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De-Cluttering Demons - Part 2

Dear Jo the Clutterbuster:

I am Hamstrung’s sister. I share Hamstrung Hamster’s genes. However, I am not haunted by either the Procrastination or Perfectionism Demons . (Maybe because I am the middle child?)

I, too, work hard to be organized. But I seem to just keep accumulating more stuff (especially the clutter my sister wants to unload.) I can’t pass up a 2-for sale or a trash day treasure.

Can you help me?


Proverbial Pack rat

Dear P 2:

Sometimes my clients suffer from physical or psychological limitations that prevent them from getting or staying organized. Like hoarding, these conditions can be diagnosed and treated with counseling and/or medicines.

  • Attention Deficit Disorder or Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Physical disability (aging, accident, birth, disease) and
  • Sometimes life happens when they are making other plans.
    (Go to: www.jotheclutterbustert.com. Click on Insights. Scroll down to “Overtaken by Events.”)

However, if you are not affected by one of these conditions, the Deprivation, Distraction and Data Demons might be controlling your life.

Deprivation Demon

Motto: But I might need that….

If you have difficulty letting go of stuff and did not live through the Great Depression, the Deprivation Demon (DD) may be controlling your life or the lives of others in your household.

We all fear not having “enough.” But how much enough is enough varies, not only from person-to-person, sometimes day-to-day. Living through uncertain economic times fuels our fears. Believing that there is never enough to go around causes us to hold on to items that have little current or future use. Here are some tenets to keep the DD at bay:

Decrease Purchases:

One way to keep the DD in check is not to buy large quantities of items for which you then need additional storage. Often we forget what we have stored and replace them – again and again.

Donate Duplicates:

Most of us only wear 20% of what we own. How many pairs of shoes do you actually wear? Why hold onto that size 2 dress; 36 inch waist pants?

Determine Distribution

Share infrequently used items. Talk with your neighbors about co-owning the snow blower, roto-tiller, front end loader or any of the myriad of infrequently used home repair tools.

Dump Detritus:
At least 25% of the clutter in a home is recyclable. Give all the empty yogurt containers, egg cartons, toilet paper tubes to a preschool. Recycle any paper, metal, cardboard, plastic and glass bottles. Shop with reusable bags.

Hoarding looks like the Deprivation Demon but prevents the hoarder from living a normal life. Hoarding is a psychological condition that requires professional help, possibly anti-anxiety drugs or anti depressants and assistance from a de-cluttering expert. If you suspect you are a hoarder, ask the opinion of a close friend or seek professional assistance.

Data Demon

Motto: I need to know …everything

In our current data driven society, we are constantly bombarded with information from multiple sources – the internet, radio, television, telephones, newspapers, Facebook, Twitter, websites, blogs, even our telephones.

Behind our constant quest for more information may lurk some fears:

  • Fear of not having the answer;
  • Fear of not being prepared for the worst;
  • Fear of buying the wrong item;
  • Fear of forgetting;
  • Fear of not being aware of current events, clothing, celebrities;
  • Fear of feelings.

No matter how much information you stockpile in file drawers, piles, boxes, folders, you will never know everything – and you will never keep up with everything and you will never control everything. Information is doubling faster all the time. It took from the time of Jesus to the time of Leonardo for one doubling of knowledge. The next doubling of knowledge was completed before the American Revolution, the next one by 1900, the next one by 1950, the next one by 1960. Now knowledge is doubling every eighteen months." Recently, ‘Watson’ – the computer - lost on Jeopardy. Maybe his memory needed upgrading.

Symptoms that the Data Demon may be interfering with your de-cluttering goals include:

  • Stacks of unread books throughout your home, office, car;
  • Piles of unread newspapers;
  • Yellowed newspaper clippings on the fridge;
  • Incomplete dissertations;
  • Unfinished remodeling projects; and
  • Non working appliances.

Ways in which to counteract the Data Demon:

  • Bookmark important information on your computer instead of printing out the articles.
  • Limit the number of list serves and discussion groups you are on.
  • Limit the amount of time you spend on-line trolling for tidbits.
  • Tell your friends not to email you links to extraneous erudition.
  • Eliminate magazines (They are 60% ads.)
  • Subscribe to on-line newspapers and discontinue delivery.
  • Use the library instead of buying books.
  • Reduce the number of file cabinets you own.
  • Before burying you head in a book or booting up the computer, ask what de-cluttering task you are avoiding and then go do it.

Information is not knowledge.” Albert Einstein

Distraction Demon

Motto: Anything but this…

When my clients begin to organize the backlog of paper and clutter and establish systems, the Distraction Demon interjects itself and chaos reigns.

Suddenly, it is important to re-carpet the room in which we have been digging through the detritus. Or they decide to hold a family holiday gathering even though the guest room is where we have set up the paper processing center.

Nature abhors a vacuum and so does the Distraction Demon. Sometimes when you are making space for what’s important by eliminating clutter, the Demon wants to fill up your life with distractions – often disguised as - chaos.

The Distraction Demon derives some benefits from being disorganized. Every day is an exciting drama when you are hunting for a specific item, document, or piece of information. In fact, studies show that one month out of every year is wasted on looking for ‘lost’ things.

The Distraction Demon can fill up a day without completing anything. They clutter the house with some of the following:

  • Unfinished projects;
  • Unanswered letters, thank yous;
  • Unpaid bills;
  • Unreturned gifts;
  • Uncompleted forms.

If you are serious about minimizing distractions and reducing the chaos in your life while getting organized, follow these admonitions:

  • Do Not start any construction projects.
  • Do Not schedule elective surgery.
  • Do Not volunteer to organize a national conference.
  • Do Not offer to host a wedding.
  • Do Not enroll in a 16 week course.
  • Do Not have the carpet replaced.
  • Do Not rescue a puppy.
  • Do Not take in a homeless family.

When you need some drama, go to the theatre or a movie and return to a de-cluttered home.