Have you ever felt like there’s just no way you’ll ever be able to get rid of all the junk that’s piled up in your home? Does it seem so overwhelming that you’re having trouble getting started?
The key to decluttering your home is to decide what you really need and want and to get rid of everything you don’t.
Getting rid of the clutter that’s accumulated in your life isn’t rocket science, but it is hard work. Your home didn’t get cluttered overnight and it won’t get uncluttered overnight either, but you can get there.
Here are seven steps that will help you get (and keep) your home clutter free:
1. Make a list of the things that matter most to you.
Not of your physical possessions but things like spending quality time together as a family, doing well at school, saving for the future, your faith and health etc. Keep this list minimal, preferably five to seven big things. Keep it with you as you begin to go through your stuff. When you come across something you’re not sure if you should keep or get rid of come back to it and see if it will enhance what’s on your list or if it will ultimately become a distraction.
2.Tackle one area at a time.
Anne Lamott, in her book Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, gives a great illustration of this principle:
“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’ ”
Tackle one room at a time and one area at a time. Go through each item in every space: under the bed, in the drawers, the closet, etc. Allow yourself time to process each possession using the list you created in step one.
3. Declutter in bursts.
It’s always a good idea to take breaks in the decluttering process. There will be days where you feel so great about clearing out your clutter that you won’t want to stop. There will also be days when you’re so tired from work, school, etc. that you won’t feel like getting rid of anything.
It’s important not to push yourself too hard. The point of decluttering is to simplify your life so you have more time for the things that matter, not to give you one more thing to do.
Giving yourself a break on those days when life gets too crazy. Just don’t use busyness as an excuse for your clutter to keep piling up. Decluttering for as little as 20-30 minutes a day will allow you to make progress over the long haul.
4. Don’t buy anything new until you’ve tackled what you already have.
When I was in college I helped a member of our church with doing the inventory at their family owned business. One of the things that made the inventory difficult (besides my terrible math skills) was that things were constantly being added and taken away from areas where I was taking inventory. It made the whole process take longer than it needed to.
As you’re getting rid of the things you don’t need or want hold off on buying new things. I don’t mean groceries, toiletries, and those kind of things. I mean the things you don’t need like DVDs, more clothes, etc. It’s hard to move things out when you keep bringing other things in.
5. Decide what to do with the things you don’t want.
Decide if you are going to give them away, throw them away, or sell them. If you’re going to give them away (whether to someone or someplace) or throw them away schedule a time as soon as possible to do it. The longer you hold on to the things you don’t want the harder it will be to part with them.
If you decide to do a garage sale do it as soon as possible. Personally, I’m not a big fan of garage sales. I prefer to just get rid of my clutter as soon as possible, but there’s nothing wrong with doing a garage sale either. I suggest doing it just for one weekend. I also recommend not haggling over money. If someone offer you a little less than you were asking, take it anyway. Even if you don’t make as much money as you wanted you still will have made some money on while having someone else is get rid of it for you.
Get rid of whatever you don’t sell right away. You may be tempted to save it and do another garage sale later on. Doing that will only keep your home and garage cluttered longer. You’ll also have to work harder to move it back in, store it, maintain it, and bring it out later. Donate it to an organization like Good Will and get it out of your life.
6. Create space for your stuff and put everything in its place.
In order to keep your home clutter free you need to find a place for all your stuff. I don’t mean storage; I mean a specific place where you can easily access the things you have decided are necessary and important in your life. As you use these things, be sure to put them back in their designated place as soon as you’re done with them so your house will stay clutter free.
Don’t put anything in storage. Many people think they need storage space because their home is too small. The truth is you’re home isn’t too small, you just own too much stuff. Save yourself the time and money by getting rid of it right away.
7. Limit your purchases.
Clutter has a way of creeping into our lives. As your home becomes more and more clutter free you may feel like it’s OK to buy things like you did before. But you need to be careful about what and how much you purchase. It can be hard to tell yourself no but the more you allow yourself to live with less the more you’ll find yourself enjoying it and wondering how you ever lived anyway else.
The goal of minimalism isn’t to live without things, but to be careful about the things you choose to live with. Periodically, go back through your stuff and make sure that the things you have are still needed and important.
The more clutter you get rid of the more joy, freedom, time, satisfaction, and energy you’ll have in your life.
For the month of November I’m working with The Hope Effect to provide homes for orphans. Help us make a difference in a child’s life. Click here to learn more.