“Don't own so much clutter that you will be relieved to see your house catch fire.”
― Wendell Berry, Farming: a hand book
Clutter is a major problem for a lot of people. It has been a challenge of mine for years. I'm not a hoarder, but I do tend to hang onto stuff for longer than I need to. Sometimes a lot longer... oops. When I really notice it is every time we move, because I have to either pack it all up or toss it! I shed a lot of stuff with each move, and it's a great cleansing process. We seem to move every 5-10 years, and it's amazing what you can accumulate in that time, especially in a large family!
One thing that I find after giving away/throwing away boxes and boxes of stuff is that my mind feels clearer and lighter, my productivity rises, and I find myself in a much better mood! I also have the same feeling every time I clear my desk, clean my kitchen, declutter my living room or bedroom, etc.
If you have been following along with my 52 Simple Changes that will Transform Your Life (you can get that here for free), then you know that we spent the first weeks of this year working on cleaning up what we put in our bodies (more water, less sugary drinks and food, less processed food, more fruits and veggies, and learning to cook from scratch using clean ingredients). Keep doing those things every day. If you fall off the wagon, don't beat yourself up; just get back on, and resolve to do better.
Last week on the blog, we started on cleaning up our living spaces by committing to making our beds every day. It's a little thing that only takes a minute, but it helps you grow your self-discipline to stick to more difficult tasks.
This week's simple change is to make a plan for decluttering your home. Write that down and hang it on your mirror or your refrigerator. Wherever you will see it is where you want it to be. Is your closet overflowing with clothes you don't wear? Are your bookshelves filled with books you're either done with or will never read? Are magazines and newspapers accumulating? Do you have stacks of unread mail? Do you have knick knacks that you have to keep moving in order to dust your shelves that don't really bring you joy anymore? Let's commit to changing all that starting today!!
Here are some ideas to get you started:
1. Picture how great you are going to feel in a clean, simplified, orderly home.
2. Think about why you are holding on to stuff you don't need or use anymore. Are you afraid to let go of it? Marie Kondo has a wonderful book called, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, where she suggests taking everything off the shelves in the area you are organizing, picking up each item, looking at it, and if it's not a keeper but you're having a hard time parting with it, then thank the item for its service, and gently fold it and put it in the give away bag. It sounds really hokey, but sometimes things have a powerful emotional sway on us even though we don't really need them or want them anymore. This is one way to help you let go of that.
3. Pick a small area to start with, like a junk drawer. Pull out all the trash and throw it away, put the things you are going to keep in piles according to the room they belong in, and then move them to that room, and put them away. Don't add new piles to other rooms! This is why you only commit to doing a small area at a time. Unless you are super human, a big area can be so overwhelming that you never actually start it. As you move to bigger areas, try setting a timer for 30 min, and do as much as you can in that time. Repeat this every day until you are done with that area. Initially though, start small, do it 100%, and celebrate your victory!
4. Go through your closet ruthlessly. Anything you haven't worn in the last 6 months really needs to go unless it's something you collected in a vacation spot, in which case it's more of a souvenir. Especially clothes that don't fit right. Why do you have them? Give them to a thrift shop or sell them to a consignment store if they're in good shape. Some thrift shops take your donations, sell them, and then use the profits to help the less fortunate, like the Salvation Army, for instance. I like to give to places like that because then I know that I'm not only helping my own state of mind by lightening up my life, but I'm also helping others. Double win!
Here's a video my daughters made about the Salvation Army thrift stores
5. Do you have piles of unopened mail and paperwork lying around? You need to have a good filing system in place. Get a filing cabinet or a file box (depending on what you need), a set of hanging files, and some file folders (you can get these in cool colors and patterns if you want to make your filing a little more fun!), and file anything that you need to save. You should save at least one of every regular bill you pay so you have the contact information in case you need to contact the company. Alternatively, you can type up a list of this info and save it digitally if you're a real overachiever, but I find it's easier to put it in a file folder. Personally, I like some things in digital form and some things in paper form. I have files for all kinds of things: receipts that I will need for taxes, car repairs, appliances, home improvements, medical records, homeschooling, church, swim team, charity, the dog, and so on. If you don't know what to do with it, make a file for it and file it. Get it off your desk!! Get your filing system in place before you attack unopened mail so you can file it as you open it. Much of it should probably go in the circular file (aka the trash can). If you're really ambitious, you can scan things and save them in digital folders (make sure they are backed up on a cloud server in case your computer crashes!).
6. Magazines and newspapers. If you haven't read them by now, you're probably not going to, so toss them. Keep the current issues, but toss the rest. If there's a recipe that you need or an article you want to save, scan it and save it in your computer. Or tear it out and make a file for it. Then throw it out!
7. Kitchen. Clear your counters of everything you don't use on a regular basis. We use the blender, the coffee maker, and the toaster every day. The slow cooker, the juicer, and the food processor live in the cabinets. It's easier to clean the counters when there's less stuff on them, and it's a joy to cook with less clutter!
8. Books. I'm a book addict. I love books, and I've bought way too many of them over the years. Every time we move I divest myself of about 10 boxes of books. Most of my books are homeschooling books for the kids. Now that my youngest is 13, I am making it a point to give away or sell all the books that he is done with. I won't need them again, so why hang onto them?
Depending on how much excess stuff you have, this process can take a month or more. Or you could get it all done this week. Whatever your pace, it doesn't matter. What matters is that you commit to doing it! Set aside from 15-30 minutes every day to work on a specific area. You may not finish that area in that time, but that's ok. Hit it every day until you do. Small steps taken consistently add up to large changes.
Do you have your FREE list of 52 Simple Changes That Will Transform Your Life yet? Get it here today, commit to following it, and you will see major improvements in every area of your life by the end of this year!