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Simple living is all about…well, simplicity.
Yet so many of us (too many of us) are weighed down by our stuff.
Belongings, possessions, accoutrements. Keepsakes, mementos, sentimental items. It doesn’t matter what shape it takes – if it’s weighing you down, it’s clutter. And you need to lose it.
Lose it so you can move forward to living the simpler, slower life you crave.
This means one thing: DECLUTTERING.
Yes, it’s hard work. (Sorry.) Yes, you’d prefer to be sipping cocktails in the sunshine. (Who wouldn’t?) Yes, you will have to face some of your clutter demons. (I’m not apologising for that one – it’s totally worth the effort!)
But do you know what? When you’re done – even decluttering one single surface in your home – you will feel lighter. You will feel proud. You will feel a sense of calm. You will want to do more.
The Basics of Decluttering
Start with one small thing. Don’t tackle the store room, the garage or the toy box[es]. They’re too big. You may get halfway through, become overwhelmed, stop, get disheartened and find yourself more discouraged than before.
Trust me, start small.
Why Start Small? I Just Want to be Rid of the Clutter!
When people are trying to pay off multiple debts, they’re often told to put all their efforts into paying the biggest one first. Which seems to make sense.
But the better way is to pay off the smallest debt first. It will take less time, and you get a victory. You win right from the start. You beat that debt and won’t ever go back to it. This makes you hungry for more victory. So you focus on the next smallest debt. And so on. It snowballs and you build momentum.
Your decluttering is the same. I know mine has been.
One day I cleaned out the kitchen drawer. You know the one – random utensils, chopsticks, a couple of lego bricks and a fine dusting of Weetbix crumbs… (Come on – everyone has one. No shame in it.)
- Next I tackled the medicine cabinet.
- Then the bathroom cabinet.
- The hall stand.
- The fridge.
- Tupperware drawer.
- Laundry shelf.
- Cleaning cupboard.
- Dry goods cupboard.
None of these is a big thing on its own. Most will take you between ten minutes and an hour to do. But combine the impact of having a clean, decluttered kitchen, organised bathroom cabinets and tidy wardrobes, and you will feel amazing. And you haven’t even started the big stuff yet.
So set aside 15 minutes and tackle your one thing.
Your Never-Fail Decluttering Technique
Follow these steps regardless of what part of your home you are decluttering. They will never lead you astray:
- Decide on which single surface you will declutter. Once you begin, do not move on to another until this one is completely clutter-free and (preferably) well organised.
- Establish an area as your work space. You need a clear flat work surface to use for sorting, organising, etc. And
- Grab three boxes or bags.
- Donate box – for anything in good condition. These could be donated to charity, given as hand-me-downs to friends or family, or given away for free using Freecycle.org or hard rubbish collections.
- Throw away box – anything that is not in good, useable condition
- Recycle box – for any items that can be recycled, instead of simply thrown away
- Holding box – this is an optional fourth box to keep any items you are torn about. The holding box can keep them out of the way for six months, when you can decide (based on whether you have missed or needed the items) if you will keep or donate the entire box without opening it.
- Remove everything from the space you are decluttering. Place everything on your newly cleared work surface, leaving the decluttered space completely empty. Clean it with a damp cloth.
- PIck up each item individually and ask yourself the questions below. The amount of time you spend on the decision of whether to keep or toss the item will depend on what it is and how much is has meant to you in the past. (Decluttering the fridge will take less intense scrutiny than decluttering a drawer filled with keepsakes from your childhood, for example.)
- Do I want this?
- Do I use this? (Or have I used it in the past year?)
- Do I need this?
- Do I love this?
- Is it beautiful?
- Is it meaningful?
- Based on your answer, decide if you will keep the item, donate it or throw it away. Only then should you put the item you are keeping back in its place.
- Work your way through each item until all the contents have been sorted.
- Box up the items for donation and recycle/throw away the things you can’t give away.
- Sit back and marvel at the beautiful clutter-free surface you’ve just created.
- Be sure to keep it that way – because clutter attracts clutter. And you don’t want your hard work to be in vain.
Once you’ve found your decluttering groove, this will become second-nature and you will actually find yourself looking for things to declutter. It is that good. Seriously.
If you were to declutter one part of your home right now, what would it be? What do you struggle with the most?
For me, it’s the end of the kitchen bench and the bookshelves in the play room. Both are a convenient dumping ground for things that don’t belong there, and they drive me a bit mad.