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  • Ursula Ní Shabhaois

Clearing Out The Clutter


I've moved house five times in the past five years. That's not including the student house-hopping I did when I was at university before that. I've packed and unpacked everything I own so many times that by now I do it with my eyes closed.

The last time I moved was the end of last year, when I moved from Galway back to Armagh. I packed up my (tiny) apartment and couldn't believe (and nor could anyone who was helping me move) just how much I had crammed into such a small space.

Like most people would, before I moved each time I had a bit of a clear out about what I didn't need anymore or what wasn't worth packing up to bring to the next place. Some things went to the bin, some of it went to a charity shop, the rest came with me.

After packing up that place, I realised just how much I had been hoarding over the past few years. I thought that every time I'd moved that I'd done enough of a clear out to stop myself accumulating too many things, but when everything was packed up and ready to go I could see that there was far too much stuff in front of me to all be needed by one person. Then, I realised how many of the things that I had just packed up were items that I hadn't even used in all the time I'd been living there.

So, I decided recently that it was time for a clear out. Not just another clear out, but a real clear out. Time to be brutal. Mostly because there's simply no way that one person could need that amount of possessions, and also because the thought of ever packing up that much stuff again to move is horrific.

It wasn't just that I thought that having fewer things would give me more space, but that it could actually make things simpler in lots of different ways. I could find things more easily and know, properly, what's hanging at the back of the wardrobe.

I heard an 'organisational expert' (who knew there was such a job?) lately on the radio talking about how every time we put something down somewhere that it doesn't go, we're simply delaying a decision for another time. At some point, we'll have to decide where that item goes and we'll have to take the time to put it where it's mean to be in the first place. Kicking shoes off at the door or trying on three outfits and leaving each of them lying on the bed is only creating more work to do later on. Reducing the number of items in a space and having the space better organised can simplify everything you do in that space.

Considering the amount of time I spend on different electronic devices, no clear out would be complete without looking at the amount of clutter on my computer or phone. Between apps that I don't use and documents that I'll never look at again, it could be difficult sometimes to find the things that I'm actually looking for or that would be useful. I unsubscribed from newsletters, cleared out the (many) email accounts, deleted unneeded files and rearranged all the apps on my computer, phone and I Pad. It's like having completely new devices.

I've been working at home since the beginning of this year. When your workspace and your living space are merged together it becomes even more difficult to keep everything organised and accessible, so having the clear out has been great. There's lots of research that shows how beneficial a clear work space and minimalist design can be for people's concentration and work rate.

There seems to be little to gain from hanging on to anything that is no longer useful or practical (unless, of course, it has sentimental value). Following this I'm going to make a real effort not to allow the clutter to build up again, not to buy what I don't need, not to hang onto what is no longer necessary. Who can say whether I'll stick with it or whether stuff will start to build up again, but in the meantime I'm enjoying the extra space.


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