According to Mae West, “too much of a good thing can be wonderful.” But when it comes to clutter, too much is decidedly less than wonderful! I don’t know about you, but there’s something about having too much stuff that weighs me down. Add to that all the excess of the holidays, and I’m ready to simplify my spaces and my life! I’ve found that winter is a great time to declutter your home. We’re stuck indoors, we’re more contemplative, we’re ready for change and fresh beginnings.
For me, the biggest hurdle to decluttering is getting myself motivated to take that first step. Often, I simply don’t know where to begin! That’s why I thought I’d share some steps to take when you’re ready to declutter your home and simplify your life, but you just don’t know how or where to start. These ideas always help me, and I hope they’ll help you, too!
1. Get in the right frame of mind
As with everything, decluttering starts with your attitude. One thing I like to do is imagine that the project is already completed and how good that will feel. I’ve found that organizing the office, cleaning out closets, or even just tackling the junk drawer can be amazingly uplifting for the spirit.
Remember that decluttering your home can help lighten the load on your brain, elevate your mood, give you more clarity, and allow you to concentrate on the things that really matter.
It makes your day run more smoothly because you’re not constantly looking for things. Every time you open a cabinet or closet, you can find what you need without digging around for it. Having fewer clothes makes getting dressed in the morning a breeze, because you’re not overwhelmed by too many choices.
The ultimate gift in all this isn’t just clearer spaces. It’s clearing out the mental cobwebs, too.
2. Begin with the area that will give you the most satisfaction to declutter
Often, for me, this area is the kitchen because I spend so much time there. Plus, the kitchen can easily be broken down into manageable chunks, like one drawer or cabinet a day.
At other times, it’s my office or clothes closet that bothers me most. Recently, though, it was my décor (aka pillow) closet that was causing me the most angst. Not only was it bulging at the seams, excess lamps, picture frames, and trays were overflowing into the adjacent guest room! I absolutely dreaded walking into that space because it made me feel overwhelmed and anxious.
Finally, a couple of weeks ago I put some music on, told myself I only had to work on it as long as I felt like it, and just started. The funny thing is, even though I put off cleaning that space for months, it actually only took a couple of hours to declutter it. I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I was to complete that project!
Once I tackled that space with success, I was motivated to keep going because everything else seemed easy in comparison! Over the last few days I’ve decluttered and organized the kitchen, the bathrooms, the laundry room, the coat closet, my nightstand, my jewelry box, and my makeup. Whew!
3. Sort, toss and organize
The decision-making part of this process is what usually trips me up, but it’s actually pretty easy once I get going. First, I make sure to have plenty of trash bags handy for the items I’m throwing away. I also designate an area to place items for donation or sale.
I recommend completely emptying the space you’re working on. Then sort each item into piles: things to keep, things to toss, and things to donate or sell. It all comes down to deciding what’s really important to you–and what you can ditch–for maximum happiness.
To make the “keep vs. donate” decision a little easier and faster, I also create a box or area for the items I’m not sure about. I come back to these items later, after I’m done decluttering, and decide whether to keep or donate them. If I’m still not sure, I pack those items away and look at them again in a few weeks. Usually, if I haven’t needed them, it’s easy to let them go.
Last, I put everything back, nice and neat. When you get to this point, you might find that you need some baskets or bins, or simply some folders and labels, to help you organize your stuff. Be willing to look at your spaces with a fresh eye and store things in more efficient and beautiful ways.
4. Take baby steps
This phrase always reminds me of the movie “What About Bob?” but it’s a great approach to just about everything.
When your home is filled with clutter, trying to tackle a mountain of stuff can be overwhelming. So give yourself permission to work on decluttering for a certain amount of time or in a certain amount of space.
For example, look at the clock and tell yourself you only have to work on the project for 15 minutes, or an hour, or whatever. Or clean out one drawer, one cabinet, or one section of the closet per day.
The main thing is, you’ve started to declutter your home–and that’s the hardest part–so celebrate your achievement!
Then do another chunk of time or space tomorrow. And another the next day. You’ll gain momentum, and before you know it, you’ll have cleared an entire closet or room.
5. Keep that good feeling going
I’ve found that once I really get into this process I want to keep going and organize everything. Also, the more spaces I clear out, the better I get at deciding what to keep and what to get rid of. So, while I’m still motivated, I try to think of more things to go through, such as old photos, books, jewelry or paperwork. Sometimes I’ll even go through a closet or space a second time and find more things to donate or throw away!
Once you’ve decluttered an area, take the time to enjoy it. You might even want to take some photos so you’ll remember how good it looks.
Notice how wonderful and light it feels to declutter your home. Resolve to make clean spaces your standard.
Decluttering isn’t just about getting rid of excess stuff, it’s about letting go of the old and embracing the new. It’s about letting yourself keep up with who you’ve become, so enjoy the process!
P.S. Make sure to check out these posts for more decluttering and organizing tips:
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
Let’s Get Organized! An Easy Step-by-Step Plan
Get Organized – Refresh Your Home and Attitude with Clutter-Free Spaces
Get Organized – The Home Office
Get Organized – 18 Tips for a Clutter-Free Healthy Kitchen