People spend millions of dollars on bigger homes every year because they feel cramped (and then they end up filling them with even more stuff) when what they really want is not necessarily a larger space, but a house WITH space. Room to breathe, peace, a place for everything and everything in its place.
One of the things that most of my clients do when I enter their homes for the first time is say, “I’m so sorry! It’s such a mess in here. We just have so much stuff!” I always comfort them by saying that it’s no big deal (it’s not), that they’re not the only ones with a “too-much stuff” issue (they’re not), and that when we finish the project, the clutter will be dealt with (it will be). Their next exclamation inevitably is, “How are you going to help me do this without me going crazy in the process?!?” I always share with them my sure-fire ways to de-clutter their homes with no stress, and I want to do the same for you here. You’ll be amazed at what the following tips and tricks will do for your home-and your happiness levels:
ONE ROOM AT A TIME
The first thing I tell my clients to do is go one room at a time, or the task becomes overwhelming. When you decide which space you are going to start with (the bedroom for instance), take “before” photos. There is nothing more satisfying than to look back on your space when you are finished and see how far you’ve come! After you take your photos, pick up and discard any items that are clearly trash (tissues, wrappers, etc.), bring anything that needs to be washed where it needs to go (dishes, dirty laundry, etc.), and anything that does not belong in that particular room (e.g. books that go in the bookshelf in the living room or board games that go in the tv room) and move them there. These steps will start to put some order in place and automatically give you that feeling of accomplishment which is so crucial to staying motivated!
A HOME FOR EACH ITEM
The next step is to ask yourself: does everything that is still in the room have a “home” in that room? By this I mean, do all the clothes have a hanger or a drawer to go into? Do the papers on the dresser have a file cabinet that they should be organized and placed in? Do the sheets all fit on the beds or have a closet or shelf to be folded and placed on? If the answer is no, then the items have got to go.
DO I USE IT, WEAR IT, THINK OF IT OFTEN?
Next, even if each of the items does have a place to live, you still need to ask yourself a few more key questions: does it have a current use? Do you wear it often? Do you use it frequently? If the answer is no, then it’s still time to part with it. There is almost certainly someone out there who would put your sweater or your extra dishes or your exercise equipment to good use. Don’t keep things around just because you know that they have value and that you’ll “get to it eventually.” The stuff will continue to subconsciously weigh on you, and your situation will not improve.
I realize, of course, that decisions to let go of things get trickier when it comes to certain items that have sentimental value. It’s not always easy to part with a gift or a particular piece of clothing that reminds you of a special time or person. And that’s ok. Again, the point is not to get rid of everything. The point is to give you some breathing room. So keep some of those things that have meaning to you-as long as they don’t weigh you down.
GET RID OF IT
The final step in getting rid of the clutter in any one room is to actually get rid of it. It sounds ridiculous, I know, but what often happens is that people will go through a room, organize, put things in boxes to give away, recycle, sell, and donate, and then those boxes…get moved to another room like the garage or basement, and then sit there for another year. So instead of decluttering, they’ve really just relocated the clutter, and then the process has to start all over again from scratch because they’ve forgetten what was in the boxes in the first place!
So set yourself a schedule: write in your calendar which day you are going to Goodwill, which day you will post things online, which day you will donate to the school library, etc. And stick to this calendar. Anything that doesn’t happen on that date gets automatically donated or recycled. It will keep you accountable, and it’s a simple way to keep track of the things you still need to take care of.
And that’s it-simple! Follow this process one room at a time. Ignore the entire rest of the house if you need to. And then, at the end, don’t forget to take your “after” photos and compare. You will be AMAZED at what you’ve accomplished, and be so much lighter and happier for it-I promise.