De-Cluttering... A Life Long Journey
It happens all the time: we go through our things, get rid of a ton of stuff, and not too much longer after that we are right back to clutter… again! It seems like we will never get done going through all of it, and so we feel defeated and stop even trying to declutter. We don’t make time in our schedules to declutter our homes and so the possessions pile up, we store them away in storage units, and spend money to keep things that we really don’t need.
It’s certainly easy to do given the very material world we live in, but there is a better way. This article explains the benefits of decluttering, will share some great ideas and tips, and if you’re serious about decluttering, will motivate you to believing that you CAN make it happen!
Benefits Of Decluttering
There are many reasons why people keep items that they no longer need. For most people, the process is very psychological. We place value on things, maybe because we didn’t grow up with much, and having things is a safe mental haven. Whatever the reason is that we dread the thought of getting rid of possessions, one thing is for sure: living simpler and with less actually LESSENS the anxiety that we have. It seems almost counter-intuitive. Once we push through the feelings that we have about letting go, we get to a place of sincere calm and peace with creating an orderly and tidy space to live in.
" First, and most obvious, we will have less to clean. Not having things to take care of means less stress in the long run, and… well… more joy! "
First, and most obvious, we will have less to clean. Not having things to take care of means less stress in the long run, and… well… more joy! More time to devote to other things. Possibly even more money to save if you can sell it to someone else. Are there items in your home that you actively can’t stand? Get rid of them! We certainly have a few things around our home that we would not miss if they were not here. For example, we have two chairs in our living room that NO one ever sits in, my husband doesn’t like them, and all we ever do with them is clean them after the cats sit on them. We certainly don’t need them! That space could be used for something more productive. In fact, writing this article has motivated us to take some action to get them sent on their way.
Second, things can be found MUCH easier. There is no need to buy storage bins, but if you do… label each bin and put only those things inside. You’ll know where those things are each time. When you need it, you won’t spend countless minutes searching the house for it; just remember to put it back where it goes each time you use it. We’ll get into some great tips for organizing toward the end of the article.
Third, and we’ve already touched on this, it creates a space that you love. You will have more peace and joy with less clutter than you ever did with it. It truly is a psychological thing: our minds can rest better, we are less distracted, and what we see (which does impact our psyche) will not bog us down mentally with visual stimuli that creates a stressful mindset. Our culture is so obsessed with “keeping up with the Jones’” that we don’t think outside the box. We want what everyone else is getting instead of being different and going against the grain. Although it’s hard, what we believe about “having” to purchase items during important times like birthdays and holidays is only our belief because we have been conditioned to believe that we must. We don’t! Think outside of the box and know that the bigger picture is more important in the long run! There are so many free things to do and enjoy that making special times memorable does not have to mean spending money.
" We will have extra money to save or spend on things that we do need. There are several great websites for selling items like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or even your local newspaper. "
Fourth, we will have extra money to save or spend on things that we do need. There are several great websites for selling items like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or even your local newspaper. Want to have a garage sale? Do it! Put an ad in the newspaper, post on Facebook Marketplace that you are having a garage sale (take pics for attention) and get that stuff out for people to buy! Not buying things in the first place will help us keep that money in our bank accounts to use for much more needed things. We can use that money to pay off debt, create an emergency fund, take a vacation, or even better… save for retirement. We all need help in that department!
Where Do We Begin When De-Cluttering?
So, where do we start?
Before we begin, it’s important to make it easier on ourselves so we suggest taking the first month or so to organize your possessions. Doing this can help you more easily see just how many things of one kind that you own. Map out your home and decide where you are going to store things. It may be easier to create a designated area for certain items (temporarily) to do this.
For example, pens and pencils. You might have a few batches of them in several rooms in your house. The goal is to move them to one area where they are all together. This may take some time and strategy, so like I said, taking the time to map out or list each room in the house with what goes in that room is best. Then it will be easier to move those items around until all like items are in the same place. Books, magazines, games, coats, clothes, bags, underwear, socks, shoes, tools, gadgets, DVDs and CDs, electronic devices, collectibles of like kind, camping equipment, sports equipment, holiday items, gift wrapping items, office supplies, photo albums, candles and candle holders, crafting items, or anything of abundance in your home that you know you need a special place for to go through should be designated it’s own space and combined.
