As a lifelong clutterer, I know there aren’t any shortcuts to creating and maintaining a decluttered space.
Even if we have the means to hire professional organizers, unless we change our habits and our thinking about our belongings, we are likely to recreate our cluttered habitat over and over again.
But, with gradual, steady change and attention, we can transform our homes. Here are five tips for clearing out space in our homes and lives.
1. Get help. My clutter issues are a combination of brain wiring, habit, and over-sentimentality. In order to change my relationship with my belongings, I need help. Fortunately, there is support. CLA, or Clutterers Anonymous, is a 12-step group for people struggling with clutter issues. While face-to-face CLA meetings are somewhat sparse, the group holds daily phone meetings. In addition to check-in sessions and regular 12-step meetings, CLA also offers daily “focused action” meetings. The accountability and support these meetings offer is powerful and effective.
Another free support program is the Flylady email program. Started by Marla Cilley in 1999, Flylady sends out daily emails to support hundreds of thousands of subscribers as they declutter and tidy their homes. Her tone is gentle yet firm, and Cilley has a keen understanding of the perfectionism that runs through many people who struggle with clutter.
2. Chip away. Our homes didn’t get messy overnight, and they won’t get clean instantly either. Small, consistent steps add up. I learned the value of setting a timer from Flylady. When I have to do a task I’m feeling resistant to, I’ll set the timer on my phone for 15 minutes, crank up Pandora, and focus on one small area of my house. Knowing I can stop when the timer goes off helps me face the unpleasant work, and I’m always surprised by how much I can get done in a short time.
3. Take it all out. When I’m decluttering an area like a drawer or a bin, I’ve learned to start by taking everything out instead of just looking for things to remove. This way, I have to deliberately choose to put each item back that I intend to keep. I’ve found that I’m likely to get rid of more things when I declutter this way.
4. One in, one out. If I’m buying something new, it’s wise to let go of something similar. For instance, if I’m picking up a few new shirts, I’ll go through my closet and pick out a couple of items I never wear to donate. This practice of limiting items keeps me mindful of what I’m bringing into the house.
5. Have an accountability partner. When I’m struggling with staying focused on decluttering, or if I’m embarking on a project that’s particularly difficult like culling through sentimental items, it helps to have an accountability partner. Telling someone else that I’m going to work on a decluttering project keeps me focused. The CLA telephone meetings are a great place to harness accountability when I’m feeling resistance.
Decluttering can feel like an uphill battle, but it’s not impossible. Knowing I’m not alone as I use these steps to clear out the excess from my life keeps me inspired.
Author: Lynn Shattuck
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Jim DiGritz/Unsplash