Tidying up, sorting, rearranging and categorizing – good not only for tidiness at home, but also for more tidiness in the head.
If someone asked me how many things I own, I wouldn’t be able to answer. There are many – very many things – lying around at my house. Some I need every day, others several times a week or once a month – and then there are the things that I hardly ever need.
“Why do you keep something that you don’t enjoy at all or that you don’t use?” Dagmar Schäfer (40) rightly asks me. She is a tidiness coach and that is exactly where her customers come in: “I don’t try to persuade anyone to do anything, I question the motivation behind keeping certain things”, this is how the trained veterinarian helps in her second job under the name “Ordnungswunder”. People who feel overwhelmed by the chaos.
Schäfer himself has loved structures and order from an early age. “Cleaning up, sorting, rearranging and categorizing are somehow in my nature,” says the native of southern Germany, who has lived in Zurich since 2008. She is also convinced that her addiction is related to the high sensitivity she has been diagnosed with. Schäfer adds: «For me, chaos or disorder on the outside means unrest on the inside. That overwhelms me extremely and I can’t calm down internally.”
A luxury problem
In the eyes of the organization expert, the minimalist lifestyle has definitely become a trend in recent years. Schäfer likes to summarize this as a “luxury problem”. “I’m convinced that sorting out has become so trendy because we all have too much stuff at home!” After all, the range is huge and we are often overwhelmed by it. Everyone can almost always buy anything they want at any time. “And that’s where this longing for less comes from. The desire to rediscover what is essential,” adds Schäfer.
The corona pandemic has certainly fueled the hype even more. “You were always at home and confronted with all your belongings and couldn’t avoid the mess,” explains the organization expert.
rise to the challenge
For Schäfer, living minimalist means not owning as few things as possible. “Minimalism is mainly about keeping the right things, keeping them neat and categorized, and there is an understandable structure behind it,” says Professional Organizer.
According to Schäfer, you can feel the right time to start sorting out when it bothers you. “It can be that you open the closet and immediately get in a bad mood because you can see how full it is,” the organization expert gives as an example.
It is important that you are ready for the challenge yourself. If others, like family members or friends, are urging you to take charge of the cleaning, it’s not the right time. “If I sense that a customer is dealing with such a case, then I refuse.” According to Schäfer, the person who is supposed to let go should ultimately feel better and not worse. And that is exactly the most important point: “If you feel ready to let go, then you feel lighter, better, more liberated and clearer afterwards. You have more time because you don’t have to clean up all the things lying around as often, and you also have more money because shopping behavior has to change so that things aren’t immediately piled up again. There are so many benefits that come with the process.”
Memories come at the end
Mucking out is a constant process. According to the professional, one should not undertake too much at once in order not to give up too quickly. “It’s better to take small steps, they’re much more bearable emotionally,” advises Schäfer. And after all, it is not for nothing that they say: practice makes perfect! Here, too, it is advisable to approach the big with a lot of practice. “It’s best to start with things that are not so emotionally charged,” adds the order expert.
Because it is difficult for us to part with objects that we associate with memories or people. And that’s understandable. «First of all, it’s best to take a look at the kitchen or the bathroom and try to feel what makes you happy and what doesn’t. This is how you can practice letting go. And only then do we get down to the emotional stuff,” explains Schäfer with a smile. “That might also remind you a bit of Marie Kondo.”
What can always be removed are negatively connoted things. “So, things that are associated with negative feelings. These are always extreme energy robbers. You should get rid of that.”
When a feeling of lightness and clarity sets in at the end, the journey has been worth it. Even if mucking out can be strenuous, energy-sapping and painful in between, it feels good. Because, as Schäfer sums up: “Only those who have taken care of external order can see clearly again internally and are willing to deal with certain things that are happening inside.”
6 helpful tips for decluttering by Dagmar Schäfer
- Take small steps! It is best to start with things that do not have too intense emotions attached to them. Practice with “less important things” and then venture forward.
- When decluttering, you have to be honest with yourself and also deal with questions like: Why do I keep something I don’t use? So, to be honest, it’s just ballast. So why am I holding on?
- It doesn’t matter how many things you own. The only important thing is that they give you pleasure and are not negatively associated. If you are not sure whether something evokes a positive or negative feeling, you can put it somewhere for a few days where you can see it every day. At some point you feel it by yourself.
- Memorabilia that has been lying around for a long time, simply use it every day. For example, wearing grandma’s earrings every day from now on – that makes you happy.
- Behind the inability to let go is always the fear of possibly forgetting a memory because you are giving away what it is attached to. A good solution: take a picture of it.
- You can also limit yourself spatially with boxes or caskets in which you collect mementos of a person. It only accommodates the really special parts that you are attached to. Photos (see tip above) can also be included.