7 Tips to Take the Stress out of Decluttering

The never-ending story of decluttering. As long as we are living and buying things and bringing them into our homes, we will forever have to consider the declutter process. There are three ways a person can declutter their extra ‘stuff’

  1. Keep tabs on the amount of things coming into the house and balance it with a regular outflow of items
  2. Do massive ‘purges’ of all of your items every few years
  3. Ignore your clutter, allowing it to pile up, and eventually leave it for your descendants to deal with

In my opinion, and for the sake of this post, let’s agree that option #1 is the ideal scenario. However, for some of us already living the cluttered life, getting to that point can seem impossible, and the sheer volume of stuff we have already accumulated drains our motivation before we even start.

I have good news. It is never too late to start and no one has too much to start. Even better news – getting started is, without a doubt the HARDEST part of this entire process. So with that, let’s get started, one little bite at a time.

Tip #1 – Start with stuff you don’t care about

As I previously mentioned, getting started is the hardest part of the decluttering process. Usually when we start thinking about throwing our stuff away, our minds instantly leap to the things we care most about – mementos, gifts, heirlooms…. that kind of thing. And while we do have to tackle those categories at some point, let’s start with something easier. The kitchen – more specifically, the refrigerator. Your first step on a journey to a decluttered home starts with the fridge. Once shelf at a time, pull everything out and toss all of the expired, rotten and forgotten foods for good. Then wipe down the shelf and put back ONLY the items that you know will be eaten. By starting with the fridge, we are warming up our decluttering muscles without having to make difficult decisions about stuff we actually care about. The fridge is now clean and you are on your way!

Tip #2 – Make a Plan

This goes back to my first point about getting started. Without a plan, this process can feel crazy overwhelming. So, we will make a plan. Grab a piece of paper and a pen and take a 10-minute walk through your house. As you go through, write down all of the spaces that have become piled with clutter. For example – as you walk through the bedroom you might write: bedside table, closet, jewelry box etc. If there is a space that is particularly bothersome to you, put a star beside it. Once you are finished, make a list of places to declutter – STARRED ITEMS FIRST. I call this the ‘decluttering the places that drive me crazy’ method.

Tip #3 – Use a Timer

This is the most simple, and most critical piece of advice. Decide AHEAD of time how much time you have to dedicate to decluttering today. Five minutes, fifteen minutes, even one hour, whatever time you have, that is what you set the timer for. To clarify – do not set the timer for how long you think it will take to finish the job, set the timer for how much time YOU HAVE. Start the timer and get started on the first item on your starred list. When the timer goes off, toss your garbage bag, put donation items in their box and you are DONE for the day. This is KEY to avoiding OVERWHELM and get past a perfectionist mindset.

Tip #4 – Don’t take out more than you have time to put away!

Sometimes decluttering can be a messy business. Have you ever attempted to clean out a packed closet, pulled everything out and then had to abandon it mid-job? Often when this happens, we lose motivation to go back and finish what we started and the closet contents lay spread on the floor for days or even weeks until someone shoves it all haphazardly back into the closet and we are back at the beginning, having made no progress at all. So from here on, I want you to stick to this rule – only take out what you have time to deal with. One shelf at a time, one drawer at a time, one section of a closet. Tackle your spaces in small chunks. It will all still get done, I PROMISE.

Tip #5 – Find a final home for your things

My mom always says, ‘a place for everything and everything in its place’. As annoying as it was to hear that phrase over and over as I searched through my disgusting teen bedroom looking for lost items, it couldn’t be more true. One of the biggest mistakes we make when we decluttering is putting items in a less than ideal place ‘for now’. Soon enough, ‘for now’ becomes ‘forever’ and the item is still in the way and not serving its best purpose for you. As you declutter, take the time to decide exactly where you are going to keep certain items and assign them to their homes. Choose places that make sense for the item’s usage and ensure that other people in the home know their locations.

Tip #6 – Don’t declutter other people’s things

Very small children and deceased or incapacitated relatives aside, it is never appropriate to declutter another person’s stuff. In an ideal situation, everyone in the household is equally concerned about the clutter situation and everyone tackles their own stuff and areas until the whole house is an idyllic scene of order and minimalism (sigh.. a girl can dream). For argument’s sake (and the sake of reality tbh), there is usually not an equal effort put forward in the decluttering of a house, which can be incredibly frustrating when you are motivated to get going. There are two easy ways to tackle this issue. First – try to get the other person involved, still remembering that THEY decide what is important to them. Second – assign an area for them to use as they please. For example – my husband and I each have separate drawers where we keep paperwork that is important to us. When stuff comes in for him, I can put it in his drawer and vice versa. This topic has many variations and complications, I understand that, but the moral is, you wouldn’t want someone else throwing out your stuff, so don’t do it to them.

Tip #7 – Practice

Decluttering takes practice. Throwing your stuff away takes practice. At first, it usually isn’t fun and can be really slow. Keep going. Each time you disconnect with an item and let it go, you are flexing your decluttering muscles, and as with any exercise, it gets easier. Work through your whole list of ‘areas that drive you the most crazy’, using a timer, only taking out as much as you have time to put away and soon enough, you will be a decluttering pro!

This really is the never-ending story, and if you truly want to live a decluttered or even a minimalist lifestyle, you will have to be on constant watch for clutter piles and unnecessary items invading your home. However, using these simple tips and keeping your compass set to progress and not to perfection, it will all get done.

