Ever heard the saying “less is more.” It’s amazing how seldom we apply that to home decor. Decluttering is not always easy… in fact, it can be downright painful. But the end result is usually very satisfying, and a cleaner, simpler, more attractive home.
More stuff – otherwise known as “clutter” can often lead to a room feeling “overstuffed” as well as making it much more difficult to KEEP a room the way you have created it. Less can actually lead to more in terms of style, organization and overall look.
According to clutter experts, the people tend to collect clutter, do so for one of three main reasons
The Hectic Lifestyle that Needs Decluttering
These folks have a tendency to buy things that they already own, simply because they don’t know where they put the last one they bought. Or the one before that. Or… well, you get the picture. Without a system in place for where to find things when they are needed, and without the time to search through the various junk drawers and bins, the easiest solution becomes to simply buy another one.
The Hoarder and the Clutter that Follows
Yes, there is a teeny, tiny possibility that they might need that random item someday in the future, so they hold onto everything… just in case. And, there is truth to that statement. When the declutter process is complete, at least once in the next 12 months, they will go “Darnit! I knew I shouldn’t have thrown out that xxxxx!” But, this will only occur once (maybe twice) for the over 100 things that are removed from the house.
The Non-Starter on the DeClutter
These folks don’t know where to begin. They may have good intentions and make a decision (perhaps around New Years) that they will declutter their homes. But, they get overwhelmed as soon as they start to realistically think about doing so, and therefore the process never begins.
Soon enough, you’re home can easily start to look like this:
It’s hard to establish focal points when there are hundreds of things to look at. In order to create an impact while improving a room’s overall function, consider grouping like items into a single collection, discarding (through donation or gifting to friends and family) unnecessary pieces or storing items away and rotating them keep the room fresh.
The Road to Clutter is Paved with Good Intentions
It is rare that a person purposefully creates a cluttered home. I’m not saying that it doesn’t happen… so people love the “eclectic” look of a bunch of different objects. And, sometimes, that purposefully cluttered look can work. But creating a well designed, well-cluttered house actually takes more work than doing a proper decluttering.
But,sometimes, it’s a challenge letting go.
The Five Questions You Need to Ask Yourself While Decluttering
To prepare yourself for the decluttering exercise, get ready to ask yourself these 5 questions when determining whether or not to keep key items.
Do I need it?
This sounds like an easy question. The challenge is to REALLY ask yourself, and not just default to “Yes, of course I do!”
Can I replace it?
Sometimes we hold onto things that are easily replaced should that moment arise… years in the future… when you actually do need it. If the item is easily replaced, it is much easier to let it go. However, if the piece is one-of-a-kind and you will never find anything like it again, give it a moment or two more thought.
Is it Mine?
You’d be amazed how often a sizable portion of the clutter is made up from borrowed, lost, or left-behind items. If it isn’t yours, return it to the owner. If you don’t know who the owner is… donate it to a new one. The only caveat being Question #2. If you borrow something irreplaceable, but can’t remember who you borrowed it from – hold onto it and think harder.
Is it Worth It?
Is it worth the space it’s taking up in your home? Try to think about how much your home is worth… per square foot… and assign that value to how much space this item is taking up inside your home. Also, try to think of the cost to your piece of mind that this extra bit of clutter will cause. And then ask yourself, Is it worth it?
When was the last time I used it?
A general rule of thumb… If you haven’t used the item in the last 12 months, let it go! If you haven’t used the item since you moved into the house 10 years ago, really, really, really let it go!
Now that you’re mentally prepared, you can begin the decluttering process.
The Four Pile Approach to Decluttering
To get things started, I recommend dividing your treasured belongings into Four Distinct Piles. While you’re going through a room, you don’t need to get rid of anything initially… just start to divide it up based on how critical it is that it remain in your life.
Things that CAN Go
These are the easiest. You look at them and realize that you have no emotional, sentimental, or practical attachment to the item. It might be something you bought on a whim a long time ago, but now you’re over it.
Things that SHOULD Go
This pile gets a little more challenging. These are the ones that might tweak the “I might use this someday” muscle. Or the “But it’s SOOO cute” reflect. But, the first step is to simply put it in the pile… you’re not getting rid of it (yet)
Things that MUST Go (Even though I Don’t Want It To)
This is the toughest pile. Your mind is telling you that you don’t need that souvenir that you picked up on that really terrible trip to some small town you don’t actually remember. Your heart is telling you that you’ll regret it if you do. For now, just put it in the pile !
Things that CAN NOT Go
This is your safe space. The things in this pile are protected and cannot be removed from the house. Unless, of course, you move it to another pile later… but we’ll get to that.
The Three Different Approaches to Decluttering
This is the most thorough approach to decluttering, where you methodically go through a room… including all the junk drawers… and create each pile carefully. You study the item, you ask yourself the key questions, and you carefully choose what to keep and what to dispose of.
The nice thing about this approach is that it also gives you a chance to rethink your piles (see above). When you’ve done the first round and you realize that the pile of “Things that CAN NOT go” is far, far too large.. you can slowly, and carefully, move things from that pile to one of the others.
For those who do not have the time, or know themselves well enough to know that if they think about it too long they’ll keep EVERYTHING, the Tornado approach could work. With this approach, you take 10 Minutes to find 10 things that you can donate, trash or recycle. Do this one room at a time, once a week, and – in time – you will discover that you’re home is free of unnecessary clutter.
The Magic Trick
This approach is good for those who really have a hard time letting go. Take those 4 piles that you created, and the ones that fall into the “Must Go, even though you don’t want it to” and put them into a box. Seal the box. 3 weeks later, try to remember what’s inside the box. If you can’t… POOF… they’re gone! Donate the entire box.
The Two Best Times of the Year to Tackle Decluttering
There is something about the renewal of Spring that really helps motivate one to get things cleaned and organized. They don’t call it Spring Cleaning for nothing!
At the end of a busy summer, it’s nice to take time – before the busy holiday season starts – tackle the home and make it ready for the Winter.
The One Decluttering Rule to Remember Moving Forward
A place for everything, and everything in its place.
If you have something and you simply don’t know where to put it… think of that as a clue that maybe — just maybe — you don’t need to keep it.
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