Are you dreaming of getting decluttering off your mental to-do list? But you don’t know where and how to start? Or are you not quite sure if tackling all that stuff in your wardrobe, home, or workplace really is worth the effort? If this sounds anything like you, read on. This comprehensive guide on living a decluttered life is for you.
5 Good Reasons to Strive for a Decluttered Life
- Having less stuff to take care of means more time and energy for everything important to us.
- We’ll accomplish more. Clutter no longer distracts us or keeps us from being productive.
- Less clutter also means less stress and no more mental overload.
- Staying organized becomes much easier if everything around us is tidy.
- Clutter-free surroundings make our days more enjoyable.
Now you may say, so far, so good. But isn’t it nice to have many things to choose from?
The Downside of Abundance
- Buying and maintaining a lot of stuff is time-consuming (just think of dusting and cleaning) – and costs actual money.
- Having too many choices can lead to indecision (e.g., standing in front of a full closet, feeling you’ve got nothing to wear).
- Having too many things to take care of fills up our mental to-do list (image an open tab you’ll never be able to close).
Besides, cluttered surfaces, overflowing shelves, and crammed drawers aren’t that nice to look at. Everything can feel heavy and inharmonious. However, how much clutter we can actually tolerate is very individual.
Where and How to Get Started
Depending on how much clutter has accumulated over time, just the plain thought of getting started can be daunting. But don’t worry, there are ways to tackle even the most enormous amount of clutter. Sticking to a proven method can definitely help. I’ve listed some below. Choose one that suits your personality and preferences best.
And remember, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. So, start by scheduling your first decluttering session. Don’t do it only in your head. Put it in your calendar like a regular appointment. And then, show up for it.
And what if you procrastinate? Don’t beat yourself up if you do. Simply schedule your decluttering session for another day. Promise yourself that this time, you’ll get started. And if you still can’t get motivated, think WHY you want to declutter. Moreover, imagine how satisfying it will be to live a decluttered life.
5 Different Ways to Declutter
1. The KonMari Method
Marie Kondo wants us to declutter category-by-category (not room-by-room) and as quick as possible. The KonMari Method is quite popular throughout the world. One of the most significant advantages is that the decluttering process is thorough. However, the big challenge is that you should discard everything that “doesn’t spark joy” right away. But deciding what you want to keep or let go of needs practice, at least from my experience. Hence there’s a risk that you go overboard with decluttering.
If you like to know more about the KonMari Method, I’ve prepared a complete overview for you. There’s also a printable checklist available that guides you through every category so you can keep track of your progress.
2. Decluttering in 15 Minutes Per Day
This method is often considered the most attainable. You only have to set aside 15 minutes a day for decluttering. Generally, there’s no rule where to start and what to do next. You could prepare a simple to-do list to keep a better overview. Or you download one of the many pre-made lists that are available on the internet.
I think the method only works well if you don’t have a lot to declutter.
3. Decluttering a Specific Number of Items Per Day
Often, this way to declutter is laid out like a challenge. You have to commit to discarding one piece (or another specific number of items) every day. Depending on the challenge, this number can increase as you progress.
This way of decluttering isn’t really my cup of tea, so I can’t say if it works. Have you tried it? If so, share your experiences in the comments below!
4. One In – One Out
One in, one out is more a simple rule than a method. It means every time an item enters your space (e.g., you buy a new piece of clothing), another one has to go (e.g., something old or unloved from your closet).
From my experience, following this rule can be helpful to maintain your space clutter-free. But of course, it doesn’t help you to reduce clutter in the first place.
5. Pack Away Everything
Another rather challenging way to declutter is the following. You pack everything away like you’d do when moving to another place. Then you only retrieve from these boxes what you REALLY need. For those of you who aim for a minimalist lifestyle, this could be the way to go.
Although I know that Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus (The Minimalists) don’t like the term ‘decluttering’, one of their early TED talks describes this method nicely. You may have seen the video already, as it’s a few years old. If not, here’s the link:
Personally, I enjoy my decluttered life. But I’m not a minimalist in the sense of ‘less is more’. Still, I can imagine this being a pretty interesting experiment. However, in the context of decluttering, it wouldn’t be my method of choice.
