March 22, 2020

Stuck at Home and Facing Clutter

March of Trash asks you to take action on clutter every day for a month.

This month, many people find themselves stuck in an unfamiliar place. They are at home, that is, and not just for a moment but for days at a time without the possibility of rushing out on a series of errands or to some other happier destination. People are almost forced to look around and see what their possessions are, and they may not be happy about what they see.

If this is you, the best thing you can do for yourself is to get out of the feeling of misfortune and then see what you can make of the situation. If you are distressed at having to stay at home for more than eight hours at a time, so that you cannot just sleep through it, I encourage you to look at the clutter around you — the material possessions that ideally would not be there because they are not being used. Why spend this unexpected time looking at clutter? Here are ten reasons:

  • Clutter is likely a big part of the reason why you spend so little time at home. The harsh energy of clutter may be the main thing that drives you out of the house so quickly.
  • Clutter could be the first thing causing the distress you feel at having to stay at home all day. Being stuck anywhere can be difficult for many reasons, but if your home is a difficult place to be, it is because of an imbalance that is right there in the home.
  • If you have not spent much time at home for a long time, that is proof enough that many of the possessions that you have stashed away at home are not really part of your life. That is even more likely if you are staring out the window or looking for a movie on TV instead of eagerly reading every book you have saved to read later and repairing everything that is broken. If now is not the time, then the time to use your possessions will never arrive.
  • If you have time to spare, then that gives you a chance to address your unused possessions — a gift of time that is more rare and valuable than it probably seems.
  • Even if you are required to stay in a state of isolation, you can still take out the trash. (Remember to wash hands after touching the handles that give you access to the place or container where you put the trash.)
  • Reducing the clutter at home will make the place look and feel better, so that you will not feel so anxious at having to stay home. Reduce the clutter enough, and you can create a feeling of openness that can make you feel that you are on vacation even if the underlying reality is that you are obligated to stay home.
  • Reducing the clutter also reduces the dust, which will improve the health of everyone present. Having less dust specifically improves lung capacity, which is especially important at a time when the world is dealing with a disease that affects the lungs.
  • Taking on any specific challenge, including clutter, takes your attention away from news reports and other information coming from distant places, places where you do not currently have much influence. Focusing on what you can do can take you away from an emotional state of anxiety and powerlessness and make you feel like you are in charge of your own life.
  • Clutter is something you can address with small visible results every day. The visible change tells you that things are getting better. That may be the opposite of what the news is telling you.
  • Clearing clutter can create the space for something else you want to do while you are staying at home.

Even if spending time at home is not so unfamiliar, the extra time at home during a period of isolation is time you can put to work improving your home environment by cleaning house.

A period of social distancing might not be the best time to sell or donate things, but there is still a lot you can do. Throw away things that no one will ever use. Repair things that cannot be used until they are repaired, if the repairs are something you can do with the materials on hand. Finish projects that were left incomplete, perhaps because you previously didn’t have time. Reexamine the way things or stored, or consider whether things that have been in boxes for years are still needed. Do the labor-intensive cleaning chores that you might not otherwise have time to do.

Try to get away from the question of when things will get back to normal. It is always more powerful to focus on what you can do today. Do as much as you can today, and tomorrow, you will find that you can do something more.

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