With September around the corner, I can’t help but reflect on Hurricane Irma. Hurricane Irma was quite devastating to us here in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Like many other families, my family has a story. Ours begins with leaking water, a boom, a hole in the roof, which translated into one of the longest nights of our life.
After a natural disaster occurs, we have the recovery phase. Post disaster, once the adrenalin needed to get through has subsided, you are hit with ‘the after.’ The after, which initially certainly doesn’t feel like ‘recovery’, in many ways feels like the beginning. The beginning of what can be an extremely physically, emotionally, spiritually and financially draining process.
If you are a believer of positive psychology principles, you know that dwelling on the negatives will not yield positive results. In the months post Irma it was important for me to be intentional about looking for the positive.
Irma taught us as a family many things. The item at the top of the list is ‘gratitude.’ In addition to being thankful for no injury nor loss of life, we were thankful to be able to temporarily relocate while the house we call our home was repaired. We relocated into a short-term rental. My first impression when we walked into this space was…’this is dry and does not feel like chaos.’ The first few days in this space, despite not having power returned as yet, were heavenly. It provided an environment with no visual reminders nor clutter of the destruction that had just taken place.
As time passed, we moved more of our things from our home into this two bedroom short term rental. This space was a fair bit smaller than ours, and as more and more stuff from our home came in, the smaller the space began to feel. Then, it became apparent that our ‘stuff’ didn’t have designated places the way it did in our home, which resulted in clutter in every corner and added to the feeling of chaos. Within days, despite a clean, dry and safe living space …the feeling of being overwhelmed was certainly sneaking in.
We found temporary ways to make do. While making the best of where we were, we were also clearing out at our home. In addition to getting rid of items that had been ruined, it provided an opportunity to purge. As a family of five, we have a lot of stuff! My kids….there is not a day where they don’t create stuff. As much as I love the art masterpieces and the Kleenex box creations, I did not realise how much our home was being taken over by stuff!
When we moved back into our home, I still felt as though we had too much stuff. My philosophy became that if we lived without it for 4 months, clearly we did not need it in our lives! I became a woman on a decluttering mission. Although an exhausting process, we were hit with the benefits immediately.
With decluttering, our home became better organized. I saw my children spending a lot less time ‘looking’ for the toy on their mind, or the shirt they wanted to wear. When I walked into my home, everything felt lighter and calmer. I felt more relaxed. It was then that I realized the effect that clutter had been having on us as a family.
As an educator who works with exceptional students, I know the importance of having everything in its place. Our center is full of books, games, and learning resources. Everything has its place. I designed it in a way to ensure that the visual stimuli does not affect the ability of our students to focus. Although principles of this were certainly present in my home and my personal office, it was Hurricane Irma that ensured that I fully understood the calm clarity that comes in a decluttered space.
Clutter affects our ability to function at work and at home. When an environment is disorganized it can feel overwhelming and create stress. Clutter also affects our ability to be creative and can take an emotional, physical and mental toll. In this day and age, we are also bombarded with digital clutter.
The clarity that was felt post Irma still resonates. Every few weeks I take on the persona of ‘decluttering queen’ and go on a rampage through our house. I am also more intentional about the things that we keep in our household. I am constantly asking: Does this really have value to us? Is it used regularly? Is it needed?
I challenge you to declutter. If stress or anxiety is a challenge for you, this is a great step in the reduction arena. I also know that decluttering can seem overwhelming, so here are my top give suggestions to adopt a lifestyle that embraces decluttering.
1. Create Systems. Start by creating systems that work for your family. If you already have an organized household, take a critical look and make sure your system is working well for your family. This is especially important if your children are at an age to help with organization. If you haven’t adopted any system in your house that works for you, start room by room. Maybe one room each weekend. There is no need to try and do it all at once.
2. Five minute family clean up. If you have children, things will be out of place. Have a 5 minute family clean up before bed. Set a timer and have children clean up as much as they can before the timer goes off. This may not take care of everything that needs to be cleared up, but it will certainly reduce the nightly feeling of being taken over by kiddy clutter!
3. Weekly Paper Purge. Once a week take a look at the paper that has accumulated around your household. Whether it’s newspapers, receipts or your children’s masterpieces, decide what needs to be kept and what can be thrown out. Hint: If you are concerned about throwing out “art masterpieces”, take pictures of them. I believe there are even a variety of apps that help parents organize pictures of their children’s artwork.
4. Clothing. Have a bag or bin discretely tucked in the corner of each family member’s closet for items that can be loved by another. As they do not fit, or you have decided that they do not wear anymore, add them to this bag. Depending on the age of your children, you may have a bag every 3 months to share with another or to drop off to the Salvation Army. If the clothes are too worn to pass them on, throw them in the garbage immediately rather than adding them to this bag.
5. Kitchen and Medicine Cabinet Check In. Once a month, take 10 – 15 minutes to take a critical look at your cabinets. Is there anything expired that needs to be tossed? Any medicine bottles with less than a dose left in them? Is it time to cycle out any plastic items that have been well loved but are now too worn out? Get rid of what is no longer needed and is now only clutter.
Shifting Perspectives is a weekly conversation with Yolande. Yolande, a Canadian of Caribbean descent, now calls the Turks and Caicos Islands home and in this podcast challenges Caribbean woman worldwide to fuel themselves with diversity in the way they think, the way they work, the way they parent and the way they live.