Do you dream about what your home would look like if it were clutter free and organized? What’s holding you back from making your dream a reality?
Let me guess.
- Every time you try to get started you feel too overwhelmed.
- You rationalize that you have lived with your stuff for this long so why go to all the trouble.
- You are waaay too busy.
- You’re not really sure what you should keep and what should be removed.
- Maybe the thought of decluttering gives you anxiety because you have emotional attachments to many of your things.
There are lots of reasons to not start but there is a really great reason to take the plunge: Peace of mind.
Of course removing clutter has other benefits you typically hear about like: its easy to find what you are looking for, the house looks cleaner and bigger, and you always know what you have on hand but the real prize is peace of mind. You can relax in your home, think clearly and feel more in control of life. When the burden of too much stuff is lifted it’s easier to breathe again! So let’s get started!
What is Clutter
Simply put, clutter is anything and everything in your home that you don’t have space for. You know, shoes piled up on the closet floor, seldom used small appliances on the kitchen counter, bathroom drawers and cabinets overflowing with long forgotten hair and beauty products, or all of that stuff that has been hanging out on your dining table.
The thing about clutter is that it doesn’t just appear overnight, it creeps in and blends in. It slowly, effectively creates a layer of chaos that grows and grows. In response, we adapt to it and attempt to make room for it. We stash it, store it, pile it and learn to accept it as our way of life. But my friend, you can change this!
I like to think of clutter as a sickness that keeps us from feeling good and having the energy to enjoy life. The cure, as you will find, is to declutter your home and live clutter free. Its such a simple solution but not always so simple to do. First you have to learn how to break free of the clutter.
The Key to Breaking Free of Clutter
Why continue to feel frustrated and stressed out because you can’t find your keys or your lunch bag or the sweater that matches your outfit. These things will never end until you decide to live clutter free.
Let me be very real with you for a minute.
- It takes a commitment to break free from clutter and a willingness to investigate why it has become unmanageable.
- It requires a change on your part and change is sometimes scary.
- We find ourselves surrounded by clutter for many different reasons but often times there is a psychological reason behind it.
It might surprise you to know that decluttering comes with a bit of unexpected yet necessary therapy. You may come face to face with habits, addictions, or patterns that have created the clutter you are now trying to remove. When I decluttered my house I had to address an addiction to shopping and holding on to everything for someday. Heck, I even purchased things with someday in mind.
But our homes are for living in now – not someday. My great planning skills for someday had left me looking like a mild hoarder and feeling like a scattered mess. Whether you are clearing just a little or a whole lot, it requires learning how to let go of things even when it is hard to.
As you work through your things don’t ignore your emotions. Ask yourself lots of questions about what items have meant to you and what they mean to you now. How does keeping them help you today? Are they from a time in your life that was difficult? Or maybe from carefree times? Whether good or bad times, too many of these items serve as a constant reminder of the past or who we were in the past or what we did or didn’t accomplish in the past or relationships that failed or lost friendships or dreams that didn’t come true. And the list could go on and on. Now is the time to let these things go and to allow yourself to move forward. Give yourself permission to do this.
What is Decluttering
Decluttering is the removal of unwanted or unneeded things from your home to create a more comfortable, liveable space. But really its not as simple as that. As with so many things in life, decluttering your home is actually a process. When you decide to declutter you take on a day by day, up and down, sometimes emotional endeavor that will take time and persistence to complete. If you keep this in mind your chances of reaching the finish line go way up!
In other words, when it gets hard don’t give up!
We have all done some light decluttering at some point such as tidying up and removing a few items that are damaged or not well liked. But to be clutter free, you will need to amp it way up and challenge yourself to make hard decisions.
You may be saying to yourself – Um, no…. there’s no way I’m getting rid of that much stuff.
That’s what I said when I started decluttering and in the end I removed about 70% of what I had in my house! This is because…
Decluttering is a journey
As you declutter you learn more and more about what you really want and what is holding you back
Start Your Decluttering Journey
When you decide to start decluttering make sure you are in a good state of mind and feel open to making decisions. As discussed before, sometimes you will have to deal with items that bring back a flood of memories and may be difficult to let go. So my best advise to you when you are about to declutter is to check your mood and emotional strength. If its a go, next check that you have a clear idea of your end goal for the space you will be working on. All that is left to do it to do is to just dive in.
Start small by choosing a drawer or shelf and break down large areas into smaller sections. Set aside a block of time to work on an area and stick with it. A good rule of thumb is three to four hours at a time but if you prefer more or less time that is perfectly OK too!
