Decluttering Your Life

Sometimes cleaning up the house can be overwhelming.

Does the clutter in your house cause you stress? Do you have at least one room that is off limits to company? Is the clutter a cause for conflict with other family members? Do you want less clutter but you are too overwhelmed to begin? Many of us struggle to keep up with the clutter in our lives. Over time, people accumulate unused and unnecessary items, cluttering their homes, garages, and basements. 

If you want to be organized, every item must have a home. You can’t put something away if it doesn’t have a home. If you do, you’re just stashing stuff, and you’ll probably never be able to find it again. Try this strategy. Get five boxes. As quickly as possible, pick up items one by one and decide which container they go in.

  • Garbage
  • Recycling
  • Giveaways or donations
  • Yard sale or resale/consignment shop
  • Items that you intend to keep but need to return to their correct places in other rooms should go in the laundry basket. It’s easy to carry, and you can easily see the things in it.

Having a home for an item should mean that there is only one logical place for you to look for it. For example, there should be only one place that you keep your old tax records. There should only be one drawer where you would find your socks, and only one place where your child will find favorite puzzles or stuffed animals.

Tips for making this approach more effective:

  • Use a timer. If you have only a little time to work, setting a timer will help you keep focused and working efficiently. Don’t leave the room at all during that time, especially not to return an item to another room.
  • Make a decision. When you’re having difficulty deciding what to get rid of, ask yourself these questions 
    • How long has it been since I used this?
    • Do I like it?
    • Does it work properly? Be realistic about repairing broken items. Many items cost more to repair than to replace; some items cannot be repaired. If you’ve already replaced the item, it’s unlikely you’ll ever repair the old one.
    • Do I have more of this kind of thing? How many do I need?
    • If I keep this, what will I get rid of to make room for it?
    • Can I locate this information somewhere else (probably on the Internet) if I need it?
  • Have a buddy. This is especially helpful if you’re planning to work for a lengthy period of time at one stretch. You will probably run into items that are difficult for you to decide what to do with. And you may reach a point where you feel you can’t make decisions any more. Have a good friend, sibling, or your spouse with you. It will make the task less burdensome, and they may help you decide what to do with the tougher items.
  • Recycle unused gifts. Keep unused gifts with your “gift inventory”—those things that you purchase ahead of time for gifts. Use them when you need a gift on a moments’ notice, or when you know the item is a good choice for a recipient.
  • Shred or tear up documents you intend to toss that contain personal information.