Let’s face it: having too much of anything is not always a wonderful thing (sorry, Mae West!) Whether it’s what we put in our bodies or what we stow in our homes, at some point, it’s time to start making better choices. When it comes to our belongings, it’s common to hang on to things long after their utility has ended. But where and how to begin clearing space without quickly feeling we’re in over our heads? Let’s dive into my simple yet powerful routine to open up some breathing room this New Year!
Here are five decluttering steps to retain what matter most to you…now!
Step 1: Pick a dedicated time
“After all, tomorrow is another day!” Ever hear this one? It’s none other than Scarlett O’Hara, our Gone With The Wind gal! My point is that unless you start with a plan for exactly when to insert your decluttering into your daily routine, it will be very easy for it to land on the back burner and languish. We certainly start with the best of intentions. But invariably, our intent gets overridden when something else more tempting crops up.
So in order to maintain your decluttering goal, it’s critical to treat it seriously by assigning a specific time of day. Give thought to when you can dedicate 15 minutes. In fact, having it “stacked” with another habit will really ensure this becomes your new routine. This means doing it right before or immediately after another activity you do without fail. For example, try decluttering first thing right before brushing your teeth in the morning or immediately after dinner. Pairing two habits creates a powerful association. As a result, you will be more apt to declutter daily without having to overthink it.
Step 2: Select a small area
Next, target only small spaces in your home. For example, work on one drawer, a shelf, a counter or a closet. It’s tempting to tackle an entire room. But odds are, it will start to feel onerous. You get bogged down with decision fatigue. Or you encounter sentimental things right off the bat. Now it feels heavy to keep going, ugh!
For this reason, I recommend you start with a laser focus on tiny areas and mix it up. Don’t stay in the same room unless that works better for you. In the beginning, you will likely encounter the easy stuff: things that belong somewhere else or are clearly not worth keeping. These easy “wins” will strengthen you for making tougher decisions as you get into stuff “sticky” with sentiment. There will be times that you feel angst or uncertainty with certain items. But your discomfort will be short-lived, thanks to focusing on just a small space for 15 minutes.
Step 3: Remove and sort clutter for 15 minutes
I advocate starting with a very elementary two-step approach. There are several other decluttering methods and they each have their pros and cons. You can always modify how you dispose of your belongings as you get proficient with sorting. So let’s begin!
First, gather three grocery bags, bins or laundry baskets. The containers don’t have to be fancy and they don’t even need to match! Just use what you have on hand. You’ll start by designating them as “trash”, “donate” and “relocate”. So far, so good?
Second, here’s the quick run-down of what these labels represent. Trash is for anything broken, expired, torn or missing parts. Donate is for anything you no longer use, like or need but still has life in it. Relocate is for anything you’re keeping but belongs somewhere else in your house. oh, did you notice how this last bin will result in a neater space? Two birds, Baby!
Don’t overthink as you examine your belongings. Generally, your first instinct is correct. Approach your decluttering with the idea that you’re sorting to keep what matters most now, instead of looking to reject what used to matter (or maybe never really did). In other words, have an upbeat mindset during your session!
Step 4: Dispose of your clutter
When your session is done, immediately deal with your bags or bins. Toss the trash into your garbage can so that you don’t start second-guessing your decision. Do the same with your donations by stashing them in your car trunk. Once your trunk is full, make a run to your charity of choice. Out of sight, out of mind!
Lastly, put away your relocate items now, if you have extra time. If not, set the bin aside in a designated spot. You may opt to put those things in the proper place once a week or every couple of days…you choose! More importantly, this bin will start to create a mindful approach for you to put things where they belong the first time…..pretty crafty, eh?
Step 5: Acknowledge your accomplishment
When you’re done with your session, now do something to keep score of what you did. Again, these are tiny steps so it will be the accumulated actions over time that become visible. So start a record of your results. For example, some folks like to use a wall or desk calendar to mark with stickers, stars, colored pens, etc. Imagine how gratifying it will feel to see your steady commitment to clearing space! You may decide to track only the daily sessions completed. Or you might prefer to register the number of items leaving your house. Ultimately, it’s up to you to capture which decluttering aspect deserves a high five.
Don’t underrate the value of your efforts! Creating and adhering to a new habit requires resolve and commitment. Many talk about doing something but few follow through. It takes focused energy. It takes dedication. But like anything else, as you start to see results, you begin to find it easier to keep on going.
Think you’d like to recoup some dollars from your stuff? Circle back to my series on selling! It starts here!
Want to hear another minimalist’s point of view? Set aside five minutes to hear Anthony Ongaro’s decluttering tips which align with my own philosophy: click here!
Until next time, cheers to you and your gradually clearing space!