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Why the fall is a fine time for a major cleanup

Joanne Richard
Special to The Weather Network

Saturday, September 22, 2018, 7:12 AM - Missed the annual spring clean and purge ritual way back in March? Don’t fear, the mess is still here and fall is the perfect time to purge to surge this season.

Mess causes stress so bring order to the disorder. Get rid of the junk in your trunk, garage and house. “Back to school, back to work, back to cooler weather, whatever the reason, most of us turn a little inward towards our spaces – besides losing those last 10 pounds, nothing really feels as good as taking control of your space,” says organizational expert Jill Pollack.

Cutting the clutter and knowing what you have and where it lives in your home helps lowers stress which is great for the soul, says Pollack, of jillpollack.com. 

“If there are things, objects, clothes, books, furniture etc. that don’t serve a real purpose in the present or very near future, and are things that are kept out of guilt, that is clutter. If you can’t say that you really want it or need it within three seconds, it is probably clutter.”

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The bottom line is possessions posses us! The more we have, the more we have to store and take care of, which requires a financial commitment and physical energy, says Clare Kumar, executive productivity coach specializing in organization and productivity at streamlife.ca.

Plus the emotional energy attached to things can be a burden, especially if we feel we have to keep items that aren’t useful to us, including clothing that’s too small or an item that is being kept simply because it was expensive. “These items ‘talk’ to us and make us feel bad. Have things around you that speak positively to you!” suggests Kumar.

Studies show that clutter is unhealthy and keeps us in a state of chronic stress. The visual chaos, including boxes, piled up magazines and plastic containers of junk, take their toll. Disarray, disorganization and stuff are emotionally crushing. According to neuroscientists at Princeton University, physical clutter vies for your attention, resulting in poor performance and increased stress.


But we still love our stuff: Researchers at Yale recently discovered that the two areas in your brain associated with pain actually light up in response to getting rid of possessions you value.

Think pain for gain – out with the old, and in with the calm this fall. But how does one decide if it stays or goes? “Ask yourself if the item serves the life you wish to live now. Alternatively, ask yourself if you would invest time, energy and money to acquire the item again today,” says Kumar. “If so, then you want to make sure it’s stored in a way that honours the item. If that’s not possible, it’s better to let it go.”

Quite simply, think about getting rid of 100 things. “You may regret getting rid of one or two items, but think about the other 99 ones you are happy to rid of!” rejoices Pollack.

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Take Kumar’s steps to getting organized:

  • Prioritize: Determine how you want to spend your time, and therefore what furniture, accessories and storage pieces you need, and how you want your space to feel, which will drive finishes, open versus closed storage and the amount of free space.
  • Liberate: Determine comfortable “out-paths” for different categories of items. For example you might donate your kids’ clothes to a nearby family, furniture to a charity like the Furniture Bank or Goodwill, and high-end purses to a consignment store. If it becomes too difficult to find a ‘perfect’ home for something to go to, simply donate it to move it on.
  • Arrange: Place items so that you use the appropriate amount of energy to retrieve them, and that items are well-maintained.
  • Nurture: Develop practices to keep things organized such as respecting limits by employing a one-in-one-out rule, curbing acquisitions, liberating regularly, and being sure to put things away regularly.

Useless things clutter our lives! Get rid of it now with Jill Pollack’s tips:

  • The box of phantom cords that have no electronic purpose. “Make sure to dispose of them in a place that takes toxic recycle items.”
  • All the takeout menus and phone books you never, ever look at. Use your computer.
  • Unused kitchen gear like the melon baller and heart shaped waffle iron. Time to be honest about your culinary aspirations.
  • Old unfilled photo albums. Go digital.
  • Old ugly bed sheets: Have no more than two sets per bed.
  • Kick the boot habit. You don’t need three pairs of the same black boot. Two is plenty!
  • Shot glasses and unused coffee mugs. Enough said.
  • Hotel moisturizers that have been long forgotten in the bathroom drawers. “Bring to a homeless shelter and, for the love of Pete, stop taking them.”


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