Health & Medicine

Tidy outside, tidy inside

Want to increase your personal tranquility? Clean out your closets and medicine cabinet. Research shows that the state of our desk drawers and garages reflect the amount of chaos in our lives. The more clutter we keep in our environments, the more scattered we feel in our heads.

But cleaning our homes and offices can be overwhelming. We see the messes and feel stressed, yet avoid doing anything about them.

Fortunately, de-cluttering needn’t be so overwhelming. With the proper mind-set and planning, it can be simple and rewarding. Start by identifying the specific areas you need to de-clutter. Does your desktop look like it’s been hit by a major earthquake? Does your refrigerator have unknown jars hidden in its corners? Honestly assess problem areas so you can discover how best to direct your time.

Next, break the task down into 30-minute segments. You can do anything for half an hour. That’s not too much time to invest in your cleanliness and your sanity. Short bursts of organization are less likely to feel daunting. You have fewer excuses to put them off. You’re more likely to actually complete them.

Get all the tools ready for the job. Most cleaning jobs start with a trash can and a recycling bin. You decide what extras you need for your specific task. Whatever they are, have them handy so you don’t waste precious time.

Set a timer for 30 minutes. This will keep you focused on your goal. You don’t have time to gaze at old photo albums or start sharpening tools you found in the shed. Your cleaning meter is running. Make the most of each moment you have.

Throw out everything you’re no longer using. Nostalgia’s an emotion that won’t fit into your de-cluttering schedule. Ask yourself, “Have I used this within the past two years?” If not, it’s out the door— now. We all have limited space in our environments. We can’t store items that aren’t earning their keep.

Of course, there may be things that you’re saving for future generations or that hold special meaning for you.

Just realize that old underwear, cracked vases or hideous note cards you never send don’t count as valued possessions. They’re clutter and need to be deep-sixed. Don’t confuse the two.

Once the 30 minutes have expired, you’re done cleaning.

If there’s more to do, schedule another work period. You’ll know precisely where you left off and what you want to accomplish next.

If you consistently lose steam on your organizational efforts, you’re probably biting off more than you can comfortably chew. Maybe you’ve set your sights too high. Or your mind wanders and nothing gets done.

Recognize what you can comfortably achieve, then stay within your personal limits.

King-sized projects that require hours of work still benefit from the 30-minute strategy. You’ll get more done in diligent 30-minute intervals than you will not starting it at all. And the new-found space in your cupboards and psyche will make all your efforts worthwhile.

Busting clutter where it accumulates

Below are five sure-fire clutter-traps that invariably need cleaning out.

Note which ones apply to you and how best to get them organized:

Your purse. Big purses are in style so you can fashionably tote pounds of useless baggage on your shoulder. Remedy the situation in five minutes by pouring the contents onto a table and sorting the must-haves from the nonessentials. Create a space in your purse to store required items and return them after each use. Repeat the process often to keep your bag light and chiropractic-approved.

Your spice cabinet. Quick. How many jars of turmeric do you have? You probably don’t have a clue. In fact, most spice cabinets are in such disarray that they are useless, if sweet-smelling, junk heaps. Toss those spices you never use. Combine those you’ve unknowingly purchased two of. Pare the collection to a few favorites. Don’t allow any others in your home.

Your recipes and cookbooks. Perhaps you’ve collected recipes for decades. You may have some you haven’t brought out in eons. Give away cookbooks that have lost their appeal. Don’t kid yourself that you might want them at some future date. You can always find a facsimile online.

Your tool kit. Tools are wonderful if they’re rust-free and sharp. Too often they’re in grave disrepair. Take 30 minutes to give yours the once-over. Replace articles that are broken. Refill supplies that are missing or low.

A few timely moments with your screwdriver or drill means it’ll be ready when it’s needed stat.

Your underwear drawer. Old underthings never die. They simply drift to the bottom of the stack.

The elastic may have long lost its snap. There may be holes that allow unexpected cooling drafts. Replenish your supply with fresh Jockeys. Ditch items you no longer wear.

Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her visit