Decluttering. Even the word can sound like hard work. And I know what you’re thinking – how in the world can you start doing something so difficult when there’s so much going on? We’re working from home, we’re homeschooling, we’re endlessly feeding people and we’re worrying about keeping people safe. It’s a lot. It really is. But all of that extra activity comes with extra stuff. That stuff, gets put and piled and dumped, and suddenly it’s out of control. A home that feels out of control will make you feel out of control and that is the opposite of what we need right now.
So how do you start decluttering without feeling overwhelmed?
FIRST, GET YOUR HEAD STRAIGHT
Decluttering is just a fancy way of saying “making some decisions”.
There’s no right or wrong decision, but making a decision is the first step. Don’t look at an overflowing cupboard and panic at the thought of organising it. Organising comes later, so forget it. First you need to just decide what, in that cupboard, do you want or need to keep, and then decide to let everything else go.
Your home has rooms, cupboards and drawers and each has a finite amount of space in it. Yes, you could chuck it all in boxes and move to a bigger house, but short of doing that, if the clutter in your home is overwhelming, you need to decide to live comfortably in the space that you have.
Let go of the clutter and you’ll let go of the stress that it brings you.
You might make a mistake and get rid of that thing that would have been really useful to have had when you start getting back into making your own ice cream, but 99% of the time your decision will be just fine. So relax, don’t overthink it, and focus on the life that you have now, not the life you might possibly have in three year’s time when you’ve done that thing, and been to that place, and have discovered that you actually love making ice cream.
ALL YOU NEED TO DECIDE IS:
- Do you LOVE it – Do you really love it? Does it make you smile and feel a bit sparkly?
- Do you USE it – Have you used it in the last year? Be honest!
- Do you NEED it – If you don’t need to keep it for legal/tax/safety reasons, do you really need to keep it? Could you do without the manual for your kettle, or the box for your three year old phone? (Tip: the answer is “of course you could!” You know how to use your kettle, and your phone isn’t going anywhere in a box).
If the item you’re looking at ticks one of those boxes, then keep it. Keeping things is absolutely fine. Just make sure you’re making a decision to keep them. Then, by default, if you don’t want or need to keep something, it’s time to say goodbye. Easy! So, with your “ready to make decisions” head on, here are….
8 TIPS TO DECLUTTER WITHOUT FEELING OVERWHELMED
1.Give yourself time
Dedicate an amount of time to complete the job in hand. It doesn’t have to be hours (in fact, I’d recommend it’s definitely NOT hours to start with), but just a clear stretch of time when you can fully focus on decluttering without interruption. Decluttering makes a mess and it’s easy to pull everything out of a drawer, but then you have to rush off and are demoralised to come back to more mess than you started with. Give yourself time to take everything out AND to put everything back. Then add a bit of time for making your decisions and a bit more for celebrating the end result.
2. Get the tools you need
Dedicate an amount of time to complete the job in hand. It doesn’t have to be hours (in fact, I’d recommend it’s definitely NOT hours to start with), but just a clear stretch of time when you can fully focus on decluttering without interruption. Decluttering and editing makes a mess and it’s easy to pull everything out of a drawer, but then you have to rush off and are demoralised to come back to more mess than you started with. Give yourself time to take everything out AND to put everything back. Then add a bit of time for making your decisions and a bit more for celebrating the end result.
3. Start with visible clutter
The best way to keep momentum and enthusiasm is to first attack the areas that you see all the time. A cluttered surface that’s now clear will give you a boost every time you walk past it. You just don’t get that if it’s a drawer. In the beginning, the high of seeing a job well done is a great motivator, so make sure you can see, enjoy and benefit from the results of the job you’ve done well.
4. Start small
I mean, really small. Taking on a whole room is a big job. It needs time and planning and can easily end up with a panic that you’ve created more mess that you can deal with before you need to feed the kids (again). Start with the kitchen table. Or one shelf. Start with something that you can complete easily within the time you’ve given yourself. You can always do another small space if you have loads of time left, or you can just look at and enjoy the feeling of having made real, visible progress.
5. Look at everything
If you have piles of books and papers on your bedside table, look at everything and decide, for each and every item, whether you want to keep it or not.
“Don’t make the mistake of assuming you know exactly what you have.”
6. Stay focussed
If you’re decluttering a bookshelf, you’re decluttering that bookshelf. Often you’ll come across things that you want to keep, but that don’t belong where you found them. Remove them from the bookshelf and put them roughly where they should ultimately live, but don’t get distracted and start decluttering that new space. This is particularly tempting for paperwork where you see things that need actioning, but walk away from the item that strayed, go back to the bookshelf and complete that job. You can set aside time to deal with the other clutter or paperwork later.
7. Let go of any guilt
Getting rid of things often creates a feeling of guilt, which can slow you down, or worse, leave you feeling unable to make a decision at all. If living in a cluttered house is causing you stress, you need to let that feeling go.
Guilt is often attached to getting rid of gifts, even if they’re not something you want to keep. Appreciate the intention of the gift, be thankful that you have people who care enough to choose it for you, but don’t let guilt be the reason you keep something when the space you live in is causing you stress. That gift will serve no purpose in the back of a cupboard, and will probably still make you feel guilty! Maybe someone else will enjoy it more.
Even if you’re recycling or donating what you can, there is still likely to be rubbish and it’s hard not to feel guilty knowing that it will end up as landfill. Remind yourself that the rubbish you are collecting should have left your house a long time ago, and it would still have ended up in the same place. You can that feeling though to change the way you think about bringing new things into your home in future. Only things that you love, use or need are welcome!
8. Plan your next step
Don’t stop now! You’ve seen some small wins with minimal stress, so just keep going. This isn’t a process that will transform your home overnight, but you can transform your home. Plan your next small step, then the next, and the next…!
Who knew it could be so easy?! Follow these tips and I promise that decluttering won’t feel overwhelming. Make the decision to take back control of your home, and start today. Start with just one small thing and you’re already making progress. Good luck!