Whether you’ve binge-watched “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” or you’re just feeling the itch to clean your house up, there’s never a bad time to start decluttering. Right now, I’d like to help you figure out how to start decluttering your house, so that you can have more space, less stuff, and a bit more freedom in your life. We’ll cover some helpful advice and the best ways to start doing it.
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Why Should I Declutter?
To keep it simple, decluttering brings freedom. When you have less stuff, you spend less time devoted to the maintenance of that stuff – dusting, maintaining, repairing. How much time have you spent looking for something in the last week? When you have less stuff, you know where it’s at because you’re more easily able to keep track of it, and you’re not so likely to lose it among your other belongings.
Personally, I find that when I declutter, it’s easier to think. I’m not as distracted by what I should be doing, or what I want to do. It’s like the space in my house is reflective of the space in my mind.
Also, when my house is decluttered, it’s easier to clean. When you’re a busy mom, easier to clean is amazing. If there isn’t as much stuff for kids to scatter around, there isn’t as much stuff that needs to be picked up.
How Do I Start Decluttering?
The first thing, always, is to be aware of your motivation. Are you wanting to make things easier to clean? Are you wanting to get rid of the extra stuff? Are you trying to make your home a more calming environment?
You’re going to need an “exit strategy” for your things. Are you going to donate to a thrift store? Do you want to attempt a garage sale?
You’ll need containers for your items as well. That might consist of boxes, trash bags, or something else. We’re not going to worry about containers for the items you’ll keep.
Pick one room to start in. Something like a kitchen cabinet or a bathroom is a great place to start, because you’re not likely to have a lot of items that have an emotional attachment in those areas. If you want to start in a closet, you might check out my post on how to clean out your closet.
Determine your criteria for keeping items. Marie Kondo famously recommends you keep items that “spark joy” – holding them makes you feel good. Not a bad reason, but let’s be realistic – it may not always be the best choice. How often do kitchen utensils truly spark joy? You’re probably going to wind up needing a ladle at some point, though. I like to go by the famous quote from William Morris – “Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” Not everything in my home is strictly useful – not everything is beautiful. I try to aim for both use and beauty. I place functionality above beauty – I once got one of those soup ladles that looked like the Loch Ness monster, but because it was flimsy, I wound up giving it away.
The actual process of decluttering
Grab a drink and set a timer. Something that surprises people when they start decluttering is that it can be surprisingly hard work. You’re asking your brain to make a bunch of decisions about items, so don’t try to get everything all at once. I’d suggest just half an hour for the first round. You can take a few minutes break and continue after that, or you can continue on a different day.
You’ll want to have three containers – if you’re using trash bags, make sure you know which is which! One container is trash, one container is donate, one container is rehome – it’s items that you want to keep but they shouldn’t be in this location. We’re not going to break your concentration by having you go put things where they belong right now.
As you handle each object, don’t take too long in making your decision. The longer you linger, the more likely you are to keep it. Go with your first gut instinct. Some of this will be easy – a broken hanger will obviously go in the trash. Some may be more difficult – a gift from a friend. I’ll just tell you now, if it’s something you aren’t displaying or using regularly, it has served its purpose with you, and it’s probably time to let it go.
Something else I want to mention here – if it doesn’t belong to you, a younger child, or it’s not a “household” object (towels, cups, objects used by everyone in general, not one person specifically), then you don’t get to touch it. You may discuss it with the owner of the item, but don’t use this as an excuse to throw out your husband’s old T-shirt from his college days, even if it is full of holes.
Getting things out of the house
Okay, this can be the tricky part. It’s easy to say “Yes, I want to get rid of this” – it’s harder to actually follow through.
Take the trash out first. It’s easiest to do. No attachment to a bag of trash, right?
My first choice is to donate your items to a thrift store. Go ahead and load those in your car. If you have large items, you can call the thrift store of your choice and see if they’ll come pick them up.
If you’re wanting to sell your items, I recommend using Facebook Marketplace – it’s easy and convenient. Go ahead and snap a picture of every item you’re wanting to sell. Make sure you’re noting any damage or wear and tear. Go ahead and list items – you can even do it while watching TV or feeding the baby.
If you’re wanting to hold a garage sale, do you have a place where you can hold the items temporarily? Do you live in someplace suitable for a garage sale? Will you have enough to make it worth your time? Be cautious with this – not only does this involve the most work, it gives you the most opportunity to change your mind as well.
It really feels great when you start decluttering. I’ve been working on decluttering my house again, and it’s already feeling more open and easier to clean than it was.
Notice how I said again? Unless you’re a super hardcore minimalist, this is something you’ve got to do periodically throughout your life. The good news is, once you learn to make those decisions about clutter – what to keep versus what to get rid of, how much you really value something – it gets easier. Eventually, you get to the point where you realize that if you bring an object into your life, you’ll eventually have to get rid of it too, and you learn to stop bringing unnecessary items in.
There’s so much more I can say on this subject, but that’s going to have to wait for some future posts.