Now that 2020 has come to a close it seems the number one focus on everyone’s mind (besides losing those covid 19 pounds) is decluttering. As someone who has gone through the process of decluttering I would call myself somewhat of a decluttering expert. Three years ago we moved from a 3800 sq ft house with a fully packed basement to our home today, an 1800 sq ft condo. And if our large house wasn’t enough, we also had 10′ x 12′ fully packed storage unit!
Before I share my tips, I want to point out that decluttering is different from downsizing. Decluttering is getting rid of excess belongings that you no longer need, want or love. Downsizing is when you must get rid of things that you still want and love but they won’t fit into your new downsized home. However, before you get to the downsizing part, you must first declutter.
Here are five tips for getting it done.
1.Have a clear vision
Before you start the decluttering process it helps to have a clear vision of the end result. Maybe your goal is an organized home with everything in its proper place? Perhaps you want less things to take care of. For most people, less items equals less stress. In my case, we decluttered with the goal of moving into the city and being free from the demands of a big house.
Whatever your reason, keep the final vision clearly in mind. Maybe even make a vision board with your future goal in photos. It will help remind you why you want to continue on when the going gets tough.
2. Figure out what decluttering style works best for you.
Unless you are the rare bird who can say, ” pull the dumpster up to the back door” and then start heaving stuff into the trash, decluttering takes time…lot’s of time. It’s important to figure out what decluttering style works best for your personality. Basically there are three different decluttering styles.
1. The Marie Kondo method. This celebrity decluttering guru has her clients work on one category at a time. She suggests collecting everything in your house from a single category, such as books or clothes. Lay it all out in front of you. Then evaluate each item and ask if it sparks joy. If not, ditch it and move on. Continue to work on that single category until you have gone through it all before moving to the next category.
I think this works best if you live in a small space. This didn’t work for me at all. We had too much stuff scattered throughout too many rooms and boxes to pull everything out at once from a single category.
2. Declutter by space, area or room. In this method start with one space or area at a time. For example, start with decluttering a closet and them move on to another area. In my case we started decluttering in the basement and worked our way up to the bedrooms on the third floor. I intentionally chose to start in the basement because I knew that area would be the most challenging. We had hundreds of boxes down there that we inherited after the passing of my mother in law and my mom. I knew my decluttering momentum would start to wane so I chose to do the most challenging area first.
3. Declutter using a timer. This works great if you have kids or want to chip away at it over time. It’s pretty straight forward. Set a timer for a predetermined length of time. Have everyone in the household work in whatever space they want until the timer goes off. I have found it helps to set up a regular routine, like 30 minutes every Saturday morning, and schedule it out.
Once you start the process you’ll figure out which decluttering style works best for you. In my case, a combination of two and three got the job done.
3. Chunk down your decluttering
If your job is huge, like mine was, then it helps to chunk it down. For example, we decided we wanted to put the house on the market in one year. We then divided the house up into twelve areas, one for each month. Big spaces like the basement were designated as three areas so we had three months to complete the decluttering. The other nine areas were allotted one month of decluttering each. We kept a tight watch on the calendar and picked up the pace if the designated area wasn’t looking like it would be complete within the time frame. We stuck with it, kept the final goal in mind and finished exactly on time.
4. Three questions to ask if you get stuck
If you are decluttering simply to be more organized and live with less, then you don’t have to get rid of as much as if you are going to be downsizing. In that case, these three questions will help you decide what should stay and what should go.
Do I love it? (furniture, art work, accessories, clothes)
Do I need it? (old tax receipts, waffle iron warranty, 20+ scented candles)
Do I use it? (ten year old treadmill, old tools, clothes 2 sizes too small)
It can also be helpful to make four different piles for each decluttering session. KEEP, DONATE, SELL, and TRASH
5. What I learned
Depending on how much you want or need to get rid of will determine how aggressive you need to be with your decluttering. In my case, I had to be ruthless, knowing I wanted to live smaller and closer to the city. It was the hardest thing I ever did, but it was the best thing I ever did.
I will be honest, it wasn’t easy. I loved everything I owned, so everything “sparked joy”. As you may have heard before, and it was true in my case, my kids wanted NOTHING!
Many treasured collections, antiques, furniture and decorative items had to go. Even as committed as I was, there were still several epic breakdowns and tears.
If this is your year to accomplish major decluttering possibly to downsize, then please know, it will be worth it. Once the pain of loss (and guilt) is over, living with less is so freeing. It allows you to focus on experiences and activities rather than being the caretaker of “stuff”. Should you decide to move to a cottage near the beach or a cabin in the woods, you will be free to move much more readily if you go ahead and declutter now.
Lastly, after being left with two full houses of belongings from our parents, I vowed I would never do that to my children. Remember, for the overwhelming majority of today’s kids, they do not want your stuff. Declutter now and your family and your future self will thank you for it.
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