It’s a chore for Jeanine Daugherty to find anything on her desk, her car resembles a portable storage bin, and her home is deco- rated with mountains of magazines and paperwork. Daugherty decided she wanted to start the new year off with a lighter load. Executive/life coach Gaby Jordan helped her uncover the emotional issues beneath all that disorder.

Clutter is defined as some- thing that impedes your vision. When I began working with Gaby, she asked me to write down my vision for how I would like to live in the present tense as if it already existed. I wrote, “I have a life clear of visual and mental clutter that allows me to be my complete, unrestricted, creative self.”

For the actual decluttering, I started with one task: cleaning my desk at work. Gaby gave me two days to complete this task, and if I didn’t finish it, I’d have to do something I don’t like to do. So I had the incentive to achieve my goal.

Next, I wrote down why I keep stuff instead of throwing it away. I began to realize that everything I kept was based on “mights” (as in, “I might use this one day”) and not definites. I also saw that my tendency to clutter was connected to what I’d experienced as a child. As the youngest of four girls, a lot of my things were hand-me-downs. Back then, I’d said to myself, ‘I am going to have a lot of things one day so I can pass them down.’ That led me to fill my home with unnecessary items, which kept me from having the peace that comes with a clear space.

Every time I want to hold onto something I don’t need, I look at a log that I created for myself—a list of behaviors that could hinder me from living out my vision. The log includes issues such as having too many commitments and difficulty saying no, and starting a new project before completing a current one. Reviewing this list keeps me focused on my goal.

After just a couple of weeks of implementing these strategies, I saw a difference. I have a whole house I want to clean next, but I’ve learned I must take my time and make my projects reasonable.  For 2012, that’s my mission.

Decluttering Tool Kit

Gaby Jordan, president of the education division for the Handel Group, says that anyone can conquer the clutterer within. Here is her advice:

Why you need to create a vision: “You’re authoring your life. In your world, what would that look like? Get clear about where you want to be instead of where you’re stuck. The actions you take are consistent with getting you to that vision.”

How to pay attention to what you tell yourself: “Keep a log of the conversation in your head when you decide not to clean up. When you’re about to backslide, catch that voice—and practice replacing it with a new conversation about the vision you now have for yourself.”