Updated: Jun 24
What if there was one behavior you could practice that would change everything about the clutter and overwhelm in your life?
Sounds too good to be true, right?
Well, there is one thing I recommend to all my clients to reduce the clutter in their life, and it is not a product or a book or a television series or a methodology.
The one practice I universally recommend to reduce clutter in your life is delaying gratification.
What Is Delayed Gratification?
Delayed gratification is resisting the temptation for an immediate reward in the hope of getting a better reward later. Basically it's practicing willpower.
For example, imagine you are decluttering and organizing your closet. You start to feel tired and overwhelmed.
If you decide to stop working, leave the closet and bedroom floor a mess, and go watch TV for a while, you are giving in to immediate gratification. You are rewarding yourself with a break as soon as you want it.
If instead you push through and finish the organizing work until it is complete and your closet is all cleaned up, you are delaying gratification in favor of the reward of a clean, tidy organized closet.
Why Is Delayed Gratification So Powerful?
The practice of delaying gratification makes you flex your patience, willpower and self-control muscles. It's not easy, but it does make you stronger, more aware of your choices, and more grounded in your decisions.
The act of delaying gratification forces you to think about what you really actually want. Not what you want in the moment, but what you want deep down. It makes you take intentional, mindful steps toward your future instead of acting out of habit, pattern or impulse.
For example, do I really want to put off washing the laundry and lounge on the sofa the rest of the evening? Do I really want to watch my dirty clothes pile up more and more? Or do I actually want clean laundry to wear and a tidy closet? If my answer is clean laundry to wear, then I must delay the gratification of lounging on the sofa in favor of the reward of clean laundry.
3 Ways To Start Practicing Delayed Gratification.
#1 Pause before every purchase.
Impulse purchases and compulsive shopping are some of the worst clutter culprits right along with unwanted gifts. Pause before you make a purchase. Consider if you really want to dust/wash/maintain/repair/rehome/dispose of this item during and after its useful life.
#2 Finish a task beginning to end without interruption.
Completing a task start to finish without getting distracted can be quite a difficult... well... task. There are so many distractions around us. Challenge yourself to start a task and stay focused on it until it is complete. One example, clearing out your email inbox.
#3 Enjoy a screen-free day (or hour)
Our devices are engineered to give us instant gratification. We get a notification and doesn't it feel good to make the phone stop pinging. We start a streaming series and don't we feel relief when we finish watching another season.
But most of these pings and streaming service queues are not actually getting you any closer to your goals or aspirations. Your brain gets a little dopamine hits every time though, so it feels good.
Take a break from your screens. Have a technology cleanse or fast even for just an hour on the weekend. You may feel FOMO at first, but as you take back your attention and intention, you will make progress on your goals and feel a deeper gratification than the devices can give you.
So now you know the benefits of delayed gratification. Still having trouble? That's why we call it "practicing!" You might need some help staying on track, and the Element of Fun Organizing team is ready to assist! Contact us and feel a deeper sense of gratification in your Organizing goals. We'll help you get there!