My Top 10 Tips for Decluttering
After leading several rounds of group decluttering, here are my top 10 tips for reducing clutter in your own home.
- Get started. As with anything in life, it’s easy to read or watch videos about a topic, but the real value happens when we actually dig in and get going. Many people don’t know where to start. I say start anywhere. Preferably not your worst spot in the house or with your sentimental items. If decluttering matters to you, put it on your calendar. Put it on a day you’re likely to have 1-2 hours (or whatever time you can commit).
- Get clear what you’d like your home to look and feel like, and why that’s important to you. This will come in handy when you meet resistance later on. Write out your why and describe how you want your home to look and feel. What benefit would that provide? Would you be able to invite friends over more often? Have room for doing your favorite craft or hobby. Or just feel more chill when you come home after a long day at work?
- Start with something small where you can get some success under your belt. Clean out your purse or wallet as your first project. Sounds silly perhaps, but once you see what you can remove, and how much easier it is to find things, you kind of want to do more.
- Have a plan. It can be a flexible plan, but don’t just keep it at I’m going to declutter. Pick one closet, one dresser, one area that’s been bugging you and do it this weekend. Set a timer to help you not worry about time and to see how much you can accomplish in just 30 to 60 minutes.
- Gather your supplies. I think this is the nurse in me showing up, but here goes. Get your favorite cleaner, some wash cloths, a few bags or boxes (for trash, donations and items that belong somewhere else). Having these items allows you to get started and not get off track. We like to call the container for things that belong somewhere else, the travel box. It’s whole intention is to keep you focused on the task at hand. Just put the items from the nightstand that don’t belong there in the travel box. Once you’re done, you can then figure out where those items actually belong.
- Get the support of a friend or group. Most people who read Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, did not put the book down and declutter. Many need the support and structure of a group, a commitment with a friend or to hire someone to help them. If your goal is important to you, do what it takes to make it happen. You will be glad you did.
- Have fun. Get others involved in helping you sort the Tupperware lids. Have your kids see what you’re doing and perhaps go through their coats or books to see what they wish to donate. It’s amazing how kids adapt to decluttering when encouraged. Well, most kids that is. Turn on some music, serve yourself a favorite beverage…yes, wine is fine. No need to get too serious.
- Consider getting rid of furniture. More space in a room gives a whole different feel. Think of your favorite model home, Houzz post or Pinterest pins. Most of them have character and space, with less stuff and less furniture. You can put a piece of furniture in a spare room, the garage or loan it to a friend as a way to “try” the room with less. See how you like it. I’ve often not gone back.
- Save the sentimental items for last. By then you will have clarity about how decluttering works and the advantages it’s already provided. Find creative ways to keep the memories, while not keeping all the stuff.
- It’s not really about the stuff. It’s about our attachment to the stuff. Be willing to notice emotions or resistance when it comes up. Don’t force yourself or anyone to get rid of something they are not ready to part with. Listen for the lesson behind the resistance. I once couldn’t get rid of a binder of 20-year-old work newsletters. I had not read them, but I really was reluctant to let them go. My own commitment to myself is “I’m not getting rid of anything until I’m ready.” What you don’t know about those newsletters is, I wrote and edited them all. They were filled with my art, poems and small articles of support for the staff. They contained my musings on life before there were blogs. I woke up the next morning realizing why I couldn’t part with them. You see, they represented my creative side…the writer in me. The writer who wanted to express again in written word. It was that moment I realized “I’m a writer.” That evening I shared my discovery with my minimalist group, and the very next day I got a request to write an article for a friends digital magazine. So, I’m not going to let go of anything until I’m ready and I really do seek the lesson when donating something I haven’t used in years brings up resistance.
For anyone interested in my annual declutter group, you can find the details here.