Declutter 101

Decluttering is kind of trendy now, but is it for you? Ask yourself: Does the clutter in your house really bug you? Or does it feel like something that “should” bug you? If you secretly love your stash, please revel in it and spend your time elsewhere.

But if your clutter is bugging you, choose to tackle it with intent. Focus on it. Put your energy into it. And come up with a plan to help it on its way. Here are a few tips to help you get started.

You can do anything, but you can’t do everything. Look around your home or office and pick out the area that bugs you most. This might not be the messiest area – it may be an area where you spend the most time or that’s most visible. But start where you already have focus. You’re looking for pockets of stuck energy that are ready to be released.

Come up with a plan
Write down what you want to tackle and how it will make you feel when it’s done. If this is a big project, break it into smaller pieces. If the basement needs help, you may want to tackle one-quarter at a time. Instead of thinking about a whole closet, how about starting with shoes. Then hangers. Then shelves.

Look at your plan and decide if this is something you can do on your own. It’s important to respect your physical limits!

Schedule time
About how much time do you think this will take you? Since decluttering is never as quick as you think it will be, double that time as you pull out your calendar or planner. When do you have time to tackle this? Over a series of nights? On a weekend day? Over the course of a month?

Decluttering can be energizing but it can also be draining. If you have a big project to tackle, you may want to do it in 2-hour increments. Set an alarm to help keep you on track. And be vigilant about your schedule! Don’t let anything or anyone come between you and your clutter.

Decide on an incentive
When you finish this work, how will you treat yourself? Clearing a stuck-energy area certainly has its own rewards, but what else will help you finish the job? Suggestion: Don’t go shopping for more stuff as a way to celebrate :).

Prep for the purge
Get ready to pitch some stuff. Have boxes or bags on hand that are labeled for trash, give-away, return to sender, etc. And get your cleaning stuff ready.

Dress for success
It helps to dress for decluttering as if it’s an athletic event. Wear practical shoes and clothes that can get dirty. And wear gloves if you’re tackling something that’s super dirty. Once you get started, you don’t want anything stopping you.

Get to work!
I love Marie Kondo’s method of decluttering but it can be tricky if you are tackling large projects. Here are her recommendations I find easiest to follow.

  1. Sort out things that are similar. Tackle dresses as a unit, shoes, kitchen items, winter coats, etc. Each one gets its own declutter session. Pull one “collection” at a time into a big pile from anywhere they’re stashed in your house. Then pick up each item and decide: Does it spark joy? If yes, then keep it. If no, then it goes into one of your prepared boxes or bags. If you hesitate on something, set it aside to tackle at the end of your schedule, but know that most things that make you hesitate usually end up going away. The trick to this is to pull things out of their current location so each gets your individual attention.
  2. Clean up the open space. While you have things cleaned out of wherever they were (closet, basement, refrigerator, etc.), you have a unique opportunity to clean without hindrance!
  3. Carefully place your remaining items back in their newly cleaned space. When you’re down to just the stuff that sparks joy for you, similar items go back in together. The space you have for them is their home within your home so make sure they are comfy and not too snug! The sweaters stack together. The skirts hang together. In the fridge, the salad dressings gather on their own shelf, etc. You shouldn’t need to buy a lot of organizational shelving. Kondo recommends using existing space first plus a saved box of two if needed.
  4. Tackle the easiest stuff first. If you have multiple areas within your house or work space that are calling out to be decluttered, Kondo recommends tackling the easiest stuff first: Clothes, then “stuff” (kitchen, bathroom, stuff on the table by the bed); then books; then personal memorabilia.

Stay decluttered
The goal with decluttering is to make a permanent change. You’ll continue to get new stuff and purge old stuff, but doing a large-scale purge at the start helps in a lot of ways.

  • Most of us realize we have too much stuff which helps quell the urge to buy more.
  • Once you know exactly what you have, you’re more likely to use it because now you can find it!
  • Knowing that you own only joyous stuff is a great incentive to develop a habit of putting things back in their “home” with their buddies. If you can make this a daily habit rather than having things pile up, you may never have to do a big purge again! Cluttering is a habit. Decluttering is also a habit.
  • Going through the decision making process of “keep or pitch” for so many items helps you exercise your decision muscles. You decide. You take action. You see results. This improved skill often spills over into other areas of your life. Do you love your car? Your house? Your job? Your relationships? Is there anything else in your life that needs decluttering?

I hope you have fun with this. Please post any results – success or not 🙂

Here was our “guest” at the library last week – Byron the Barred Owl with Kristen, his handler. Byron got hit by a car and is not releasable. He “works” at The Center for Wildlife now as a nanny to baby owlets.

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I welcome your thoughts and suggestions for future posts!




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