After decluttering and organizing my house for two years here is what I learned:
Your organizing experience can be fun and rewarding when you know how to start and what to expect.
I had tried to declutter and organize before but never quite reached the goal I was after. Then I discovered through trial and error and loads of reading what I needed to know to finally have the organized house I wanted.
I decluttered and organized my house like a maniac for two years and have put together some of the most important lessons I learned from the experience. You will learn what to expect and how to overcome the feelings of overwhelm and frustration.
To declutter successfully you need a plan
We all know the saying:
It’s hard to get somewhere if you don’t know where you’re going.
This is certainly true when taking on a whole house and trying to declutter and organize it.
It can feel so overwhelming. Where do you start? What exactly do you want to accomplish?
Just diving in will only get you so far. Ultimately, having a plan for decluttering and organizing and an end goal for each space in the home is the best way to start.
The key is to stick to the decluttering plan and not get pulled in different directions. If you tend to be scattered, your best bet for success is to create a plan and stick to it. Sticking with a project can be difficult for those of us who are scattered. We see something else that needs tending to and leave the first project unfinished. In the end very little is completed.
Focus your decluttering efforts
You need to get ultra focused and concentrate your efforts to one thing at a time to get that amazing, decluttered and organized home you have been dreaming of. Think of your decluttering and organizing plan as a road map that will help you reach your destination. It is a list of broad goals which are broken down into their smallest parts.
If you want to declutter and organize your bedroom, break it down into sections: the closet, under the bed, night stands, dressers, and so on.
Then take it further. You could break the closet down into sections: top shelf, other shelves, the floor, hanging clothes, shoes, storage, etc.
Breaking it down one more time may be helpful depending on the quantity or difficulty of the area.
Hanging clothes could be decluttered by type and divided up over weeks. One week work through pants, then the next week work on hanging shirts. The closet can get overwhelming so working to declutter small sections is a much more manageable goal than just taking on the whole thing in one weekend.
It is small steps that will help you complete a big goal.
You may decide to only pull items, sort them and then work on decluttering more at another scheduled time.
Your mind can feel eased when you plan your tasks in chunks of time even when the full task isn’t fully completed. The important thing is that you have a manageable plan. And guess what? No more overwhelm!
Change doesn’t happen all at once
As much as I’d like to say that you can declutter and organize your home in a weekend, it wouldn’t be true for most of us. We have become accustomed to getting things quickly in this fast paced world we live in. Let’s face it, we don’t like to wait.
But decluttering and organizing is not a quick fix or an easy process, unless you are already fairly organized. If your house is bursting at the seams (like mine was) it may take a year or more to reach your goal!
That may sound like a suuuuuper long time but as you dive in and start sorting, decluttering and removing items you will see that the time is necessary. Decluttering is a thoughtful process that you will not want to be hasty about.
Remember that you are embarking on a journey not running a race.
Keep on track with quick results
When it feels like the decluttering process is taking too long and your patience is starting to wear thin look to your road map as a reminder that you have a plan and are on your way to success. Remind yourself that progress is being made.
To boost your spirits and lessen your frustration do something that will let you see quick results. Make a change to your road map and declutter another area that you can complete quickly.
Try postponing work on to your closet that is stuffed full and instead declutter and organize a counter in the kitchen and maybe the cupboard above it. Or try re-styling a bookcase and as you do, remove books you don’t care about for donation.
Seeing a quickly revised, beautiful space is a great way to remind yourself that you are accomplishing something here and you need to keep moving forward!
Even when you want to quit decluttering – don’t give up
When it comes to decluttering and organizing, deciding not to give up on your goal is the most important decision you can make. Sorting through stuff can be daunting and can take a lot of time. To keep on track come up with ways to incentivize and inspire yourself. You know, rewards!
Here are a few of the things that may work for you:
- Reward yourself with something small like a coffee at Starbucks (my favorite) after finishing a goal
- Put encouraging notes around the house to remind you why you are doing this
- Ask your family if they see a difference – ask for praises!
- Take before and after photos of everything so you can see how far you have come
- Spend some time on Pinterest to help envision how your house will look
- Donate unwanted items to a charity you believe in and want to help
Emotions are powerful
Many of the things we hold onto contain memories and emotions. Even subconsciously, our possessions keep us connected to the past. If there are things you are keeping that you don’t really like and don’t have a use for, it may be because it holds a memory for you.
Things can have a powerful grip on us and keep us emotionally bound to our past – good or bad.
Before you even think about sorting through old things that trigger memories, make sure you are rested and objective.
Do you have items in your house that you don’t really like but have kept out of guilt? What would happen if you let them go? Can they be given to someone else who would appreciate them?
Emotional items are hard to release
Those darn emotional items can be incredibly difficult to let go. Learning to release these items may be one of the hardest things to do and you may be unwilling at first to even consider it.
To release the powerful grip of emotion the items have over you, take each one out and live with it for a while. Ask yourself why you have the item. What is its connection to you? Do you have other items that are connected with the same memory or person? Do you like it? What would it be like if it wasn’t at your house anymore? Would someone else really like or benefit from the item?
