Declutter your life.


April GO Challenge:

Declutter your life.

If you want to reduce stress in your life, a good place to start is by decluttering. It’s true. Clutter in your home or workplace, or even too many commitments, could be adding to your anxiety level, whether you realize it or not.

How? Just think about the frustration you feel when you can’t find something that’s lost in the clutter. Add to that the shame of knowing you should be cleaning up the mess but can’t muster the energy to do it. The strain gets even worse when clutter is linked to sentimental items you can’t bear to deal with because they bring up feelings of loss, grief or regret.

Yes, clutter can weigh you down. But the good news is, getting rid of it can free you up for a happier, healthier, more productive life. Here are a few refreshing benefits of decluttering:

  • More pleasant living spaces
  • Reduced stress
  • Less shame/embarrassment
  • More clarity and focus
  • More organized and productive life
  • More energy and freedom to pursue your passions

Take an objective look at your life — your living spaces, your workspace and any commitments you have. Note any areas that could benefit from decluttering, but avoid self-criticism. Try this simple exercise:

  • Start with 5 minutes. Choose an area that needs “simplifying” and begin decluttering. But only work for 5 minutes. Even if all you do is throw away trash or junk mail, you’ve still lightened your load and given yourself a feeling of accomplishment. Tomorrow, do another 5 minutes.

Tips to start conquering the clutter.

For many, the hardest part of decluttering is getting started. We’re often so overwhelmed by the enormity of the task that we just can’t bring ourselves to buckle down. But know this. You don’t have to tackle the problem all at once. By starting small, you can get a few “wins” under your belt and gradually ease into the habit of decluttering.

Here are some tips for getting started:

  • Mark your calendar. Don’t wait for someday. Set a date and begin unstuffing. No excuses. If you have an upcoming event (e.g., guests arriving for a visit, book group at your house, a neighborhood garage sale) to serve as motivation, all the better. The idea is to create a sense of urgency.
  • Set a timer. Designate a chunk of time each day (or several times a week) to the task of sorting. Ideally, work no longer than an hour without a break; 15-30 minutes is about right. Tackle one area at a time, and set a timer so you stay on task and minimize any mess.
  • Use the 4-box method. Grab four boxes, label them Trash, Donate, Keep and Store, and fill accordingly.
  • Trash: Junk mail, papers to be shredded, broken items you’ll never get fixed, orphan socks, pens with no ink, lidless plastic containers, etc.
  • Donate: Items you can give to a good cause (Goodwill, charity, church), sell (eBay, Craigslist, garage sale), or give away (offer to friends/relatives, post on social media, or set out on the curb).
  • Keep: Items you love or use regularly AND have a space for.
  • Store: Items you don’t use regularly but still want to keep (sentimental items, photos, holiday decorations, childhood keepsakes).  

IMPORTANT: When a session is over, deal with the contents of each box. Take out any trash; find a place for the items you’re keeping; move storage items to the attic; and haul any donations to your car for a trip to the donation center. Don’t let the filled boxes add to the clutter in your home!

  • Consult an expert. Need inspiration? Read one of the many books on decluttering, such as Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up or Ruth Soukup’s Unstuffed: Decluttering Your Home, Mind, and Soul.
  • Reduce your commitments. Clutter can be more than just a physical burden. Between work, home, civic and social responsibilities, your life may feel as chaotic as that overstuffed closet. But you can fix it! Take stock and eliminate any commitments that don’t bring joy or value to your life. 

How to deal with hard-to-purge items.

If you’re having trouble parting with certain belongings, don’t despair. Often, it’s not the item per se that’s holding you back so much as your attitude toward it. And that, you can change. Here are some tips for saying goodbye to those hard-to-purge items.  

  • Get rid of the guilt. Some of the trickiest items to discard are the ones you feel guilt over:
  • Unloved gifts from loved ones — Pass these along to someone who will actually enjoy them. It doesn’t mean you love the giver any less.
  • Expensive purchases you’ve never used — If you haven’t used it yet, you’re not going to. Sell it. Donate it. Make more space for you. 
  • Useful items you have no use for — These are perfect for a garage sale or the donation box. Think of it as finding the right home for unwanted items.   
  • Take a photo of sentimental items. Choose a few mementos to hang onto, take photos of the rest and let them go. Do you really need your dad’s beloved golf clubs if you’re not going to use them and they’re only taking up space? Cherish a photo instead.
  • Beware of the past. You may have perfectly useful items in your home that unfortunately remind you of a painful past or a person you’d like to forget. Release them. It’s time to move on with your life and make room for good things to come.
  • Let go of outdated interests. It’s hard to give away possessions that remind us of who we used to be — or aspired to be. If you’re hanging on to old art supplies, water skis, or a saxophone you haven’t played in years, stop torturing yourself with feelings of regret. Admit your interests have changed, acknowledge the person you once were, and clear a space for the person you’re becoming.
  • Deal with incomplete projects. If a project’s been sitting unfinished longer than 6 months, it’s time to reassess. Either finish the project, hire a professional, donate the materials, or (if it’s a craft) sell it on 
  • Ask yourself 4 key questions. “Do I use it? Do I love it? Am I sentimentally attached to it? If I were shopping right now, would I buy this?” The more times you answer “no,” the more you need to eliminate the item.

Respect the item enough to find it a better home.

While you may think you’re keeping an item because you treasure it, ask yourself if you’re really the best guardian for it. If the item’s been lost in a pile of clutter or shoved away in a box all this time, is it really being treasured? Granted, you’ve kept it safe until now, but maybe it’s time to find this keepsake a better home.