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cluttered colorful boats

Clutter is an emotional killer. You never realize what kind of emotional stranglehold it has on you until you’ve finally kicked the clutter habit.

If you’re lucky, life will intervene and force you to come to terms with your bad storage habits. Such as in the tale unfolding in my building.

Clutter in my building

A bizarre little structure from the 1930s, there are strange enclosed fire escapes that give each apartment a little extra room off the back of their place, filled with giant bay windows. For me, it’s a reading area. For many neighbors, it’s a clutter zone.

Enter landlords. To meet fire safety regulations, we’ve received stern warnings that they’ll be coming, measuring tape in hand, to ensure a minimum 36” space through all walkways, and zero belongings on any stairs.

My neighbor upstairs? A picture of sheer horror. Her space is jam-packed with useless boards, a million planting pots, and so much other crap. She knows I write about these sorts of things and knocked on my door moments ago for guidance. I gave her a stern talking to, and now I’m here to share it with you.

You can’t stop the cycle

One item my neighbor is concerned about is this broken, ugly pedestal. Why, I asked. It used to be nice. She wanted to make sure it went to a good home. But it’s chipped, broken, and doesn’t have the top platform. “Used to be nice” doesn’t mean it is nice anymore.

If it belongs in the garbage, that’s just reality. That’s where it belongs. It doesn’t matter if it offends your liberal sensibilities.

But I don’t want to send it to a landfill

Well, your first mistake was buying it, then. Seriously. You know that morbid saying on how we start to die from the moment we’re born? Same thing with all the crap you’re buying.

If you’re buying more than you need, you’re using it aggressively, or whatever, well, where do you think it’s gonna go?

If you think other people will OBVIOUSLY value things you’ve bought, even past their best-before shelf-date, then you need a reality check. I won’t have cracked, stained, chipped, broken, wobbly, or useless items in my place, no matter how much people insist it’s useful to me. Why would I? I’m not broken, chipped, or stained. Why should my home furnishings be? I’ve learned my lesson.

You’re hurting your spirit and your health

If you think you’re saving the planet by not turfing your crap, you’re not, and you’re hurting yourself. That clutter around you represents unmet obligations, years of history and drama, questions you have about how honest your values are, places for pests and critters to hide, and so much more.

Clutter isn’t just an inconvenience, it’s a danger.

There are stories about entire floors caving in because they’re not made for the weight threshold brought by boxes of newspapers and whatever else hoarders are hanging onto.

Because of my lack of clutter, I’ve spotted three pest outbreaks in the last year, and pros have been able to come in and fight the pesty fight. People with clutter say “Well, I don’t have any pests.” Sure, that you can see. Ignorance is bliss, friend. Pest control will teach you: Bugs and critters always stay on the perimeter of rooms, exactly where you expect clutter to be. They don’t need an 18” path like you and I do, they need a fraction of an inch, and they’ll find it behind all your boxes and junk.

Maybe you’re bug-friendly and you call it co-existing. I call it unsanitary.

You’re allowed to be scared

Change is scary. I know. Clutter is an emotional blanket we wrap around ourselves. If we keep everything, we’ll never lose anything from our past. We’ll never grow old.

But your past is gone no matter how much you cling to the little things from it. All you’ve got is your memories, really, and those will be there whether you have the knickknacks or not.

I promise you, the precious things you keep while purging the rest of your clutter, they’ll make you smile more, you’ll enjoy them more, you’ll see them more. You’re allowed to cherish things and enjoy the cherishing of them. I encourage it! Do more of that!

But having clutter isn’t “cherishing” things. Clear out the clutter so special things really shine. It’ll make you happier. Your home won’t feel like a burden, and the things you’re meant to enjoy and celebrate will be treated the right way. You’ll have less dust, you’ll literally breathe easier.

You’re allowed to be scared, but it’s time to rip the Band-aid off and make your world as organized and beautiful as you deserve to be. You can do this.

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Steffani Cameron

Steffani Cameron is a Victoria BC-based writer on a variety of topics. Here on the BuildDirect blog, she specializes in writing about smaller, urban spaces. How do you make the most of your smaller space? How do you decorate it to suit you? And how do you wage the war against clutter and win? This is Steff’s specialty.