I get three out of four of the shelves in the dresser, along with half of the closet that I share with my husband. Oh, and that old closet that hides in the corner of our office? Yeah. That’s mine too.
Between my husband and I, entering our marriage at the ripe age of nineteen, I brought in exceptionally more baggage than him. I’m not talking metaphorically here. I had A LOT of things. Old CD’s I knew I’d never listen to again, dusty books I never planned on reading, and seriously every mascara tube from the time I was fourteen. I kept it all.
With my reluctant fist clenched tight around all my belongings, it was a wonder we managed to breathe at all. It became apparent that I needed to re-evaluate which items were important to hold on to, and what things I could, nay should, say goodbye to. So I planned my own intervention and underwent the bittersweet process of letting things go.
Here’s a few things I learned along the way on, not only on how to declutter, but why.
Step One: Know your Time Frame
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and-while cleaning your house is (hopefully) much less daunting of a task then building the ancient empire-it certainly isn’t going to happen all at once. Give it a few days at least, so you can feel accomplished at the end of each day with what you’ve done-even if you didn’t get to it all.
While no one has time to declutter their home in one day, don’t let the project go on indefinitely. Give yourself a start time and an end time, say the end of the week? This way you can’t allow your procrastinating side to push it off until the next day, which turns into never.
Step Two: Identify What is Taking Up Space
Are there outfits that you hold onto just because you know that one day, if this exact situation occurs and the weather is like this and that and this happens, then you’ll put on this specific shirt? Toss it. Not worth it. Do you have a million pairs of shoes when in reality you only wear the same few anyway? Donate them, let those shoes see the world on someone else’s adventures.
The saying is old, but it’s good-if you haven’t worn it in a year then get rid of it.
Tackle your beauty products, old toothbrushes or make up products that you’ve gotten all that you can out of. The trash can welcomes its new arrivals.
Some things take up space that you really do use, not very often, but you still use them. Decide if it’s important to keep those items anyway or if that’s something that you could give away, and just borrow from a friend that one time a year that you might need it.
Step Three: A Little Each Day
Get rid of a little the first day, and more the second day, slowly but surely freeing up those counters and office drawers. This strategy might call for a longer timeline than just a week, even going so far as a year with the ‘one thing a day’ strategy pitched by Colleen Madsen with 365 Less Things.
Similarly, try Courtney Carver’s Project 333. Select 33 clothes to wear over the next 3 months, figure out if that was enough for you and make decisions based on your findings.
Arguably one of the most common strategies for decluttering your home is the idea of holding an object in your hand and if it doesn’t bring you joy-toss it.
You can also try to stand in front of a closed cupboard or drawer and try to name everything that’s inside. If you open it up and find things that you had no idea were in there-chances are you don’t use them and can therefore add them to the every ‘donate’ bin.
Step Four: Don’t Be Afraid to Say No
“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” William Morris.
He just wrapped up my whole article in one sentence.
Is it useful? Is it beautiful? If not, then let it go.
Don’t be afraid to say no, I don’t need to keep this. Your grandma gave this to you as an anniversary present, but all it’s doing is taking up space. Besides, what is it? Don’t be afraid to give it to someone else. Sentiments aside, if you don’t want to keep it you shouldn’t hold onto it just for someone else’s sake.
The practice of saying no plays out when it comes to purchasing items as well. That sale might be hard to pass up, but when decluttering it’s important to not then refill the house with more things that you’re going to have to throw out later.
Step Five: Digging Deeper
Get your creative juices flowing and bring out that eye for detail. The bigger things like old bookshelves or appliances are easier to spot when they pile up, but the smaller things can make a world of difference when cleaned out.
For example, how many pens do you own? Maybe a few of those could be thrown out. Which books are useful, and which ones are you not going to read? Those three inch thick books on cell division and CEO management look impressive, but if that’s the only reason that you keep them then it’s time to say goodbye.Even the books that you did read, but once was enough, can go find a new home.
Step Six: Invite Guests Over
Wait, what? Not seeing the relevance? Let me show you. Inviting guests over to your house is one of many strategies to help you on your road to living minimally. Having someone else in your house will give you a new perspective on what things still need to be cleaned.
Do you take your friend’s coat to offer to hang it in the closet yourself so they don’t see the mess you’ve created in there? Are you nervous they will ask for a tour and see the storage room in the basement?
Just having someone else there in the house will often times draw your attention to previously overlooked trouble spots that need to be decluttered.
Step Seven: Evaluate Relationships
Half of the people on my Facebook I never talk to, and most of the other half I wouldn’t say more than a few words to. Time can be easily consumed by endless scrolling on social media, double clicking the images we like best.
This may be the most radical call to those who want to declutter, but deleting things like Instagram and Snapchat may be the best way to free up your time.
My husband and I took up this challenge a few months ago and it has dramatically improved our lives. I love that my son gets to see his parents interact without knowing what it looks like to be consumed by our phones.
Is social media evil? Nope. Is it beneficial? It can be. It’s a decision that you are free to make. I believe that decluttering goes farther than just cleaning up your home, but simplifying your life.
Step Eight: Know Why You Are Decluttering
It can be as simple as wanting to free up space, or preparing for the big move coming up. It might be pressure from neighbors as Spring Cleaning is approaching, or, heaven forbid, you were chosen to host that event in a few weeks and your house isn’t ready. Whatever the reason, there is great value to simplifying your life.
Research shows that stress levels are highest when dealing with belongings. What does that mean? A cleaner home=relaxed mind.
Are you sold yet on the benefits of living simply? Materialism sure can have it’s hold on people, but minimalism is starting to make it’s way into people’s hearts, and for good reason. The space you open up, the time saved cleaning, and the over all cleaner look of your house are all hard to pass up.
Which idea sounds best to you? Which strategy seems easiest to try? Give it a go and don’t forget to donate unwanted items.