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Top Tips for Decluttering Your Home
If you’re ready to declutter, but lost, I’ve got some tips to ease your pain. Or, perhaps decluttering isn’t quite on your radar. If you’ve been walking past the same room for a year, noting that a particular item (or items) haven’t budged season after season, it might be time to give it a new home.
Is decluttering necessary?
From minimalism to tiny houses, getting rid of the excess seems to be all the rage. And, why not? There’s nothing like an expanse of open space, indoors or out, to clear the mind.
We live in an age where hoarding actually makes prime time television. It’s easy to see the excess from the outside, looking in. I’m sure I can walk int
But what about the rest of us? Those who have a moderate level of stuff, ranging from the childhood toys our parents cleared out of their house delivered to our doorstep to our college commemorative mugs. There aren’t paths through our house– we have some wide open spaces.
However, maybe the dresser drawers are full. The bookshelf is starting to overflow. The garage hasn’t seen a car since you moved in. I realized after our recent move that I was storing a lot of stuff from my lifetime. It happens. We have children, develop hobbies, buy new to replace whatever is wearing out.
Do you really need or want all that stuff?
If you have the stuff of the average American, keeping what we already have is relatively easy. It lives in its place– maybe it’s a closet, a corner, or a shelf. It may get relegated to the attic or the garage, but it has a place. Is that enough?
If you’ve ever wanted to make your house easier to clean, more organized, or simpler, you’ll have to let some of those belongings go. Only you can decide how much is enough, but consider the following:
- How many items do you need to move in order to vacuum each room?
- How many knick-knacks require dusting?
- Are you able to easily access and enjoy your belongings?
- Can you tidy up your house in a reasonable amount of time for surprise company?
- Are you able to use each room (or your garage) for the purpose you desire?
- Can you quickly find what you’re looking for?
Are those hard and fast rules? No, of course not. But when you paint the picture of your belongings in light of these questions, you may see a clearer path to releasing the excess. (Pun intended.)
How can I make it easy to declutter?
I’m going to let you in on a secret. Decluttering your own stuff is never easy. It will always require the discernment of need and want, sentimental and historic, as well as comfort and change.
However, while letting go may never be easy, you can make it easier. I’ve found some of the most helpful books on decluttering to be focused on downsizing later in life. I’m not there yet, but when we look at our legacy, what do we want it to include?
I don’t want my children to be overly attached to a bunch of stuff. I also don’t want them to ever feel that when I depart this earth, they are emotionally and physically bound to haul all my stuff with them in life.
I want them to enjoy the freedom to be flexible. To have very specific, meaningful items, and to feel free to discard whatever is not personally special to them. If you’ve experienced how hard it is to clean out a parent’s home or have friends who have, you know what difficult and daunting task it is.
I’m all for simplification and getting rid of the excess, but I can’t relate to the extreme minimalists. We camp and enjoy the outdoors–that means we have all the gear that goes along with sports and s’mores. I’m also an artist, an avid reader, equestrienne, and have my own business. Even when we streamline, there’s going to be stuff. That’s okay– as long as it’s the stuff we use, love, or find meaningful.
It’s emotionally hard, even in the best of circumstances. I don’t want my children (or myself) to face that during a time of distress, ill health, or when pressed for time.
My absolute favorite book on decluttering is called Clutter Free by Kathi Lipp. Where do I begin? Kathi approaches the process with compassion, humor, and humanity.
Kathi’s book takes a faith-based approach and addresses not only the clutter we have, but the clutter we will add if we don’t address the underlying issues and emotions. This book is one I read again and again– each time through, it reinforces for me exactly how I want my space to look and feel.
She delves into contentment, why we buy, and how we part with the stuff that is encroaching on our lives. The spiritual and mental noise that clutter creates in our lives becomes evident when we begin discerning our own motives for keeping stuff (or continuing to buy stuff!).
Another good decluttering book is the aptly named Let It Go: Downsizing Your Way to a Richer, Happier Life by Peter Walsh. This is a book geared toward those later in life, who are leaving the family home behind for smaller digs. He suggests you play the game “Would You Rather?” placing the use of the room and the item(s) under consideration into the sentence.
“Would I rather have my car parked in the garage or store this box of China I’ve never used?”
“Would I rather have a clean, inspiring office space, or keep these boxes of old DVDs no one has watched in ten years?”