You really don’t need to worry about personal items now (such as bathing items or personal hygiene), but if one person has personal items, such as clothes or shoes, in more than one area, combine them into one spot. Make sure all the kid’s toys are in one area per child, or if you have an area specified for toys such as a playroom make sure that they are together. Starting off on the right foot is essential to making your journey a success! Note that we are not suggesting that these items be discarded, but we do want to make sure that these items are in plain view so that you can make good decisions about where they need to go when you reorganize. It makes it so much easier to have them together, in their own spot, once we get to the final stage!
" Do NOT be afraid to ask for help! We all need help with things and sometimes it is much easier to recruit a friend to babysit or come over to play with the kids while you work. "
Also, do NOT be afraid to ask for help! We all need help with things and sometimes it is much easier to recruit a friend to babysit or come over to play with the kids while you work. Maybe you could trade off and help each other do this! If you have any friends that are good at organizing or have some skills in this area, let them assist you!
There is nothing to be embarrassed about and having someone come alongside you in this journey will make it that much easier. Plus, it’s a great way to be productive while the kids get some playtime with friends. Many people have also taken before and after pictures every so often. Maybe you could take a before picture, and then three months later take a current situation picture. You’ll be able to see the progress visually, and this can make a world of difference. Although the journey doesn’t end there, the progress you can visually see will keep you moving in the right direction.
The Seven Steps Of Decluttering
First, we need to carve out some time; consistent time each week to take care of the job. We didn’t make the clutter in a day, and it will take more than a day to undo it. In fact, to successfully create a long-term decluttering lifestyle… we must change our habits and make it a priority to not get back into the situation again. We must remember when we are out shopping that making good decisions about what we buy RIGHT THEN will determine how well we succeed at decluttering. But for now, we will talk about time. Pick a day during the week where you can spend 2 hours focused on doing nothing but decluttering. For us, the time may change each week. We typically work at it on Sunday mornings early. If we are not able to do it then, we will pick some other time that same weekend to get it done… typically Saturday morning or Sunday night. Regardless, what is most important about the time is that we keep consistent with it each week.
If you have a planner, write it down in the planner so that you can schedule it without interruption (and writing it down helps to remember it easier, too). You can also make one evening a night your time for decluttering, although it is easy to forget or have last minute things come up during the week when there are so many activities going on. However, if you have a night during the week where a family member can take the kids to practice or you have some down time alone at the house, this schedule might work best for your situation. Another idea is to break this time up each day. Spending 20 minutes per day, either early in the morning or late at night, can be the time you need to declutter your life. Either way, we must make it a priority and make sure we don’t backslide into the clutter again by holding yourself accountable to the mission.
Pro Tip: Throw away or donate one item each day that you don’t need anymore. In one year, that’s 365 things gone! Do it even if it’s something small!
Second, donate, donate, donate. Fill one trash bag full of things each week (or more if you can) that you do not want, and really wouldn’t be worth selling, and donate it to charity. It could be anything: clothes, toys, kitchen items, old towels or sheets. The important thing to remember is that you fill the bag and remember to drop it off each week. Keep the bag handy in a specific place so that when you are at the house each day managing your daily routine, you can place items in it that you come across.
When cooking for dinner, and you have a few minutes while the food is cooking, go through a drawer or a cabinet to find items that you can get rid of. It’s easier to do this over time as you can than it is to try and devote an entire day to doing this alone. For clothes, you can hang all your items in the opposite direction on the rack and easily be able to tell if you haven’t worn it in a while by hanging currently worn items back up in the normal position and seeing what is still hanging in the opposite direction after one year. You can also find one or two items while getting dressed each day that you know you really don’t want and put them in the bag.
You can shave the time that you spent off your 2-hour allotment too! Once you have done this for several weeks, depending on how many things you need to discard, you can move to once every other week or once per month.
Pro Tip: If you haven’t used it in a year, and it’s not a specialty item that you use annually, you probably need to get rid of it!
Third, create a list of places that require special attention. For example, the garage, the basement, the attic, or the storage closets. These places will certainly require more time. Save these areas for the time you’ve carved out on the weekend or weeknight. There are SO many tools available on the internet for this very thing.
We recommend doing one room each week, or part of a room if it’s complicated. This way you can change it up and not get too bored with it. For example, you might not need to do much in the living room, so that could easily be done in one week. Then you could focus on the bathroom for two weeks. Go through each under-the-sink area one week, and the following week focus on the towel closet. Either way, make progress and try to really eliminate items that you don’t use or have excess of. Having 100 washcloths is probably too many, and certainly something you could thin out!
