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Enrich Your Life by Decluttering

By Alainnah Robertson October 20, 2023 Lifestyle

Recently, a friend told me about the transformative journey she had been on after diving into Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. She applied Kondo teachings to her closet, and as she discarded the old, her whole attitude to clothes changed.

Before long, the ripple effect of decluttering had touched every nook and cranny of her home. And the more she decluttered, the lighter and more invigorated she felt.

I think we can all benefit from a decluttered life.

Why Declutter?

Decluttering goes beyond just making your home look tidy. It’s about having a space and adopting habits that enrich your quality of life. Decluttered surroundings can reduce our stress levels by making it easier to locate things.

Keeping your home decluttered makes you realize what possessions you truly need, and once you’ve seen how much superfluous stuff you’ve accumulated over the years, you’ll be much less likely to throw money away on things you don’t need. And when there is less to tidy away and less to organize, keeping your home clean takes much less time, giving you the freedom to focus on your passions. Not only that, your home becomes more attractive to look at and be in.

More peace, more money, more free time: Who wouldn’t want to trade their drawerfuls of junk for these things?

Understanding Cluttering Habits

Before diving into decluttering, it’s vital to reflect on our relationship with our possessions and tidiness, because the better we understand it, the more likely our decluttering efforts are to succeed.

Often, people claim a lack of time is all that’s holding them back from decluttering. Others say that they prefer their home to have a messy, “lived-in” look. And many of us are excellent at rationalizing keeping things we haven’t used in years, imagining scenarios where what we’ve thrown away just happens to be the one thing we now need.

If any of the above sounds familiar, it’s worth asking: Are you really being honest with yourself? Or are you trying to avoid the stress that, for an understandable range of reasons, we may feel when faced with the prospect of parting with things from our past, or of restraining ourselves from accumulating more?

Living among clutter can sometimes be a sign of a deeper personal problem, especially when it crosses the threshold into hoarding. As the British mental-health charity Mind describes on its website, we may start hoarding because of past trauma, grief, anxiety, or a range of other causes.

Recognizing there may be a psychological or emotional dimension to your clutter can be difficult. But as with all work on your mental health, it’s very much worth doing it. And once you start looking at decluttering in these terms, rather than being another chore, it can become a critically important milestone in taking control of your well-being.

Starting Your Decluttering Journey

As we’ve just seen, accumulating clutter often has a mental component to it. Unsurprisingly, then, the place to begin decluttering is our minds. Just as you can rationalize keeping clutter, so too can you rationalize decluttering. Importantly, though, the rationale for decluttering is much more positive, and embracing it is empowering.

Do we see the world as a place of abundance, or are we afraid of want? Can we imagine what the uncluttered version of our home would look like? Is everything in our home something we love? If not, can we do something positive with it, sharing it with the world?

Decluttering also has a mental foundation in the sense that it requires commitment and resolve. Becoming uncluttered is a matter of starting off small but determinedly. Acknowledge that your decluttering operation won’t be completed in a day, but don’t use that as an excuse not to start it.

Instead, set a day and time to begin the work, and stick to it. Tackle one area at a time – a closet, for example. Not only will it feel manageable, but you’ll also get a sense of accomplishment, propelling you to tackle more spaces.

The Decluttering Formula

Decluttering is much less daunting if you consistently work according to simple steps. Here’s the four-step approach I take to each space:

  1. Empty: I begin by clearing out the targeted area.
  2. Clean: Before anything goes back into the space, I give the space a thorough cleaning.
  3. Sort: I divide items into three categories: keep, donate, and discard.
  4. Re-arrange (neatly): If I want to continue storing something from the keep category in the place where it was before, I neatly put it back there. If I think storing it somewhere else would make more sense, I take it there.

The third step is usually the one people find most mentally difficult. If you’re not careful, you’ll come up with a reason for keeping everything. So having just a couple of relevant, simple tests that you apply to each item is important.

For clothes, I always ask: Have I worn this in the past year? Does it still match my sense of style? Do I feel good when I wear it? Putting the item on usually gives me the answer to that last question immediately.

Once you’ve mastered one space, apply the four-step formula closet by closet, drawer by drawer, room by room.

Maintaining a Clutter-Free Lifestyle

So that all our decluttering work isn’t undone in a matter of weeks, we need to develop new habits—and so do the people we share our home with. A good time to get them on board with your new approach to clutter is when you have started making noticeable progress with your decluttering blitz, because you’ll be giving them the chance to experience an uncluttered and tidy version of their home. Trust me, once they’ve seen it, they won’t want to go back to how it was before!

The golden rule guiding the habits that let us keep on top of clutter for good is this: we clear up after ourselves now, not later.

