There are many reasons why people decide to clean out their homes. But whatever your reason is, it’s absolutely a worthwhile cause. With 2016 just around the corner, more stuff coming into your home this Christmas, and undoubtedly a few sluggish days around your home as you recover from overeating, this is the perfect time of year to start a purging project. In fact, I’m so keen on decluttering that I recently wrote a guest post about it on a wonderful blog called Chapter3Blog, which is an entertaining and informative blog for anyone who is thinking about making a huge change in life –or for those who just love learning life lessons.
Our Decluttering Story
After being together for over 10 years, and seemingly just collecting and collecting and collecting (that’s what happens when you constantly upgrade the size of your home!), Stefan and I finally made a step to downsize. And after getting rid of half of our stuff within just a few months time, I have to admit we felt more relaxed and happier. Plus we had less to clean! It was a huge relief after being at our farmhouse for so long and feeling surrounded by clutter ALL the time.
After being in Berlin for 18 months, we decided to head back to the USA (which was more than two years ago already), and got rid of tons more stuff to keep from paying the movers to haul it around. The result — we live in an 1800 square foot condo and two of our rooms are practically empty! And we still find ourselves getting rid of more stuff every week.
For us, we had a strict time constraint because we were moving across Germany, then across the world. And we heavily utilized the process of blessing others with our items. Because lets face it — even if something cost a lot of money at some point, if it’s just been sitting in your home collecting dust for months or years, you don’t need it. That cost has already been sunk and you’re only doing yourself more harm when you see those items daily and feel regret for not using them.
How to Get Started Decluttering
Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you have a serious decluttering project ahead of you:
- Act as if you are moving across the country — When you make a long distance move, or even just a move in general, it’s a good idea to declutter and get rid of as many things as possible. Let’s face it; the moving company is going to charge you an arm and a leg for every item you move and each corner of space you take up, so you become more mindful about what you need and what you haven’t looked at in the last 10 months. If you have lots of clutter to deal with, tell yourself that you’re moving and can’t take it all with you, which often helps with letting things go.
- Give yourself a strict deadline — Your deadline should be somewhat realistic and you’re probably not going to declutter and organize your entire home in a week, but give yourself a deadline for each room or major problem area instead. Compartmentalize the chaos and clutter, and work shelf by shelf, drawer by drawer, systematically until you complete your goal.
- Ban sealed boxes — Do you have boxes in your attic, garage, closet or a spare room that are mystery boxes? You know the ones you’ve been carrying around forever but never seem to empty. If the box has been closed for over a year and you haven’t touched the contents, you probably don’t need it!
- Keep clutter hotspots under control! — If you have kitchen counter clutter or desk clutter that always flares up, make an effort to tackle those spots on a daily basis. (Having a problem with kids’ clutter? Read this.) Whenever possible, don’t even set things down in those areas anymore. Add decorations or other incentives to make it look lovely and inviting…and break the fingers of anyone who lays things down there going forward! (Well, maybe don’t get quite that drastic. 🙂 )
- Stick to the 2 minute rule — Your clutter didn’t appear overnight. So you won’t get rid of it all overnight. But much like weight loss, it’s far easier to put it on than to lose it. I like to set the 2 minute rule for myself, which means that if something takes two minutes or less to complete (throwing the junk mail away instead of laying it down, hanging up that random shirt instead of tossing it on the bed, etc), I just do it immediately. Have you ever noticed that if you let lots of items build up together, it seems to take far longer to get back on track and clear the problems out. So just don’t let yourself suffer over it at all and take care of things immediately.
- Get rid of the paper — I run a mostly paperless home and office (no filing cabinets for us!) and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. I love paper books and the feel of having them in my hands. But I’m not so crazy about finding a place to store them all or feeling like I’m destroying rain forests so I can have a good read. So we frequent the library (especially for kids’ books) and I download books to my iPad or Kindle. Have tons of manuals for appliances, electronics, etc? Find their digital versions and organize them in Evernote.
- Declutter for 15 minutes every day — This is a really important step to take, especially once you’ve finally gotten your clutter under control. If you can, get your family to commit to a 15 minute pickup session at some point during the day. You might want to do it before dinner, or before going to bed, but it’s only natural that more clutter will collect daily. So it needs to be tackled daily. A commitment to do so will keep your home incredibly tidy which will make your cleaning process go faster as well.
- Get organized!! — I cannot stress this one enough because it is SO important. When you have less stuff in your home, you should be able to have a place to put each item in your home. It may be batteries, books, your computer, car keys, space blankets, incoming mails — whatever. If your stuff has a specific home, and you commit to returning that item to its home each time, you will stay organized and clutter free for a longer amount of time. When we get new stuff, we have to find a home for it. Otherwise it just lays around for days or weeks.
- The “one in two out” rule — If you’re really dedicated and a bit adventurous, this is a great rule to implement in your home. Whenever you bring something new into your home, remove 1 or 2 items you don’t love or aren’t using. So if you buy a shirt, you get rid of two old ones. Or if your child gets a new toy, they donate a couple of old ones. It’s not easy at all to do, but with conscious training and effort, you will end up having a lot less but loving what you do have more!
- Bless others — Your clutter may be just what a local charity is looking for to help someone else in desperate need. So when you purge, make sure you donate whatever is still in good shape and can be used again to a local organization who puts donations to good use.
All this writing about clutter has me itching to go get rid of more things, and hopefully you feel the same. I always find that once I get started, I want to get rid of more and more — perhaps you feel the same too! What are you best decluttering tips? How do you keep it at bay?