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Steps to a decluttered life

By: Ellen Lampe


Take a look around your home. Does your closet contain clothes you haven’t worn in months? When was the last time you organized the Tupperware cabinet, or cleaned out the pantry? Is there a room that, over time, has become the “junk room” where miscellaneous things get discarded? What’s the state of your garage? Your basement?

Many of us go far too long between routine home weed-outs, thus allowing clutter to pile up. For some, the thought of completing any of the aforementioned tasks is a nothing but a time-consuming headache.

However, the satisfaction that comes with lightening up the “stuff” in your home is worth the effort. As research suggests, weeding out unused material items not only creates more space and organization in your life physically, but it clears mental head space and can ease stress.

Try these tips, and the task may not seem so daunting.

• Do not bite off more than you can chew. Do not set aside an entire day to organize your entire home. This will most likely burn you out and leave you exhausted and less efficient as the day goes on. Rather, set aside a few hours on one project or space [“Today, I’m tackling the bathroom closet and vanity!”]. This will make you more motivated to complete the task at hand.

• Organize first, buy second. Do not bring anything new into your home until after the decluttering is complete. You don’t know what you’ll be storing, what kind of bins, organizers, shelves, etc., you’ll need until after you purge and assess what’s left. You don’t want empty containers cluttering up your home while you figure out where you might use them.

• Start with the space that bothers you most. Then, start with what you can see [i.e., desks, tops of dressers and end tables, floor space, etc.] Work your way from the outside, in. Once the visible spaces are organized, move on to what lies beneath – in the drawers, under your bed, etc.

• Find a designated space for every item you own. If you can’t find a home for an item, keep paring down your things until you can.

• Use it, love it or lose it. This is a common mantra in the world of organization. Do you actually use it? Do you love it or does it enhance your life in some way? If the answer to these questions is no, then let go of the item. This mantra taken word-for-word can become tricky, however. You may “love” that awesome Halloween costume you wore four years ago that has since sat untouched in a box, but be honest with yourself. You know what to do.

• Complete each task – completely. Understandably, you will need to sort things into categories [i.e. toss, recycle, donate, give to a friend, put in storage] but once you decide where something is going to go, take it there. Take bags and boxes out to the trash or recycling, or deliver them where they need to go – immediately. Do not keep bags or boxes of things in your home to be dealt with later.

• Don’t forget bigger items. The placement of your furniture can play into the organization of your home. If you have too much furniture in one room, or there are large toys or accessories that aren’t being used, move them out. Rearranging makes for less visual clutter and more space overall.

• When it comes down to it, good enough is enough. It’s rare to have closets and drawers that look like they’re out of a magazine. Remember that the space must still be functional, and you are human. If perfection is your goal, you will end up disappointed. Your goal should be to create an organized space that meets your needs and works for you.

There are countless resources out there that offer unique perspectives on decluttering your home and life. Here are three of our favorites:

“The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing,” by Marie Kondo – This international bestseller touches on The KonMari Method of determining which items in your house “spark joy,” and explains how clearing clutter and enjoying the magic of a tidy home inspires a calm, motivated mindset. Kondo now has her own Netflix show on this topic called “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.” Check it out.

“One Year to an Organized Life,” by Regina Leeds – From your closet to your finances, this bestseller book offers a week-by-week guide for getting completely organized, for good. Each chapter enters a new month, focusing on a new aspect of organization.

“Breathing Room: Open Your Heart by Decluttering Your Home,” by Dr. Melva Green and Lauren Rosenfeld – Written by a medical doctor and a spiritual intuitive, this book uses case studies to explain how decluttering goes beyond organizing your home; decluttering can help inform us of our burdens, understand our attachments, and aid us in identifying what’s truly valuable in our lives.

What to do with sentimental items? Sentimental items are among the most difficult to part with – a process which can evoke pain and guilt. However, it’s important to learn how to let go of items you don’t need anymore. For each item, ask yourself: Why am I holding on to this? If it sparks memories, could I still have those memories without the item? Could someone else get something out of it? If I had a picture of it, would that be enough? Can I re-purpose it into something useful? One option is to take a photo of the item, write a note about the memory that accompanies that item, and then part with the item. Other options are giving the item to a friend/loved one, donating the item, re-purposing the item, or keeping the item and making a proper place for it in your home.

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