Decluttering. The idea sounds fantastic. Get rid of a bunch of clutter and free up space in your home and time in your life – I mean, that’s some high impact stuff right there. But the reality of actually taking on a decluttering project, especially if you haven’t had many successful attempts before, can seem daunting and straight up discouraging. There is a reason clutter makes you feel overwhelmed. So, how do you start decluttering when don’t even know where to begin? Short answer – Just start.
There are many benefits to decluttering:
- First, you simply have less stuff to maintain and clean.
- Less stuff means less mess.
- Less time cleaning and maintaining all the “stuff” means more freedom. Freedom from the things cluttering your home and freedom to use the time you used to spend taking care of all that “stuff” in a more purposeful and fulfilling way.
- The elimination of a big trigger for anxiety and depression. Psychology Today reports that clutter indeed contributes to increased feelings of anxiety, guilt and frustration, and another study done by UCLA shows a direct link to the amount of clutter and higher levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, in women.
While it can be overwhelming to start a project like decluttering your home, or even just a room if you’ve never done it before, with a simple adjustment to your mindset, you can overcome it easily.
First, don’t think of the big picture. Think in terms of little chunks. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Pick a spot – this could be a room, a closet, or even just a drawer – anywhere, and just begin.
(Psst..if you are short on time these days (and aren’t we all!), check out my tips for decluttering when you have no time. ) And go ahead and grab your free Beginner’s Decluttering Kit here:
Set a timer.
Start with short increments of 15 minutes at a time. Then take a break. Get back to it if you feel like you can. Once you get started with a small project and start to realize the many benefits a clutter-free space provides, momentum and motivation build as you go along. You’ll probably surprise yourself with how much you can get done once you get started. One day, I had 30 minutes available and told my husband I was going to start cleaning out my dresser. I thought I would manage to get through a few drawers, but I ended up sorting through my entire dresser and closet and donating 7 huge bags of clothes!
Have a plan for what you want to do with your items after decluttering.
As you declutter, you’ll be dividing your items into three primary categories:
- Keep – which means you have a place/use for the item. These are not things you “could” use or “might” need. These are things you are using, or will use at a very specific time (like an umbrella for when it’s raining).
- Donate – Don’t just plan to eventually donate your unwanted items somewhere. Pre-select an organization or church and schedule a pickup or plan to immediately load the items into your car and drop them off as soon as possible. I love the organizations that will do porch pickups for precisely that reason. I just put the stuff in boxes or bags, put it on my porch and schedule a pickup for that week. It’s out of my hair and I don’t even have to plan an extra trip somewhere. Also, make sure you have the boxes/bags/containers necessary to get your items to a donation center. In short, have a plan ready!
- Trash – Put it in the garbage as you go and throw it away as soon as you’re done or the bag is full. Get it out of your house ASAP!
If you find yourself getting stuck on an item or items, ask yourself these questions:
- Is this object useful or helpful to me? Think of every nook and cranny in your home as real estate. Everything you keep within it takes up a portion of the valuable space. Most of the items you keep should serve a purpose.
- Is this item a duplicate? Think of it like this: Do you really need 5 spatulas or [insert object name here], or can you get away with just one or two?
- How often do I use it? If it has been longer than 6 months to a year since the last time this item was used, it’s probably time to donate or sell it to someone who will use it.
- How does this item make me feel? Don’t just keep things out of guilt. Similar to Marie Kondo’s “Spark Joy” rule, ask yourself what emotions are evoked by the object in consideration. If it causes you stress, or you just don’t love it, let it go.
- How will I keep/care for this item? Everything we own requires some type of maintenance from us. This includes washing, storage space, and upkeep. Consider the amount of time caring for the object in question requires. Is it worth it?
Make a commitment to yourself.
Set an appointment on your phone or calendar. Don’t plan other activities during this time. Maybe you need to get up early for a few weeks to work on this project. Maybe you need to sacrifice some time watching tv or doing something else for a little while in order to take on a decluttering project. It’s not forever. Once you are done with the project, you can get back to whatever it is you took a break from. And in addition to all of the above mentioned benefits of decluttering, getting back to some down time or whatever it is you temporarily sacrificed, will feel like an extra reward. 🙂
Get help with your kids, or have your kids help you.
When I first started working on decluttering our basement, where we stored a lot of our kids’ toys, I didn’t really want my kids to help. I assumed they’d want to keep everything and didn’t want to deal with the fighting. But I realized I couldn’t make the decisions for them (at least not for my bigs who were 5 and 7 at the time) and started to feel guilty at the thought of tossing a favorite thing of theirs. So we explained that we were out of room to keep toys and if they wanted anything new (their birthdays were approaching), we would have to make space by donating the things they didn’t want or need anymore. We talked about kids who weren’t blessed with as much and how they would benefit from the things we give away. We decided to set a timer for 15 minutes and sort through a few things to choose what we could get rid of. Shockingly (at least to me) they jumped right in. And they even wanted to keep going after our time was up! While they didn’t necessarily make the same choices I would have, the reward of making them a part of the process was huge.
If your children are still young, as my younger two were (my littles were 9 months and 3 at the time but really anything younger than 4), it might be easier to make some decisions for them. Obviously my baby was oblivious to anything we did with the toys other than what was right in front of her at the time. And my 3-year-old has her favorites, but doesn’t even really remember the rest unless it’s right in front of her. Decide what you think is important for them to have (i.e. educational or developmentally beneficial in some way, and importantly, doesn’t drive you nuts!). Donate anything that doesn’t fit within your parameters.
Stop procrastinating and just start decluttering.
The important thing is not to keep putting it off. One drawer soon becomes one dresser, which becomes a room, which becomes your house. If you procrastinate because you’re waiting for the “perfect” time, the clutter will just keep growing. It’s your life. Take charge and tackle this monster so you can spend more time doing what you love – maybe even playing with your monsters. 🙂
Psst…If you want some extra help and guidance decluttering, I’d l love for you to check out my free beginner’s decluttering kit. It includes a cheat sheet and a list of questions to help you declutter.
Sign up here for free!
Now, go fourth and get rid of stuff!