Clutter: Which Areas of Our Lives Can Be Affected?
Excess stuff can accumulate everywhere. But let’s look at the most common areas, your …
- personal belongings
Declutter Your Personal Belongings
Start With Your Wardrobe
Marie Kondo recommends starting decluttering with your wardrobe, and I can see why. Clothing is like your second skin. Not only does it protect you, but it’s also a way to express yourself. Hence, finding out what you love and often wear is the perfect practice for the rest of your journey.
Having a clear vision of your dream wardrobe can help to speed up the decision-making process. Moreover, it can reduce the risk of decluttering too much (or too little). The more you clarify beforehand, the better the result will be. You can still do a few course corrections during the decluttering process.
Tips for Your Keepsakes and Sentimental Items
Once you’ve got a bit more experienced in deciding what to keep or let go of, take a close look at your keepsakes and sentimental items. This category can be very tricky if you’re a collector or tend to attach memories to specific items. If this is the case, try the following:
- Let one item stand for many. Pick the most special piece from your collection. Or one of your keepsakes that best represents your memories. Then, find the perfect place in your space where the precious item will get the attention it deserves.
- Create a personal treasure box. Decide on a beautiful box and keep what fits in there only. This can also be a good solution for shared spaces. Allow your partner, family members, or flatmates to create their own experiences. Keeping your sentimental items in a treasure box means that they are no longer surrounded and possibly influenced by your memories and your past.
Declutter Your Home
Depending on the size of your home and the amount of clutter, this can be quite a big task. Unfortunately, we often overestimate what can be done in an hour or in a day. Hence, schedule sufficient time and be realistic about your goals. A good rule of thumb is that each major category will take a full day (with the KonMari Method). However, the clearer your vision is of the home – and life – you want to create for yourself, the faster you’ll be.
Prepare for Decluttering
- Have coffee and snacks and/or lunch already prepared.
- Have cleaning equipment at hand.
- Gather baskets, boxes, or other suitable storage containers.
- Plan what to do with all the items you discard.
Commit to Discarding Consciously
Deep decluttering, or a ‘big purge’ like some say, can result in a tremendous amount of waste. Please, try to save as many items as possible from ending up in a landfill. I’m sure you’ll find a way to sell or donate things that are still in good shape. And for rather run-down pieces, check if they can be recycled.
Room-by-Room or Category-by-Category?
The advantage of decluttering category-by-category is that you gain a complete overview of your possessions independently of where things are stored. Marie Kondo warmly recommends this over a room-by-room approach. From my experience, both can work. It really depends on how your home is organized.
Don’t Neglect Storage Spaces
Often, the hardest thing to declutter isn’t your home but forgotten spaces like the attic, garage, or rented external storage unit. Schedule sufficient time and organize a helping hand, especially if there’s some heavy lifting to do. I know, in most cases, this part of your decluttering campaign isn’t going to be fun. However, imagine how proud and happy you’ll be to tick this off from your mental to-do list.
My View on (Seasonal) Decoration and Home Accessories
I used to buy and DIY quite a lot of (seasonal) decorations. However, I realized how short their lifespan is and how much space they take up in my home. Today I prefer to have a few selected items only. I rearrange them from time to time and add some nice candles. And I regularly invest in fresh flowers or seasonal floral arrangements.
Repurpose, Rearrange or Remove Furniture
Empty shelves can unquestionably be the result of your decluttering efforts. There may be even closets, cupboards, or dressers you no longer need for storage. Consider removing these items. Experiment a bit, rearrange the remaining furniture and see if you like the new look. Or keep the extra storage and enjoy the luxury of having a lot of space for your belongings.
Decluttering Shared Spaces and Items Can Be Extra Challenging
It’s a no-go to throw out personal belongings from your partner, family members, or flatmates. But what about shared items? I think there should be an agreement before you start decluttering. It should be clear who decides what stays or has to go.
