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