Books are another VERY popular area that we tend to horde items easily. We want ALL the books, don’t we? We sure do, and honestly the best way that I can recommend minimizing your books is to limit yourself to the space that you must store them. Start by going through the stack and make a preliminary discard pile of the ones you are perfectly fine getting rid of. After that, take the remaining books and place the ones you absolutely want to keep on the shelf first, while making a pile for the “unsure about this one” books in the meantime. After the books are either on the shelf or in a pile, select the books that will fill the remaining space by putting them in order… favorite to least favorite. Fill the shelf using the stack until you’re out of room and discard the rest with your original stack of unwanted books. You can use this method with every pile of items that you go through, and it will be done in no time!
" Be honest with yourself about what truly brings you joy to keep. If an item truly brings you joy, you will know it when you hold it. "
Fourth, be honest with yourself about what truly brings you joy to keep. If an item truly brings you joy, you will know it when you hold it. Touching the item will release a sensory emotion within you that will direct you. Keep what brings you joy, and discard anything that doesn’t. It’s alright to keep several things that bring you true joy, if each of them has a home. It’s alright to have a collection of items, if you don’t have too many. When it comes to selecting items to keep, we must be honest with ourselves and realize that having too many collections of things or keepsakes limits the amount of pleasure we can receive from each one.
For example, having a coin or stamp collection can be awesome, but if we have a coin collection, a stamp collection, a baseball card collection, an autograph collection, and a model car collection all at the same time… let’s face it… it’s hard to enjoy ALL of those things and it’s hard to be really good at any of them when your efforts are focused in so many different directions. Chose one or two and focus on those, and the result will be that you will be happier with your items plus have more space for other things.
Fifth, buyer beware. It’s very important on this journey to watch what is purchased. Avoid places or stores that sell items which are discretionary in nature such as flea markets or gift shops. Warehouse shopping centers can be dangerous if we buy outside of what we will use and will cause us to spend extra money on things we don’t need.
Making a choice to buy the bulk package of plastic cups because they’re on sale may help you… if you REALLY need all those cups. However, most of the time we don’t need to buy a lifetime supply of items because it just winds up taking up a lot of space and stressing us out when trying to find a place to store them. Choosing one, on occasion, is fine if you know that you are going to use it. Buying several of one item at the store because they are on sale is fine too, if it’s something that you use regularly. For example, we just purchased 8 jars of tomato sauce the other day because they were nearly free… and we couldn’t resist the investment; however, we plan to use those jars quickly. Just be selective and don’t buy a lifetime supply of everything you use. Purchasing items on a routine basis is great for keeping purchases to a minimum, and Best Mommy Life will have several posts about this in the very near future!
Pro Tip: Avoid places or stores that sell items which are discretionary in nature such as flea markets or gift shops.
Sixth, send it packing, but don’t cause clutter for others. It’s easy to give away items or purchase items for others when we want our friends and family to have them. But is that really what’s best for them? It’s easy to pass the “curse of clutter” on to others without even meaning to do it. Only give items away if you are certain it is needed or can be used by them. Chances are, they don’t need it either.
One of the things we have done for several years is purchase items for others that can be used but won’t clutter, such as a membership to the zoo or gift cards to a movie theater. Intangible gifts are great, and great to receive. If someone asks if you want anything for your birthday, be honest! You can say no, and if they insist on buying you something you can always mention an intangible gift to your favorite local restaurant or theater.
We can all certainly appreciate it when friends let us know what they need when we are buying them a gift. It just makes more sense to get them something that they truly need, such as a gift certificate for furniture, car care, or other necessity than it does to waste money on something that they really don’t want, or need!
" Reward yourself. It’s inevitable, you are going to save money or possibly even make some money decluttering your home! "
Seventh, reward yourself. It’s inevitable, you are going to save money or possibly even make some money doing this. Take a little bit of the extra cash and enjoy a treat, such as a pedicure, a date night, or a trip that you’ve been wanting to take. You’ve earned it, and it’s perfectly acceptable to motivate yourself by rewarding yourself once you’ve hit a milestone. In fact, it will keep you on the right track and make the journey well worth it.
All in all, decluttering your home and space can be challenging, but it is very worth it. There is a strong sense of pride in letting go of material items and replacing that with peace and comfort in living simply. The process will radically transform your thought process about what is truly important to you and will allow you the freedom to make bigger and better decisions regarding your finances. It will enable you to focus on innovative ideas and reaching personal financial goals with much more ease than before. It will help you to gain more confidence and entice you to have friends and family over more often. The benefits are endless, so start this week on a journey to a more effective, more decluttered you!
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