On my birth certificate, I’m pretty sure they got my middle name wrong. It’s not actually “Renee” it’s “Organization Queen.” If nothing else, I think I should at least put “Decluttering Diva” on my resume. After all, I’ve parred down my life to fit in an Airstream and at my last job, I weeded over 6,000 books from our collection. What can I say, it’s a talent.
I’ve compiled some of my best tips and tricks into the handy-list below. Don’t print it out, hoarders. Just refer to it when you need it.
- Identify the source: Where is your clutter coming from? Is it paper clutter? Clothing? Knick-nacks? Once you identify the source of your clutter, it’ll be easier to eliminate it.
- Unsubscribe to junk mail and e-mail: Mail, snail and email, was a huge source of clutter for me. Unsubscribing to most emails and junk snail mail through Catalog Choice was a huge weight off my shoulders. Now the junk mail never even makes it into my mailbox or inbox.
- Do an inventory: It seems silly, but take an inventory of your stuff room by room. This will help you to recognize duplicate items and things that do double-duty. For example, my blender food processes. I don’t really need a blender and a food processor.
- Host a yardsale: Once you identify stuff you don’t need, it’s time to actually get rid of it. Getting money from my old stuff was a huge incentive to haul it out of my house. A yardsale is the traditional way to make money from your stuff, but don’t forget about flea markets and selling stuff online too.
- Give your stuff away: If money isn’t an incentive to get rid of stuff, well, I don’t know how to help you. Kidding. You can always give your stuff to friends and family or strangers in need. Donating items to thrift stores, like Goodwill, not only feels good, you can also write it off your taxes!
- Get rid of two things before you bring one thing into the house: This is a good, on-the-fly way to declutter. Before you bring anything else into the house, get rid of two things. This way, you get your new item, but you also make room for it.
- Put it on ice: (Figuratively or Literally!) I heard this tip a long time ago and I always thought it was so clever. Freeze your credit cards in a cup of water, so you don’t make impulse purchases. That way, when they are defrosting, you have time to think about your possible purchase. You could also take this figuratively and just wait 48 hours (or a set amount of time) before making any new purchases.
- Enlist the help of an honest friend or family member: Ooo! Ooo! Pick me! It probably isn’t realistic to think that I could come over to each and every one of your houses while you are decluttering. (Although I would love to!) I’m sure you all have that super honest friend or family member who will help you go through the process.
- Set a goal for yourself: Really this is a life tip. You will rarely get things done in life without some sort of end goal in mind. Make your goals S.M.A.R.T. and make your goal something that you really want. I’d also recommend that your goal isn’t more “stuff.” A weekend trip, perhaps?!
- Set consequences, too: For some people, goals aren’t enough. And I get that. Cleaning and decluttering is painful! Set S.M.A.R.T. goals and consequences. Make yourself accountable if you don’t meet your goal, or enlist a friend or family member to keep you accountable.
- Limit your collections: I love to collect books, vintage hats, and Fiestaware. But my collections took up too much space and were too good of an excuse to spend cash. I weeded down my book collection and sold my vintage hat collection. I couldn’t part with any of my Fiestaware, but limiting my collections to just one type of thing has freed up so much space.
- Be realistic: We’ve all got that pair of skinny pants in our closets that we can’t bear to part with. I think I’ve got some skinny jeans and maybe a skinny dress or two. But we all need to get realistic with ourselves. Are we ever going to fit back into them? No. Let’s give them away, ladies and gents. They’re contributing to the clutter and they’re not making us happier.
- Be grateful: Whenever I get sad or jealous that I don’t have a larger house (to fit more stuff into!) I make a gratitude list. We all have so much to be grateful for, but it’s easy to forget. Make a gratitude list and I guarantee most of the stuff on there won’t be “stuff.”
- Ruthlessly prioritize: I read one time that Sheryl Sandberg, CEO of Facebook, ruthlessly prioritizes and I never forgot that. Ruthlessly prioritizing every aspect of your life can give it new clarity. This especially applies to clutter. Ruthlessly prioritize that mess!
- Focus on outcomes: Focus on that end goal. Leave reminders of the goal around your house. Focus on an outcome that is of great importance to you. You want to have a safe, uncluttered house for your kids. You want to travel with the money you make from your old stuff and save money by not buying more “stuff.” (That’s my goal!) Whatever motivates you, focus on it.
- Remember the broken window theory: The broken window theory applies to housework too. If one part of your house is a wreck, it bleeds into other parts. The same happens with a clean, organized room. Once you start organizing and decluttering, you won’t want to stop. Trust me.
- Do Yoga: (Or whatever relaxes you) Purging your stuff and making a million decisions about it, can be incredibly stressful. We all suffer from decision fatigue, and need to relax our brains. Take your time going through your stuff, if necessary, and relax afterward.
- Take a mental health day: Don’t worry, I won’t tell your boss. Sometimes it is totally necessary to take a day off just to get your life together. Take time off to declutter a room and I guarantee, you’ll perform better at work.
- Take a walk in the park: Nature is super relaxing and clears the mind. When the purging gets tough, take a walk. Nature has no clutter!
- Eat your veggies: No one can declutter on an empty stomach. Eat a healthy, but light meal before you begin this massive endeavor. May I recommend a slimer smoothie? It’ll get that brain (and bowels?!) workin’, promise!
- Sleep on it: If you have an item you are unsure about purging, sleep on it. Working with a tired brain just doesn’t work. Go to sleep and come back to the item tomorrow. You’ll have brand new clarity.
- But don’t sleep in: Get up early to declutter. Treat it like a job. Because it is. A huge, adult life job. The longer you wait in the day, the harder it is to declutter.
- Remind yourself that it’s just “stuff”: At the end of the day, stuff is just stuff. You can’t take it with you. People are more important. Experiences are more important. Having less stuff sets you free to live your wonderful, gorgeous, electric life.
- Be kind to yourself: Making the life decision to live with less is incredibly hard. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but it’s also one of the most rewarding. Be kind to yourself during this process. Know that it may take time. Love yourself and be gentle when necessary.
- Keep it up: One of the hardest parts of purging stuff is not bringing it back into your life. Keep doing an inventory. Evaluate your purchases. Keep a picture of your goal in your wallet. Remember that the most important thing in life isn’t stuff. As one of my idols, Suze Orman says, “People first, then money, then things.”
How do you declutter? Let me know in the comments!
P.S. I know “declutter” isn’t technically a word. But it should be. Declutter implies finality. Unclutter implies a temporary state. At least in my mind. What do you think?