In my previous blog, I unpacked my top ten reasons why clutter builds up in our homes. Understanding ‘the why’ helps us to succeed in our decluttering efforts. And hopefully should reduce the chances of clutter piling up again in the future.
Now I turn to the process of decluttering – how to get started, the main steps involved and how to maintain your clutter-free home once you’re done.
Getting started can be the most difficult part for many of us. It all seems too overwhelming. If this is you, try to apply these tips to overcome the psychological hurdle of starting your declutter project
- Start small
It is unrealistic to think you’re going to declutter the whole house in one sitting. Rather start with one small space and build on from there, one step at a time. Start with a drawer, the kitchen countertop, the dining table or the boot of your car. The visual change will inspire you to work on the next space.
- Start short
Don’t set aside a whole day, unless you have a lot of stamina. You are more likely to succeed if you work in shorter chunks of time, more frequently.
- Easy stuff first
Start with the items that are easy to get rid of (old newspapers, plastic containers, expired food, broken items, recycling). Then move on to the things that require more thought. I compare this to peeling off the layers of an onion – click here for a blog I wrote on this principle.
- Time it well
Choose a time of the day/week when you are feeling fresh and energised. If you are tired or hungry, you are likely to get demotivated and give up quickly.
Decluttering is a relatively simple process that can be applied in any type of space from bathroom cabinet to garage. Here are the main steps:
- Sort through your things, putting them into four categories – keep, throw, donate/give away or sell. You can use a box for each category if necessary.
- As you sort, ask these questions to help you to decide whether to keep an item: Do I use, need and/or love this item? How is this item serving me? If I’m not using it and don’t love it, why am I keeping it?
- Remove the items that you won’t be keeping from the room. Make every effort to throw or give them away as soon as possible
- Check whether all the items you want to keep belong in this space. If not, put to one side those that belong in another room/space and return them to their ‘home’ when you are done.
- Neatly pack away the remaining items and enjoy your newly decluttered space.
Managing the difficult decisions
If you are undecided about an item, move on to the next one to keep the momentum going. Then return to it later. Sometimes the decision is easier the second time around.
Sorting through certain items may require us to accept the life stage that we are in. For example, when we in our forties this could mean acknowledging that we are never going to fit into that cute little dress that we wore in our twenties again! And then letting it go.
Maintaining a decluttered space
You have come to the end of your decluttering process, and you’re thrilled with the calm and order that has been restored to your home. Here are some tips on how to keep it this way:
- Manage your spending, reducing purchases to what you really need, so that the volume of stuff does not get out of control again.
- Use what you have before purchasing more of a similar type of item.
- Make sure that you have adequate storage so that everything has a home in the house.
- Your storage system is a good indicator of clutter build-up. If it was adequate before, but is now getting too full, then you likely have too much stuff.
- Put in place systems to put away your things when you have finished using them.
- Get your family on board with tidying up by introducing tidy-up routines for the whole family. If done regularly, the clutter will not pile up.
- Conduct regular clear-outs to keep your stuff to a manageable level (especially if you have growing kids).