Simplicity Series: De-Cluttering your life (Part 7)


Clutter can be a major stressor in many people’s lives. If when you are constantly distracted by the mess around you, you will have difficulty moving forward and focusing on important things. Decluttering and organizing will also help you with your task from the previous post of tracking your possessions.

The process of decluttering can be very overwhelming for some people. Every drawer and closet is stuffed to the brim, every countertop and table is covered and your rooms are so filled with furniture or boxes you can barely get around. Where do you start?

An important thing to remember is that your house did not get cluttered overnight; and as such, it cannot become uncluttered overnight either. Start in one area of one room; one drawer, one shelf in the closet, one countertop or tabletop and do only a little bit each day. It’s probably easiest to start with the stuff that’s just hanging around and then move onto the drawers and storage areas afterwards. Anything that you don’t use daily should be put away in storage in a closet or drawer if possible. Use a timer if you have to, and set aside 15-30 minutes each day to clear an area.

Get yourself four boxes and label or designate one box “give away”, one “throw away”, and one “put away”. When you want to clean an area, such as a drawer, empty it out entirely into the one unlabeled box. Then wipe down the drawer or shelf before you begin to put things back. Go through each item in the box one at a time and ask yourself, do I love this item? When did I use it last? Is it necessary? If you find you don’t need it, or haven’t used it in a long time, put it in either the “give away” or “throw away” box (depending on the condition). If you are going to keep the item, but decide it belongs elsewhere, put it in the “put away” box. When the “throw away” box gets full, take it out to the curb immediately. When the “give away” box gets full, put it in the trunk of your car or near the front door, and the next time you go out—take it immediately to a charity box or second hand store. When the “put away” box gets full, take the box around the house and put the belongings in the storage area where they belong.

If you are uncertain about certain items, you can create another box and label it the “maybe” box. Once it becomes filled, seal it and store it somewhere out of sight. If you find you haven’t come back to it in six months or a year, it’s probably wise to give it away (without even opening it) or else open it up and go through the exercise again.

Pull everything out of your closets and put it on your bed. If you haven’t worn it in months (with the exception of seasonal clothing) then donate it. If it doesn’t fit, donate it. If it’s stained or torn beyond repair, toss it or donate it to someone who makes repurposed clothing. Put all seasonal clothing in a storage container and store it elsewhere if possible, and bring it out only during the appropriate season, so you don’t keep your closet cluttered all year round.

If you are not swimming in clutter, or have a weekend or few days to devote solely to decluttering, you can use a more aggressive approach. Place a box in front of each storage area in your house, every closet, every drawer, every shelf. Then start with one storage area and empty it completely into a box. Now go through that box and redistribute anything that doesn’t belong in that storage area to the box in front of the storage area where it belongs. Once you finish with one area, move to the next. Leave everything in the boxes until you have re-sorted all the contents to where they belong, then clean each drawer or shelf and begin to put the belongings away. Once you have found a “home” for every belonging—keep it there.

Help to keep yourself decluttered by making spaces for your purses, backpacks or briefcases and giving paperwork proper files instead of letting it overtake your desk. Designate a spot for incoming papers and regularly go through the contents and file them away or discard anything that’s unnecessary. Keep a special box or basket for your children’s toys in their rooms or the living room and have them return all the toys there after play. Keep in mind that your children (or your spouse in some cases!) won’t change their behaviours overnight, so be patient and gently remind them to put things back in their place after use.

There is no need to go out and buy a whole bunch of storage units and pretty boxes to keep these things in until you are finished this process and know exactly what you need (if anything at all), as this will just add to your clutter.