Stop Clutter from Entering Your Home
Preventing clutter from entering your space is definitely the best thing you can do to maintain a decluttered life. Here are two essential tips:
- Dare to say no to cheap freebies, gifts you won’t appreciate, and anything you, if you’re honest to yourself, don’t want to have. There’s always a way to say no without hurting someone.
- Create a landing zone and routine. For instance, sort your mail immediately and discard what you don’t need. Make sure coats, shoes, bags, keys have their dedicated place. Create a little ‘landing ritual‘ like removing receipts from your wallet, charging your phone. Get your family members or flatmates on board. Explain what to do and why it’s good to stick to a routine.
Declutter Your Workspace
When I talk about workspaces, I mean everything – your desk in an outside office, your study at home, or the family cockpit in your hallway. Decluttering all these areas is absolutely worth it. Essentially, it helps you to accomplish your tasks more efficiently. Moreover, a calm and productive workspace can lower stress.
Clean up Your Desk
Paperwork can pile up very quickly. And there needs to be a long-term strategy to keep the usual flood of papers at bay. That’s why I dedicated a blog post to this category. Check it out in case you need a bit of support:
Besides paperwork, digital clutter can accumulate as much or even more. The thing is, it’s easier to ignore, at least for a little while. But wouldn’t it be nice if a clean screen (or a beautiful wallpaper) welcomed you when switching on your computer? Rather than hundreds of unsorted files and folders? Here’s how to get there:
Staying on top of a never-ending flood of emails (and other electronic communication) can also be a big challenge. From my experience, the Inbox Zero Method is quite helpful. It forces you to deal with your emails straight away instead of having hundreds or thousands of them sitting in your inbox. I explain what to do in more detail in this post:
The only way to keep your workspace(s) clutter-free is to defeat the incoming wave of useless stuff. Hence, take every chance to opt out of anything that doesn’t add value or joy to your life.
For a Decluttered-Life Think Beyond the Physical Stuff
When we talk about clutter and how it can jam up our mental to-do list, we have to think beyond physical stuff. Here’s what I mean:
Rethink Your Intellectual and Emotional Input
You get your intellectual and emotional input, for instance, from the books you read, your social feed, what you watch on tv. Clutter can accumulate here too. Especially when we define it as something that isn’t worth your attention because it neither adds value nor joy to your life. As for all other areas, I can only recommend you to be very selective.
Review Your Commitments
Sometimes, we get into the habit of saying yes to everything that comes our way. But instead of trying to handle everything and please everyone, review all of your commitments. Do they bring you value? And does your engagement add value? Ask yourself if your commitments are worth your time (and money) or if they only add clutter to your mind.
Evaluate Your Friendships and (Online) Connections
A balanced circle of friends and aquaintances consists of people like you and people who want to grow along with you, inspire you, or get inspired by you. Be honest to yourself. Who gives you love and support? Who drains your energy? And then decide. I know it sounds harsh, but at some point, it’s just time to say goodbye.
And What Happens After You’ve Decluttered?
Naturally, you need a bit of time to adjust to your new decluttered lifestyle. Hence, a few post-decluttering challenges can come your way. Refer to this post if you want to read more about what can happen after you’ve decluttered.
For Long-Term Results, Change Your Habits
Establishing the following habits can help achieve long-term results. Stick to them to forever enjoy a decluttered life.
- Establish a daily tidying routine. Put everything you’ve used back to its dedicated place. If you can’t do it immediately, commit to doing it later that day.
- Rethink and improve your buying habits. Throwing out everything just to buy new things, in the same manner, doesn’t really make sense, right?
- Be selective and dare to say no. At this point of your journey, you should be quite aware of what adds value and joy to your life and what doesn’t.
Living a Decluttered Life
I enjoy my decluttered life. It’s great that I’m less busy caring for things I don’t really care about. Am I at the end of my journey? Probably not. But I’ve come a long way, and I understand that making the first step can be difficult. In the beginning, you may even think it’s undoable. But I promise, once you’ve got started, you’ll feel the ease and increased level of energy. This will keep you going. Give it a try. It’s worth it.
And there you have it. This is my comprehensive guide to a decluttered life. I hope I can inspire you to get started and support you on your journey. Let me know how it’s going. I’d love to hear from you!
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