Earlier this month, I planted my vegetable and herb garden. This means, I spent a lot of quality time with the weeds that had already taken up residence in my garden bed. As I was preparing the garden bed by pulling the weeds and tilling the dirt, I kept thinking about how weeding is a lot like decluttering. In fact there are many organizing lessons to be learned in your garden.
The weeds will just come back. What’s the point?
It’s been a very wet spring in my neck of the woods. And as a result, the weeds were thriving. As I pulled and plucked weed after weed, I kept thinking: The weeds will just come back. What’s the point? As I kept having this thought, weed after weed, it occurred to me that this is the very same thing I hear from prospective organizing clients and workshop participants. As people set out to get organized, they often worry that the clutter and disorder will just come back. So they wonder…what’s the point?
Here’s the point: Just as flowers and vegetables thrive in a garden with minimal weeds, people thrive in environments with minimal clutter. As a general rule of thumb, it’s easier to perform jobs and even to relax in a space that is organized and clutter-free. So there is a point in getting organized and clearing clutter, even though we know the clutter and disorder will return again. When the clutter is gone we thrive…we are happier, more relaxed and more at peace….and this makes the effort of decluttering and organizing worthwhile.
It isn’t a matter of if the weeds will return…it’s a case of when.
Trying to get organized once and hoping the clutter will stay away without any action on your part is just the same as me weeding the garden once and thinking I’m done for the season. The weeds will return. And once I accept that fact, then I can decide how often to weed the garden and get rid of the weeds again. Sure it’s frustrating, but weeds are just part of what you sign up for when you decide to have a garden – and time spent weeding is well worth it when my family can enjoy fresh vegetables and herbs for months to come. Likewise, clutter is just something you sign up for when you decide to have a life.
When getting organized, it’s important to accept that the clutter will return. It isn’t a matter of if it will return—it’s a matter of when. When you live your life, you create clutter. Things come out of storage, and new things come into your home. But just as I have a choice about how often to weed my garden, or how many weeds I’ll let take root before digging in and plucking them out, we all have the same choice with clutter. You get to decide how often to put things back where they belong. You can decide to put things away as soon as you’re done using them, once a day, once a week or once you’re so far out of your comfort zone that you just can’t take it anymore. Similarly, you get to decide how often to go through your things and let go of items that no longer fit your life or lifestyle.
It’s when you think “I’ve weeded my garden, I’m done for the season” that you set yourself up for disappointment. It makes sense to expect to work to keep the weeds in check. It makes just as much sense to expect to devote some time on an ongoing basis to keep your clutter in check.
Getting the root.
While the news that you can’t just weed once and be done for the season can be depressing, there are things you can do when gardening to delay the return of the weeds. One of the best solutions is to get the root of the weed. When you get the root, it takes longer for the weeds to come back. When conquering clutter, the same holds true. If you can get to the root of the clutter, or understand the reasons why it is there in the first place, then you can delay the return of the clutter. (Hooray!)
As you embark on your next organizing or decluttering project, do a little bit of detective work and try to figure out the root cause of the clutter. Do the items in your home have assigned places where they belong? Do these places make sense to you? Are they convenient? Do your organizing systems work for you and how you naturally do things? Are you habitually using your organizing systems? Do you simply need to take action on your clutter more frequently, so you spend more time in your comfort zone?
When you get to the root of the clutter, just like the root of the weeds, you can ultimately spend more time enjoying the benefits of living with less clutter. And after all, isn’t that what getting organized is all about?
The next time you see a weed in your yard or flower bed, remember these organizing lessons from the garden. And the next time you see clutter in your home, remember that clutter is part of what you sign up for when you have a life. If you’re seeing more clutter than you’d like, it simply means you need to increase your decluttering sessions.