It may be tough to do but try to see the items for what they are – physical objects that represent someone or something or some time in your life that you don’t want to let go of.
You may discover that many of those memories aren’t worth holding onto. They may just be a reminder of who you were in the past and the insecurities you may have had. Ultimately, letting those items go may help you move forward toward your more authentic self, no longer held back by things from the past.
Of course you will also have things that are special and have real meaning. These are the items (memories) to hold onto.
Work through and declutter one small space at a time and keep only the things that are most important to you. Display some of the items you keep and store the rest. A storage bench is an ideal place to store special memory items so they are easy to get to.
To release emotional items:
- Evaluate it
- Live with it (or not)
- Recognize its real value (or lack thereof)
- Release it or cherish it
You may feel like a weight is lifted as things are released.
Life just feels a little bit better. You can breathe deeply and find calm!
This is what I call finding your Harmony!
“What’s done is done”
As you work through your home you will be absolutely amazed by the number of items decluttered but even more amazed by the massive amount of money that was wasted.
As I decluttered my house I was shocked! I started adding up the cost of the items I was letting go. So much of was lightly or never used. A lot of it I bought on sale and only because it was on sale. Not because I loved it.
The guilt about wasted money can be huge but living with clutter to justify bad purchases can be far worse!
So here’s the thing, what’s done is done.
You can’t undo past mistakes but you can learn to make better decisions.
Don’t beat yourself up over money that was wasted but do keep this moment in mind to guide you as you make future purchases. Really ask yourself why you want to buy something when considering a purchase. Do you have something similar that would work just as well? Do you need it? What would happen if you didn’t purchase the item?
Rather than adding up the money wasted, add up the number of items leaving your home and the amount of frustration they will remove from your life. View every unneeded, clutter causing item as a weight pulling you underwater. The more clutter you cut loose, the closer you rise to the surface and can float. Eventually you will be completely out of the water!
After decluttering embrace open spaces
There will probably be some open spaces after decluttering which may feel uncomfortable. We have been conditioned to think that every open space needs to be filled.
But guess what?
Open spaces look good and make the room look bigger and cleaner. And rearranging the room will create balance and a better flow.
For rearranging and room layout ideas I like to use Pinterest for inspiration. Look for ideas using furniture that is similar to what you own. Or if you decide that your furniture is no longer in good condition, take time to research new options and only purchase items that will work with your space. Know the measurements you need and stick with them.
RESIST THE URGE!
The more things added to a room, the heavier it feels. As you remove items from your home do not replace them with something new unless it is really, really necessary. Open spaces will start to feel more natural to you as you live with them. You may find that it just takes some getting used to,
Decluttering showed me that I’m happier with less
We are bombarded with the idea that the more things we have in our homes the happier we will be. My family and I reduced the contents of our home by about 70% and we couldn’t be happier. We came full circle and now believe that living with less is the better option for us.
You don’t need to become a minimalist to reduce what you have, however reducing helps you to understand the benefits of choosing a more minimal lifestyle.
Minimalism is about valuing experiences over possessions. Making memories and living in the moment.
With this new mantra I began to invest more time into family and ways to relax instead of going shopping. I am able to do both when I go with my husband to feed and check on our small herd of cows. To my surprise it was just what I needed and is so much fun. I post pictures of the cows every now and then on Instagram.
But how about this? Did you know that with less stuff, you gain time!
Yes – you gain time!
It’s the time spent on time-wasting activities…like cleaning, picking up, searching for things, last-minute runs to the store, and so on.
And more time for the things you love…Like relaxing on the back porch, doing hobbies you love, trying new things, or just sitting on the sofa watching TV with your family!
Decluttering and organizing is an ongoing process
After reaching your goal, your home can continue to look great with a commitment to ongoing decluttering and organization. Create a home for every item in your house and make sure everyone in your household knows where these homes are.
If it’s not a habit now, you will want to make it a habit to put things away at the end of the day and straighten up. The extra five minutes makes a huge difference. And wouldn’t you rather get up to a straightened house in the morning?
But your best efforts are sometimes tested. The mail still comes in, laundry piles up and family members make messes. The difference is that the new clutter isn’t being added to existing clutter and clean up is a far easier process. To keep the clutter under control critically evaluate every item coming into the house and commit to purging paper at least once per week.
Anyone can declutter and organize
So there you have it, the most important things I learned while decluttering and organizing my house for two years. It was hard work that required me to leave my comfort zone and deal directly with both physical and emotional clutter that I had been carrying for years.
It took me four full house purges over two years to reduce my home to a comfortable level. If you have difficulty letting go – it’s OK. Declutter what you can and know that you will reevaluate it on the next go around.
You can have the home you dream of even if you are currently drowning in clutter. Make a plan for success and keep moving forward. Sure, not all of it will be easy. In fact, some of it will be downright difficult and perhaps even emotional. But if you have read this far, you are serious about making changes and are on your way to an amazing, clutter-free, organized home!
Future posts will share more specifics of organization for individual areas of the home. If there is a topic you would like to hear about please let me know! Please sign up for the mailing list for more organizing tips.