In the past you may have purchased containers to hold your things because after all, if its contained its organized, right? Sometimes. It really comes down to the amount of space you have and if the containers are serving a purpose. If they are used to hold stuff you don’t use or really care about then they are just taking up space and have become clutter as well. The struggle, right?
Before you start filling containers decide to do something different. Make the decision to finally let go of those things that are really just taking up space so you can live with less stress. Question yourself when you decide to keep something that serves no purpose in your life. Make yourself think and don’t always go with your knee-jerk reaction.
You will need to keep your focus on the area you are decluttering. It is soooo easy to be distracted from what you are working on as you come across things that belong in another room or things that bring back a flood of memories. Keep your focus on the task at hand and set these things aside for later.
How to Evaluate Clutter
A common stumbling block is not knowing how to evaluate our things and therefore we decide to just keep it. Unfortunately, this method won’t get you to the results you are looking for. Here are some things to consider when you are sorting: usefulness, value, cost, and emotions.
As an example, let’s evaluate a special sweater that belonged to a now deceased relative.
- Usefulness – Does it match items in your closet? Is it your size? Does it feel too warm? Is it comfortable?
- Value – Do you like it? Is it worth the space it takes in your closet? Do you feel amazing when you wear it?
- Cost – You know it was expensive. You didn’t buy it. Do you love it enough that you would buy it today at the store?
- Emotions – It belonged to ____(your relative)! It reminds you of her. Do you have other things that remind you of her?
I used this example because this is one of the decisions I had to make when I decluttered. I had held on to my Grandma’s sweater for many years. It was expensive and luxurious but it was too warm, it didn’t fit, it didn’t work well with my wardrobe, and it took up a large space in my closet. Yet I held onto it with tightly clenched fists because of the memory attached to it. I did four rounds of full house decluttering and I can tell you that this sweater did not leave the house on the first, second or even third round. I had to work through it.
When I did finally let it go the world didn’t crash down around me and my memories of her didn’t fade away. I actually felt relief. That sweater had been a burden on me but I was unable to see it because I was blinded by maintaining the memory.
Fortunately, most of the items you declutter won’t be this difficult but you will have things come up that will stop you in your tracks. This is OK. When you run into these things set them aside and stay focused. You can evaluate the items you are struggling with when you are finished and if you need to, even make a final decision another day.
Non -Memory Items
Let’s do another example but this time with an expensive upholstered chair you purchased several years ago.
- Usefulness – Does it match your current decor? Does it fit in the space? Is it comfortable to sit in? Is the fabric worn? Are the cushions broken down? Is it dirty?
- Value – Do you like it? Is it worth the space it takes in your home? Does it serve a purpose?
- Cost – You spent a lot of money on it. Do you love it enough that you would buy it today at the store?
- Emotions – It reminds you of a fun time in your life. You feel guilty about the money. Would you really miss it that much if you were to let it go?
Use this method of breaking down the usefulness, value, cost and emotions for anything you can’t decide on. I have found that if I can’t make up my mind its because there is an emotional attachment. But for this method to work you have to be honest with yourself when you answer the questions! 🙂
Methods for Removing Clutter
There really isn’t a magic formula for decluttering. There are lots of methods you can follow but the best one is the one that resonates with you. Here are just a few ways I have used for decluttering that you may want to try:
- Remove everything from the cupboard/closet/drawer/etc
- Pull your favorite items and replace them back in the space
- Evaluate what is left. Pull the items that are regularly used and replace them in the space
- Donate the rest
- Remove everything from the cupboard/closet/drawer/etc
- Pull anything that hasn’t been used or worn in the last 3-4 months (unless seasonal) and donate
- Pull anything you purchased for someday in the future. Stuff like the dress you bought for when you lose ten pounds or the waffle maker you bought last year that has never been used and donate
- Pull anything that is stained, broken, or not in good working order and place in the trash
- Remove duplicates and donate
- Replace what is left back into the space
Fun and Games
- Each person gets two bags to carry with them (also OK to play alone!)
- Set a timer for five minutes (creates urgency and less emotional thinking)
- Set a rule that each person can only remove items that belong to them
- Race around collecting things to remove from the house (bag one) and collect trash at the same time (bag two)
- Count items for a winner and put items into a box for donation
- Repeat as many times as you like!
Move Forward and Conquer That Clutter
Ultimately, every decision you make about clutter will impact your final results and peace of mind. Pat yourself on the back and do a little dance every time you declutter and remove the items from your house. As you see things leave and new open spaces are created resist the urge to buy more. Decide right now to start shopping with a purpose and think through every purchase.
Getting to clutter free is hard work that will take time and a lot of effort but the payoff is tremendous!
Let me know how decluttering is going for you and if you have questions!
Read about my two year decluttering journey: