There are hundreds of books that explain what is wrong with our diet, work habits, sleeping patterns, negotiating skills, etc. In organizing, we have the Minimalists encouraging us to live with only what we need for life in the present and to avoid the latest gadgets or a larger TV screens; Marie Kondo who only lets clients keep things that ‘spark joy’ and says we need to honor the energy of our things; and a new writer, Christina Water, that says forget all that because clutter is a good thing, linking us to the past and making us who we are.
I think each of these approaches has something to offer, but I hesitate when I hear blanket statements that describe what ails an entire population or what can cure it.
Some of my clients despise clutter. I don’t like it very much and prefer to have everything stored out of site. Other clients need to be able to see things to avoid forgetting about them. Some clients need everything out while others can function with just visual reminders. Some use audio reminders and alarms, while some like using the Time Timer that visually represents time passing.
Every person thinks, acts and learns uniquely. I believe these processes are created in part by DNA and in part by positive and negative reinforcements that happen constantly throughout our lives. While I help people learn new processes to help them maintain the level of organization that they want, I also look for tools that compliment each person’s unique processes.
I truly believe that there is no ‘right’ amount of clutter for a healthy and happy life. The answer is unique to everyone’s life style, preferences, and activities.
When I organize, I don’t tell people what the right amount of clutter is, or how many extra packages of paper towels stored in the basement is enough. My goal is to help clients articulate their goals and then create and implement simple plans to accomplish them. Questions I might ask the first time we meet include:
What would this space look like in a perfect world?
Who uses this space and how? Do you see that changing?
What works well here? What has worked well in other spaces? What doesn’t?
While we are working together, I do not dictate what can be kept or not, but I will ask questions about how certain items meet the client’s goals. If the goal is to decrease visual clutter and there are 100 trophies on display, I might ask why they are important to keep out and if they are more important than other things. There is not a right or wrong answer, provided we keep moving towards the goal.