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.
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?
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.
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.
Decluttering is much less daunting if you consistently work according to simple steps. Here’s the four-step approach I take to each space:
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.
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.
Do you love your home? Is it clean and well organized? What work does it need to transform it into a peaceful, restful haven?
Tags Downsizing Your Life