When your house is a mess, the idea of a crash diet clear out is oh-so-tempting! There’s a satisfying ‘New Year detox purge’ feeling about it. One that fills you with a sensation of virtuousness. And it’s true that in those blissful 10 minutes after it’s done, everything looks and feels great.
Do crash diet clear outs work?
But when has your spontaneous crash diet clear out ever lasted longer than a week? I’m guessing it’s never. If it’s a myth that crash diets work, it’s an even bigger one that those almost hysterical clear outs you do when you just can’t stand the mess anymore, do. Hardly anyone ever challenges this idea though. In fact, it’s a myth that even some best selling de-clutter books perpetuate. That’s is a real shame because if you believe that a good clear out is all it takes to live clutter free, then you’ll continually waste a lot of energy on clearing rooms that revert to their former state (i.e. chaos…) very quickly.
So why don’t clear outs work?
Well, both crash diets and clear outs are designed around a basic assumption i.e. that you want a fast solution that looks good for a while, but that longevity isn’t important. That you want a ‘by any means necessary’ method. That you don’t have the patience to plan what you’re doing and work at it sensibly in increments, with a larger system in mind, so that the results last. They play on your desperation for a quick transformation and they bribe you with feeling ‘virtuous’. These are things that tempt us all, but only because often, we haven’t realised the benefits we could so easily have if we thought about tidying in a different way. Too often it’s because even clutter authors haven’t even told us there’s an alternative.
So how do I get over the ‘needing clear outs’ mentality?
I’m going to ask you a question so basic, that you probably haven’t ever thought about the answer. Why is it important to you be tidy?Is it all about ‘looks’ for you? Because if it is, that may be the thing that’s tripping you up. Let me explain. If I put one of those ‘time lapse’ cameras in your house, and you could see the way you use it over the course of a week, within the space of a few minutes, you’d realise a couple of importantthings. To begin with, you’d see that if you rely on ‘tidy ups’, even if you do it regularly and religiously, that your house is actually messy most of the time. That’s dispiriting isn’t it? And you’d see that the way it looks for one particular moment isn’t as important as the fact that the messiness gets in your way and stops you using the things you need to, easily.
You should be aiming to make your space easier to use, rather than looking tidy
So by now it should be pretty obvious that ‘looking tidy’ in itself isn’t as important as making the space easy for you to use all the time. If you’ve simply been aiming for ‘tidy’ then you’ve been short changing yourself. To do that, you need a working system which helps you to find the things you need in order to complete your tasks easily, while also remaining organised. Yes, you can have both. The reason crash diet clear outs don’t work is that they assume your house is static (like a display cabinet or as if for a photo shoot in House & Garden) when in fact, as you’ve discovered via my ‘time lapse’ thought experiment, it’s a fluid working system. If you want to maintain good order easily, you have to understand and plan around that reality.
The secret that ‘naturally tidy’ people know automatically
Naturally tidy people sense this. They unconsciously arrange all the items in their houses (even the smallest ones) so that they’re close to the task they’re needed for, and easy to access. That means that each of these items is less likely to ‘migrate’ to somewhere inconvenient over time, where it gets in the way. Arranging things near where they’re needed makes putting things away correctly and immediately much easier. And when you do that consistently, huge clear outs are never needed.
To find out how to avoid having clear outs ever again, download a pdf extract of my first book ‘Banish Clutter Forever’. It’ll save you hours!