Looking to clear your mind and your home? Follow these decluttering steps from local organizer Lynda Reider with Cut the Clutter RVA.
We all have spaces in our homes that cause us to feel anxious. Maybe you’re frustrated because you can’t find what you need when you need it. Perhaps it’s just easier to go buy those items, rather than looking for them. Maybe clutter is robbing you of your ability to focus on things you enjoy. Or, perhaps you’re tired of being the only one in your household who has to work through the clutter.
Living in a clutter-free and organized home can mean less stress, better sleep, more energy, and better relationships. It can even save you money – you’ll know exactly what you have and where it is, so you will probably spend less.
There’s an old saying: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Clutter can be that elephant. Decluttering and getting organized are all about small steps and small decisions. It’s about progress, not perfection.
Here are ten steps to help you declutter and calm the feeling of being overwhelmed:
1. Know your decluttering why.
Decluttering is a very personal journey. First, think about why the clutter is frustrating you. In general, what do you hope to accomplish by eliminating clutter?
A few questions that can help lead you to your why:
• Are you having trouble focusing on your deadlines in your cluttered home office?
• Do you want to teach your kids how and where to put toys away in their play spaces?
• Are you tired of figuring out what to wear each morning in your very full closet? Are you frustrated with clothes you never wear? Do you sometimes find clothes you forgot you owned?
The decluttering process involves lots of small decisions regarding what to keep and what should go. When it gets tough to let things go, you’ll want to remind yourself why you started in the first place. Your why can help you stay focused and motivated.
2. Where do I start when it’s time to organize?
When you’re overwhelmed, figuring out where to start can be paralyzing. Truthfully, it doesn’t matter where you start. Just start. If you’re looking for a bit more direction, start in areas that you don’t use as often, like the spare bedroom or attic. These spaces tend to have lots of unused or forgotten items. You’ll make great progress, which will fuel your motivation for the next areas.
For many people, making decisions about everyday items in the kitchen and bathroom is much easier than taking on kids’ artwork or memorabilia. Though decision-making may be hard at first, it often gets easier as you go. My advice? Tackle more emotional decluttering decisions later in your process.
3. Take organizing before photos and set mini goals.
Once you decide where to start, take before photos as proof of your eventual progress. Also, set mini goals for that space. For example, I’ll go through the linen closet on Saturday from one to two o’clock. Schedule it on your calendar like it’s an appointment or event.
4. Beware of the waterfall effect.
Try not to multi-task. If you find dish towels in your linen closet, set them in a pile to take to the kitchen once you’re done with the linen closet. If you go to the kitchen while you’re midway through the linen closet, you may end up decluttering and reorganizing your kitchen. That’s the waterfall effect – when things from one space impact other spaces. Try not to let this steal your focus.
5. Don’t buy organizing supplies … yet.
Declutter first, then organize what’s left. As you declutter, you may find you already have bins and other supplies you can reuse. Also, if you let go of enough items, you may not even need containers – a money-saving bonus.
6. Embrace the messy middle.
Take everything out of the space. Sort similar items together to make decisions easier; if you see that you have twenty sheet sets, but only four beds, donate the ones you’re not using. Know that it’s going to be messy before it’s beautiful.
7. Lean into donations.
The most important decision for each item is whether you’re keeping it or letting it go. It’s far easier to give away things when you know they’re going to a great new home. In addition to asking friends, family, and local buy-nothing groups if anyone wants them, there are many amazing nonprofits that will repurpose your donations to help people in our community.
8. Block time for emotional items when organizing.
Some categories are inherently hard to part with: kids’ artwork, photos, and memorabilia. At this point in your process, you’ve worked up to making these decisions. For emotional items, keep just a few in any given category, like your child’s artwork. If you have boxes of art, you can’t easily see and enjoy it. Consider framing your favorites or taking pictures to create a slideshow or photo book.
9. Create decluttering zones.
Reload the items you’re keeping in zones: sheets on one shelf, towels on another, extra blankets on the top shelf. Now is the time to reuse organizational supplies you already have and break out that label maker. Maybe the organizing supplies you own aren’t perfect, but remember, they are free. If you don’t have what you need, buy new organizational supplies.
10. Take organizging after photos.
Bask in the accomplishment – you deserve it. Share pictures with your friends and family. Allow your progress to fuel your motivation to tackle the next space in your home or elsewhere in your life. Good luck decluttering!