I like Peter Walsh’s book because he discusses the emotional angles, how to equip yourself, questions to consider (besides the “would you rather” ones), and he does so with compassion. Even still, when it comes down to it, he can’t do the work for you. You’ll need to push up your sleeves and get to work.
Don’t declutter when you have PMS.
Unless you find comfort in sobbing over each and every woobie your child has ever owned, old notes passed in high school, or that dress you haven’t been able to wear since your 2002 vacation, just don’t. Don’t declutter when you’re hormones are ruling your roost. Decluttering is an emotional process and if you do it when you are emotionally vulnerable, one of two things will happen:
- You’ll get rid of nothing, but re-attach yourself to all the things.
- You’ll get rid of everything, then regret it when your hormones have resettled.
Check your calendar, set a date, and dig in. You’ll be able to work with a clear mind and more enthusiastic energy.
Put on some music.
I don’t know that any other declutter guide will suggest this, but having the right soundtrack to change makes a difference. Don’t go for anything too sweet or nostalgic. Go for something that makes you feel forward-looking and on fire. My favorites?
Buying more books on decluttering will not make it easy.
There are some really great books on decluttering. I can tell you this because I’ve own or have read quite a few. I’ve also taken several courses. I kept thinking I’d find that magic one that made it all easy. Seamless.
But the truth is, there comes a point where you just have to dig in and do it. It will be hard.
And now I have more books to get rid of.
You will anguish over it a bit. You’ll wonder if getting rid of a particular item is the right thing to do.
And then, you’ll either put it back or get rid of it. Trust me, I feel your pain. My son helped me load and unload the same box of donations from my car three times because I hadn’t been able to bring myself to actually let the box go. We’d finally inventoried the box. Then loaded it into the back of the vehicle. Drove around town with it. It never felt like the right time to drop it off.
Have you been there? When you just aren’t ready to let it go?
Then we needed the space in the car for something and we had to pull it out. This happened two more times. It’s easy to laugh about it now, but it’s so easy to hold on.
It was a relief when I dropped it off and drove away. My son was glad to hear it, too.
What happens when you do let it go?
You could possibly have some regrets. But, more likely than not, you’ll find it freeing. And, you’ll realize in time that you don’t miss those items. You’ll remember them. You’ll remember the memories attached to them. But you won’t need to see them taking up space in your life anymore.
For all the research, reading, and coursework I’ve done, here’s what I know: There’s no one magic formula that will work for everyone. No black and white decisions that can be doled out. You’ll have to navigate each decision yourself. I do hope you’ll find some comfort in knowing that each one of us has to walk that path, too.
Start with the easy stuff.
Don’t declutter in a weekend.
I know there are a lot of posts and courses focused on how to declutter in a weekend, but let’s be real. If you want to make thoughtful choices that don’t leave you needing a day to mourn that your life has been catastrophically ripped apart, plan to chunk it out in time blocks. If you live in an apartment or smaller house, a weekend might suffice for you, but for most families who’ve been living in the same home for a number of years, it’ll take more time. That’s okay, as long as you are dedicated to steady progress.
- Take before pictures (even if you don’t think the room or closet is that cluttered)
- Work in one room at a time, taking 15-30 minutes a day.
- Take time to write out how you envision that room looking.
- Keep the vision nearby as you work. You may even want to create a Pinterest board of ideal rooms you want to model yours after.
- Grab the easy stuff first and get it out of the house. Put it into the trash, donate, or sell piles.
- Set aside the uncertain items you can’t make a firm decision about. You may be able to part with these at a later date.
- Take after pictures and move on to the next room.
Appreciate the process
If you knock out your decluttering in a weekend, put your feet up and take a nap. If you’re like the rest of us, it’ll take longer. You’ll have cats climbing into boxes, dogs running off with discovered toys, or maybe children realizing they suddenly can’t live without that one toy they totally forgot they own. It’s okay. Take a deep breath and keep at it. As you work, enjoy:
- More space, making it far easier to stay organized.
- Less physical distractions, allowing you a calm mind.
- An environment surrounded by the possessions you most enjoy.
- A great reason to avoid purchasing new items you’ll need to someday purge. (This makes decluttering great for your budgeting, too.)
Have you struggled with decluttering?
I’d love to hear what has helped you get rid of the excess.