When we rise in the morning, we make our bed. Any used dishes are rinsed and placed in the dishwasher as soon as we’ve finished our meal. When we arrive home, we hang up our coats and always store purses, keys, etc., in the same safe space, away from the front door.

When we undress, we hang up our clothes or place them in the laundry. When we use anything, we put it back in its place as soon as we are finished with it. When we bring a new purchase into our home, we take steps to donate or discard the item that it’s replacing.

Remember, it takes time to establish a habit – anywhere between three and 36 weeks, depending on which study you read. You’ll probably have a few lapses along the way; be kind to yourself if you do. By being persistent, you can transform your home into a serene sanctuary that you’re proud of. And the consistent order you’ve created will boost your overall well-being.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Do you love your home? Is it clean and well organized? What work does it need to transform it into a peaceful, restful haven?

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We bought a large 4 bedroom house 20+ years ago, thinking that we would be having other family members eventually moving in – aging parents, nieces going to college, maybe sharing the house with our fave in-laws in later years. We currently have a large bedroom with walk-in closet, a guest bedroom, a large study/office, a small reading room, a large family room, a separate dining room, and a little formal front sitting room. Lots of closets, a garage and a shed.

Sounds great, right? Twenty years on, we live alone and are retired. Every closet is overflowing, Our many bookshelves are overflowing with both our books and old textbooks, knicknacks. The study is stuffed with boxes from our offices and ones with just odds and ends, old curtains. It’s overwhelming, and we’re starting to drown in our own stuff. We don’t look like hoarders (yet), but the creep is beginning. We might downsize at some point, and if we don’t, I don’t want to leave our survivors a huge mess to sort.

But I have a hard time getting rid of anything I think is “perfectly good.” We both grew up very poor, so it USED to make sense hanging on to things. Instead of seeing the VALUE of all these things, I need to focus on the FREEDOM of being rid of them! My plan is to start with one small drawer at a time. Wish me luck.

Alainnah Robertson

I shudder at the huge task that awaits you, or your survivors! :) The sooner we downsize after the family has flown the nest, the better, It only becomes harder with each passing year, as our energy levels drop.

Other people could enjoy your possessions that are still valuable and “perfectly good.” When I discard things I call it “sharing with the world.” I’m passing it on so that someone else might enjoy it now that I no longer need or want it. Being a minimalist by nature, this gives me great pleasure.

It can be thought of as character-building to overcome the natural reluctance to discard things! :)


You’ve made me feel better, only because I live in a tiny prefab, and therefore have a smaller accumulation of clutter to go through. I feel overwhelmed most days, but I’m doing it. When I feel ashamed of myself for getting to this point, I remind myself that there are articles, books, even television shows about decluttering. We are not alone! Good luck with your mess. I better get back to mine.


If only I could take this advice. Thanks for the article. I will try again.

Alainnah Robertson

Some of us find it more difficult than others, Susan! Good luck! :)

Susan B

My problem with clutter is that I barely have enough energy to pay my bills and do minimal grocery shopping. I had surgery for early stage Colon cancer in 2021. I have not bounced back although I am cancer-free 2 years out. I thank God for that. I read articles like this and I make plans for when to start – but very little happens. I have even dropped some tidying habits I used to have – like making my bed 1st thing. I am retired, in my 70s. I take meds for depression, but I have taken those for years. I have never been a super house-keeper, but now that I live alone and have medical issues it has all gotten worse. Thanks you for some new thoughts on clutters causes and solutions.

Alainnah Robertson

I sympathize with you. Depression can be a dreadful state, and surgery wouldn’t help. I hope you feel better soon!

Ruth King

I am also in my seventies and recently diagnosed with breast cancer after surgery now cancer free. Also, take meds for depression long term.
I have also had good practices maintaining my house & life. I am a different person now. No energy and after sitting so much my abilities have suffered.


It took a stroke for me to declutter and I’m getting rid of everything. I’m selling everything I don’t use, will never use or wear, and getting rid of it all. I don’t feel a thing anymore just begone stuff.
Feels great.

Alainnah Robertson

Good for you, Jeanne! I hate being weighed down with possessions. They possess us! It’s lovely to be free.


Clutter…this describes me…I start, do the piles and then think I will hang onto things longer. Will try your 4 step approach…thank you.

Ayşe Yeşim Güzey

I organised my clothes, it took me looong time with baby steps but I did! Some days I couldn’t do anything but I didn’t give up, I insist. Even a little progress is a progress. Good luck. It feels fantastic after you finish. Don’t give up.

The Author

Alainnah is 91 years old, lived on three continents, and has been a lifelong learner, pursuing knowledge and wisdom. She’s always formed groups to study together. She prefers to ask questions and enjoy what others have to say. Alainnah has compiled her group study sessions in a book, Mindfulness Together.

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