Decluttering is not a “once and done” type of task. It’s something you must do consistently for the rest of your life. Does that statement overwhelm you? Well, it shouldn’t! While getting started in your declutter for life journey, it will be time consuming, depending on the level of clutter in your home. But once it’s tackled the first time, each time you have to deal with it after that it get’s easier, and less time consuming…assuming you keep up with it consistently.
Do you feel anxious in your own home?
Do you avoid certain rooms because of the clutter?
Do you simply accept it as part of your house because you don’t know what to do with it?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, then you need to just get started! If you never start, it will never end.
I’ve been in that place before, where I had more stuff than I could handle. I had reached my limit of clutter. Each person has a different limit. My clutter limit is much lower than other people, and that’s ok.
I realized this one day when I was cleaning the house and I finally saw the amount of stuff we had. I wondered why we had so much stuff. I asked my husband how we accumulated so much stuff. We had no clue how it all got in the house. At that point all I knew was that I needed to get it out.
I started with kids toys, or at least just the toys they didn’t play with anymore. I realized they were 3 and 5 years old and I still had lots of baby stuff. So that was the first to go. And you know what? It was such a freeing feeling, and left me feeling empowered and confident! I suddenly felt lighter and like I could accomplish anything!
I learned along the way that decluttering is always an ongoing process. It is never ending because more stuff is probably always coming into your home. The key is to keep up with it. You need a procedure in place to limit what comes into your home and ways to deal with it as it does. It doesn’t need to take a ton of time to accomplish if you keep up with it.
Life is a continuous change of seasons…seasons of life. You are constantly moving from one season (or phase) to another. College student to young adult on your own, to married couple, to parents, to empty nesters, and some in between. So no matter what season you are in, you need to clear out the clutter from the previous season as you enter the next season. As you grow and mature, your likes and interests change too. It becomes a vicious cycle if you don’t put an end to it. Also, don’t feel guilty about getting rid of things. As you move from season to season, it’s likely that some things just aren’t needed any longer. Why feel guilty about getting rid of things you don’t use or need? You should feel guilty about keeping them and keeping them away from other people who may actually need/use them.
Start with the area where you know there is likely stuff you can easily get rid of. My suggestion is a highly visible area. Like a living room or the kitchen. These are the spaces that guests see first, and the spaces you live in the most. If you start with the easy stuff, you’ll become more confident in your decision making skills which will make the harder stuff easier to deal with when you get to it. Dealing with the easy stuff first also builds your energy to deal with more stuff, and the quicker you can make decisions the better. As you know, life is always happening, so something is bound to happen to cause you to pause in your decluttering journey. The quicker you can do it, the less likely you are to have to stop mid project. Stopping mid project is a good way to permanently stall your progress.
Let’s get back to the task at hand. Get a trash bag and a box for donations, and take a good look at what’s in that area. Do you see anything that is simply trash? Put it in the trash bag. That was easy, wasn’t it!
Now, look for items that simply don’t belong in this room. There has to be some because when was the last time EVERYTHING was in it’s proper place. Take all this stuff and put it where it belongs, and do it NOW. Don’t put it in a pile to deal with later. That is just relocation of clutter. Do it now so it get gets done.
Once you have gotten all the trash and misplaced items, then take another look around, and maybe you will see stuff that makes you wonder why you even have it, or stuff you didn’t even know you had. These items go straight in the donate box, NO QUESTIONS ASKED! I don’t want to hear the “what ifs”. If you didn’t know you had it, and you do need it at some point in the future, you’ll go buy a new one. I know I’m right because YOU DIDN’T EVEN KNOW YOU HAD IT.
Now, you’re going to come across items that you haven’t used in a while, but you think you might use again. Ask yourself the follow questions…
-When was the last time I used it? If you can’t remember, then put it in the donate box without a second thought.
-Am I still interested in this activity/hobby/etc? If the answer if no, it goes in the donate box.
You must be totally 100% honest when answering these questions otherwise you accomplish nothing.
Here is my real life example…I made a scrapbook once, so I had all these supplies that I used once, and for years they sat in my office collecting dust because I thought I would use them again. But when I asked myself this question, I realized I just liked to think I would use them again, but in reality I was never going to make another scrapbook again. I just wasn’t that interested. So I got rid of all the scrapbook supplies and tools. I knew someone who really was into scrapbooking and it was a regular activity for her so I let her have what she wanted and I donated the rest.
You may think that sounds wasteful but it really isn’t. If those items got used even once then they served their purpose to you, and it’s ok to give them to someone who will use them and actually enjoy them. Feel good in your decision to give that item a new life where it will be used rather than collecting dust in a corner somewhere.
Some of you might be thinking it would be better to sell your stuff. But, I will always tell you to donate instead of selling. Think about all the time you have to put in to selling one item. You have to decide the best platform to sell it on, photograph it, compose a write up of the item, decide a price, and then sit and wait for someone to buy it. Is the potential profit worth all that time? Plus, the goal here is to get stuff out of your house. Donating it will do that. Selling means you move it from one spot to another to wait for the sale. How long will that be? Is the potential profit worth the space the item is still taking up in your house? It’s still clutter even if it’s waiting to be sold, and I’m pretty sure we are supposed to be getting rid of clutter.
Now that you have dealt with all the clutter, and donations are ready to go, and trash is gone, you should be left with just the stuff you are keeping, and it should only be stuff you use, need, and want. However, it still needs to be within the confines of the space you have. If you still have more stuff than you have space for, then you need to ask yourself the questions again, and be totally, brutally honest.
At this point, you have probably made some really good progress. You should be feeling really good about yourself and your home right now. This feeling of accomplishment probably makes you want to move on to the next space. You are at the point where you can move on to the next room/area. Make sure you do all the visible spaces first. This is because you see these rooms the most, and you will get the most satisfaction, and energy to move on to the harder rooms. The more private rooms, like bedrooms are often a little more cluttered or have items that are harder to get rid of. By starting small and doing the easier rooms first, you build your endurance, energy, and confidence to keep going. Use the same process in each room, and before you know it, you will have accomplished the whole house.
The most important part here is to set up a process/procedure to deal with clutter as it comes in the house. Do this as you complete your initial declutter in each room. This is the maintenance part. Don’t wait to finish the whole house to think about the maintenance. The maintenance needs to start as soon as a room is finished. Set yourself up with a plan to “reset” each space on a weekly basis. This is a great way to keep up with all the work you put in. A reset is pretty self-explanatory. Put things away in the room they belong and the space they belong.
Then have a plan to deal with unexpected stuff as it comes in. This is new stuff you bought or someone bought for you. When you go shopping though, think about all this before you buy new stuff. Think about where you will put it when you get it home. Think about if you need to remove an old something to before you can place the new something. Decide what the old something to get rid of will be. Don’t buy the new item until these questions are answered and decisions are made.
When it comes to things other people are giving you, you have to consider the same things. If you don’t like the item, then return it or pass it on to the donate box. Don’t ever keep things you don’t like or want, simply because you feeling bad getting rid of it. The gift giver doesn’t want you to keep it if you don’t like it or want it. Either way, the key is to deal with the stuff as it comes in, and not let it accumulate in your house.
Congratulations! You are decluttered!