, she faced her fears, first buying a filing cabinet and, in time, redoing her entire apartment.