Getting Started With the Big Project of Decluttering Your Home
In a recent study by Sparefoot, 27 percent of the respondents said they spend two hours (or more) looking for misplaced items in their homes. That's nearly one in three survey responses! Can you imagine how much time they would save if they spent one to two days a month decluttering, organizing and straightening up their home instead?
Before you dive into a pile of clutter without a plan, there are a few steps you can take to ensure that your time and effort won’t go to waste. Here’s what to do so you’re prepared before you get started decluttering your home.
Have a Purpose
There are two main pitfalls of beginning the decluttering process on a whim with no clear end goal.
- The first is that you start enthusiastically but then become bogged down in uncertainty about particular items (“I don’t need this, but I sort of like it. And what if it comes in handy someday?”) and lose momentum (“Whatever, I’ll do this next weekend.”)
- The second is that you successfully part with truckloads of clutter only to find that new clutter starts creeping back in because you never understood why your home became cluttered in the first place. (Knowing this is one of the golden rules of decluttering.)
To prevent both of these outcomes, think about why you’re decluttering and what you want to accomplish. What you keep and what you toss will probably be different depending on whether you’re moving to a smaller home, streamlining your routines to save time and money, or embracing a more minimalist aesthetic.
Assess the Damage
If you look around your cluttered space and see utter chaos, don’t panic - chances are, it’s not really that bad. Often, messiness is concentrated in a few areas, e.g. your basement or filing cabinets, or restricted to certain types of items, like clothes or hobby equipment. On the other hand, it’s possible that denial has set in and your clutter situation is worse than you imagined. The important thing is to be realistic: do you need to hire a crew with a large truck to help you haul stuff away and a professional cleaner to manage the aftermath, or is it just a matter of buying some trash bags and putting in a few hours work? Either way, it’s okay. Simply honestly identifying what needs to be done is a big step.
Break It Down
Before you start throwing unused items away, break the job down into smaller parts. You can choose to declutter room by room or item by item, for example, sort through all your makeup and beauty products even though some are stored in the bathroom, others in your bedroom, and more in the hall closet.
I like a combination of the two; more isolated areas like attics or closets can usually be tackled on their own, but in many homes, the living room and dining room, blend into one another to some degree, which means it can be helpful to view them as a whole. If decluttering a whole room sounds like too large of a task, take it in sections. In your home office, declutter your desk, then your files, then your bookcase, and so on. Just be aware of using this technique as an excuse to redistribute clutter to other parts of the room. If you can’t clean out your dresser without making your closet look worse, those two areas need to be combined. And if you have a very small apartment, you may have no choice but to treat the whole place as one “section.”
If you start sorting through your belongings without an easy way to dispose of clutter, you’ll end up in a messy pile of unwanted items and your motivation will fade fast. Don’t jump into decluttering without first making sure you have trash bags for items that need to be thrown away and cardboard boxes or sturdy paper bags for items you’ll donate to charity or give to friends. You might also want to acquire a few storage products like a hanging sweater bag for the closet or a drawer divider for cutlery. But don’t run out and buy such products until you know for sure that you’ll use them. If a storage solution isn’t obvious ahead of time, wait until you’ve cleaned everything out and can get a fresh look at your stuff and how it can best be stored in your space.
Prepare Some Distractions
If the thing that’s keeping you from decluttering is the fear of boredom, get ready by accumulating some music or podcasts to listen to as you work. If you have to make a special decluttering playlist or save up a week’s worth of radio shows to get through the tedium, go for it. Do what you need to do to make decluttering fun and you might even start to see the process as something enjoyable rather than a chore.
PS: You should take the 31 Day Decluttering Challenge.