Maybe by now you’ve read our “5 Ways Getting Organized Will Change Your Life For the Better,” and you want to move forward with decluttering, but you need some pointers. Maybe you’ve even already put a down payment on an appropriately sized storage shed to help you gain control of your living space, but are overwhelmed by the volume of your stuff and don’t know where to start. There are many useful tips to help you organize your stuff and your life, but here are some of the best guiding principles.
1. MY FAVORITE AND MOST IMPORTANT TIP TO SHARE WITH YOU ABOUT CLUTTER IS THIS: STOP THE INCOMING.
I can’t tell you the deflation I felt when I moved, decluttered, determined to stop buying, only to move five years later and realize I was in the same boat. I realized I had exchanged a pile of cash for a pile of clutter, and I determined not to do it again.
We buy because we’re stressed. Because we have holes in our heart. Because we feel unfulfilled. But peaceful surroundings are worth so much more than things, and when you have finally uncluttered your space, the contentment you feel will reduce the temptation to buy. Also, when you declutter, it’s simply counterintuitive to fill up the empty spaces and spend hard-earned cash doing so (especially if it’s the cash you made selling your junk).
“What are you going to do with that? Fill up a drawer?” —My dad
2. BE AT PEACE WITH EMPTY DRAWERS AND SHELVES.
This might seem funny, but until my dad (the lone ranger of decluttering in our house) pointed out that it was ok to leave a kitchen drawer empty, I felt compelled to fill it. When I realized I didn’t, I decided I would grow up and have closets and kitchens that had empty shelves and drawers (and maybe even a storage shed with some walking room). I’m still working on it, Dad.
3. GO PAPERLESS.
Google Keep, Evernote, Microsoft One Note, and (my favorite) Google Docs can help you go paperless and love it too. I sometimes think of my life as a battle against paper, and occasionally I feel like I’m losing. But when I look at the massive amount of stories, blog posts, client files, important tax documents, and pictures I have in the Cloud, I realize that the battles I’ve lost are vastly outnumbered by the battles I’ve won and I refocus on utilizing awesome online file storage tools. The last thing you want is a shed or house full of stacks of papers.
Another way to go paperless is to set up automatic payments for all of your bills. I highly recommend this.
4. DON’T LET GUILT BE THE UMPIRE.
Your home should contain items you love and use, not ones that you’re keeping out of obligation or guilt. Think of ways to honor the giver of the gift by keeping a small memento of the gift, or realize that they won’t mind if you move on (they probably won’t). Receiving a gift should be a pleasant experience, not a lifelong obligation.
“Your home should only contain the things you love or use.” (becomingminimalist.com)
5. LET GO OF ONE NEGATIVE ITEM A DAY.
A negative item is one that costs more in mental energy, money, or time than it gives you to keep. Remember the tip above about only keeping items you love and use. If you don’t love and use it, give it up. I find the Japanese approach of holding an item and asking yourself it brings you joy (or positive emotion or gratefulness) more helpful than a hard deadline (such as the “if-you-haven’t-used-it-in-a-year-ditch-it” approach). This is because there are some items designed to use only very occasionally. I always find when I throw items away because I haven’t used them in a year, that I suddenly need them. Take this into account and go with your gut, not your guilt, and not an irrelevant rule.
I hope this helps you make decisions, find peace, and dejunk your life.