Take care and be well

Steph

How a Daily Housekeeping Routine Saved me from Myself – The Flylady System Baby Steps for Beginners

*** FREE copy of the 21 Baby Steps tracker here***

It was in one of those most disastrous seasons of my life, home with a toddler and a brand new baby, when I reached my breaking point. My current method of cleaning and organizing consisted of 1. Clean the house to an impeccable level, get all of my bills paid, organize everything a la Mari Kondo and then, 2. Burn out, neglect all areas of housework and slowly let the house fall into shambles again. It was totally unsustainable and my mental health was suffering from my perfectionist-driven all-or-nothing approach.

Then, I found the Flylady system. I saw what other people were able to accomplish in short amounts of time and how their houses were seemingly ‘self-cleaning’ and I wanted all in. In actuality, my mother recognized my complete lack of routine and introduced me to the Flylady system she was familiar with from the 90’s and its predecessor ‘The Sidetracked Home Executives’ before that. We watched a few youtube videos together from How Jen Does It, A Better Life with Flylady Kat and ultimately landed on Diane in Denmark. After originally attempting to implement the entire sytstem in one day and failing multiple times, I finally attempted the Flylady baby steps. Here is was – the entire system laid out in daily, bite-sized chunks – each adding a little bit more onto the last.

My multiple failures showed me that this was not a mountain to be conquered overnight, after all – as the Flylady Marla Cilley herself says, “Your house did not get messy in a day, its not going to get clean in a day either”. I have been through the Baby Steps as prescribed and after a year of practice, I pared them down to what I felt were the 21 ‘essential’ baby steps.

Here is my version of the Flylady Baby Steps. Download the FREE 21 Days to a Clean Home Printable here and follow along with me!

  1. Shine your sink
  2. Dress to shoes
  3. 2-minute hot spot
  4. Build a Control Journal
  5. Start a dishes routine
  6. Declutter every day
  7. Set out clothes for tomorrow
  8. Make the bed
  9. Digital declutter
  10. Complete the daily flylady mission
  11. Check your calendar for the next day
  12. Do one load of laundry every day
  13. Get to bed at a decent hour
  14. Swish the bathroom
  15. Set items out for tomorrow at your launch pad
  16. Plan for dinner
  17. Add an anti-procrastination day
  18. Car & Purse clean out
  19. Add a day to plan and pay bills
  20. Take time for self care
  21. Implement a weekly home blessing hour
FREE 21 Days to a Clean Home Printable here!

As you go through these steps, focus on what works for you, and what doesn’t. Not everything will make sense for everyone and most things will need some adjustment to fit your life just perfectly. As your life changes, so will your routines, but, having the basics down and being used to getting up and starting the day with the same few habits will make a huge impact in your productivity and mood.

This journey is all about progress, I encourage you to go through the baby steps once and continue on your way. Attempting to do the 21 days perfectly over and over again is an act of needless futility. Learn the steps, figure out what works for you and get going each day with the goal of doing what you can with the time and energy you have. Even two years in, I rarely have a ‘perfect day’ – but I keep going and little by little the house gets clean, and stays clean.

If I can overcome my slobby ways, I know anyone can. You just have to start at day 1.

As always, I would love to hear about your progress with the baby steps, and how you are tweaking them to work for you!

Talk soon, be well.

Steph

That time when my house was a complete disaster

I was born a slob. This was something that I was totally ok with. Until I had kids. My kids took my standard-issue messy house, turned it upside-down and shook. By the time I realized how bad it was, I was so completely overwhelmed that I was in tears nearly every other day. I don’t want that for you. I don’t want that for your kids. I don’t want for anyone ever again.

I needed a system, I needed routine, and I needed help. I first learned about the Flylady system of cleaning from my mother, an avid consumer of cleaning vlogs and all things organization. After devouring hours of youtube cleaning videos I figured I had nothing to lose and went for it.

The first thing I did, was what I usually do: go all in, attempt to implement an entire system in one day, get totally frazzled and quit. I would then let everything go, the house would get completely trashed and I would vow to start again on Monday. This went on for a few months, until I eventually read the life changing book ‘Better than Before’ by Gretchen Rubin. From this book I finally gained the invaluable life lesson that new, good habits cannot be established overnight, and definitely not en masse. Like any muscle, habits need to be exercised regularly, and work best when they are added into our lives gradually.

So I chose one habit. Just one. The one that I thought I could stick with and also that would make the biggest difference for the amount of effort required – making my bed every morning.

I made my bed every single day, and from that day forward, it is the one habit that has stuck the strongest, through pregnancy, illness and crazy rushed days. Once I felt like that habit was happening automatically, I added another – loading and starting the dishwasher at night and unloading it in the morning. After that one took hold, I added another, until I was taking care of my house without thinking about it.

Without a doubt, I still have days when nothing happens the home takes a major backslide, but, being able to know exactly what to do each day without much of a thought, makes it a million times easier to take back control and whip my home into shape.

So if this is you, and you are reading this with a pile of laundry beside you, a sea of dishes in the sink and a bed that looks more like a bird’s nest than an adult human’s sleeping surface – I have been there. I have been there and therefore I know you don’t have to be. Start small, pick one habit that will make a difference for you today, and flex that muscle until it sticks.

Start small, start today, keep going. You got this.

Steph