In the last post, we learned about the benefits of decluttering. Now it’s time to take action and begin the process of removing the excess material possessions from your home that are taking up space, causing internal and external stress and contributing to overwhelm in your personal space.
I’m not going to sugar coat it, this step is difficult, very difficult at times, but it is absolutely essential to reaping the benefits of a more minimalist lifestyle. You must be willing to ask yourself questions and answer them honestly within yourself, then take the action you need to take. The action is the hardest part, it is usually always easier to do nothing than something, or to drag out acting on the decision you know you should make. This post will help you with the initial steps of decluttering. There will be additional posts to help with the more difficult aspects.
Step 1: Choose a room that you will declutter. Any room in your home works, although I would recommend starting with one of your main living areas so you can see the results immediately, which helps keep your motivation going to continue through the rest of your home. Your kitchen, living room or bedroom would be ideal.
Step 2: Collect three containers; either bins, boxes or bags. You will need one for donations or selling, one for items you will question and one for trash. When you have these ready, you will make a sweep of the room collecting all obvious items that will go in each of those three containers. The ‘question’ container is for those items that you feel like you should probably get rid of, but want to think about for a little while. You should do this only on all the items that are out in the open.
Step 3: Go through all drawers, cupboards, under beds & behind couches. in the room, doing the same thing, making one general clean sweep and putting the items that are very obvious in their respective containers. You may have quite a few items in your ‘question’ container by now, that’s okay. You should also be seeing the room looking a bit clearer with more space. You probably still have a lot of stuff still in the drawers and on top of furniture, that’s okay too.
Step 4: Declutter difficult items. Now that you have removed all of the ‘easy’ items and placed them in their respective containers, it is time to get down to business really decluttering the difficult items, you know, the ones that evoke those pesky emotions of guilt, obligation, failure or one upsmanship. These items are by far the most difficult to get rid of, but the most essential to let go to reap the maximum benefits of decluttering. To help you with this part of decluttering, you will need to look at each possession individually and ask yourself the following questions:
What emotion do I feel when I see this item, picture, piece of clothing? (happiness, sadness, guilt, motivation, obligation)
Does the emotion contribute to my happiness in life on a regular basis?
If the item is being kept out of guilt that you should be using it, or obligation because someone gifted it to you, or because you don’t want to ‘waste’ the money you spent on it, recognize and acknowledge the emotion, then let the item go. It really is as simple as that. If you need more help, as these emotions can be difficult, keep reading this series and I’ll cover how to get past them in more depth. In the mean time, if there is something you just CAN’T part with, but is causing negative emotions, put it in the ‘question’ container for now.
Do I use this item on a daily, weekly, monthly or seasonal basis?
If your answer is no, this item MUST go in the donate or sell container, don’t fool yourself into thinking you will start using it now, and don’t hold onto the guilt any longer of having it in the back of your mind that you need to start using it, even though you obviously don’t want to, or you would have already done so!
Is this item a ‘What if’ item or duplicate item?
Duplicates and ‘what if’ items are so hard to get rid of as we usually think that we will use it if our other one breaks! Don’t get sucked into this, it is very rare that you actually do need a backup for things, and the extra space you’ll have is worth not keeping two of everything. A good rule of thumb is if it costs less than $20 to replace, get rid of duplicates or ‘what if’ items.
Once you have gone through all items in your room and put them in their respective containers, and asked the difficult questions above, you should be left with ONLY those items that bring you joy and happiness in life, and those items that you use on a very regular basis. In truth, there should not really be much left. We tend to use 20% of our belongings 80% of the time.
Step 5: Declutter your walls and furniture. At this point, you have most likely gone through all the smaller items and drawers as well as other hidden areas like shelves, baskets, boxes, under furniture and other nooks and crannies. Now it’s time to take a good hard look at what you have on the walls, and your larger pieces of furniture. These items can also be difficult to declutter, depending on how much you originally paid for them, or at the thought of ‘wasting money’ by getting rid of them. Remember your goals, to have only what is useful and brings happiness. Owning fewer pieces of furniture will make room for your loved ones to have personal space and will also mean less to clean. Having only a very select few pictures on your walls will also draw your eye to those scenes that have the most meaning in your life. With pictures, you can also rotate them during the year to enjoy different genres during the various seasons and holidays.
Getting rid of large pieces of furniture like couches, beds or desks is one of the harder things for me to do, and may be so for most people. A good way to transition if you can’t make the plunge immediately, is to move a piece of furniture to a different part of the house, and live without it for a while in the original area. You can then decide if you really need it, or if you are enjoying the extra space more. So move that extra end table or love seat to the basement for a couple weeks and see if you even miss it!
Now that you have gone through the entire contents of the room, you should have quite a bit more space and fewer belongings. You may have quite a bit in your ‘question’ container, and that is fine. Just store it out of site for a set period of time, I like 30 days, and if you need anything from it, take it out and put it back in the room. Most of the time you will find that you didn’t need any of it after all, and will end up donating or selling the contents. Be sure to donate and sell the items in your donate/sell box quickly so they don’t end up being stored in your garage. Take out the trash in the trash container.
If you need more detailed help decluttering on a room-by-room basis check out the following posts:
Congratulations! You’ve just decluttered your first room! You should feel an immediate sense of accomplishment, relief and much less stress when entering the room. If you are feeling especially motivated by the results, move on to the next room in the house. If you need a break, take one, decluttering can be both physically and emotionally draining. Go at your own pace, whether that is a room a day, a week or a month. The important thing is to keep going and don’t lose your momentum.
Ideally, you should reread this post and go through each room in your home following the same steps to declutter before moving on to the next post. Once you’re done, check out the next step in decluttering-