With all the latest buzz about tidying up, the available methods for Americans to declutter their homes and lives continue to grow. Achieving true “decluttered” status is possible, and there are many ways to get there.
It is easy to get caught up in the myriad of books, insights, and options for how to simplify, and the process of decluttering becomes cluttered in itself.
The irony is not lost on us regular folks who is simply trying to get rid of their overflowing mountains of material goods.
Last year our family moved into a much larger space, and I instantly found myself drowning in interiors catalogs, Pinterest pages, and a mountain of pressure to furnish, decorate, and perfect our beautiful new home.
I never dreamed of how constant and weighty the feeling would be even though I had a wonderful new home, it wouldn’t be good enough until I filled it with stuff. Not just any stuff — beautiful stuff, handcrafted, American made stuff — the kind of stuff that makes you feel better about having stuff.
I soon realized my Pinterest dreams and my budget were simply not going to jive. I had to give up my desire to have the picture perfect home. I had to realize more stuff didn’t mean more happiness or more contentment.
Instead of buying everything new, I repurposed almost every single furniture item and decoration we had. I decluttered and got rid of the stuff we didn’t need and it began to feel like home. Not the perfect home, but one I could feel comfortable in.
I found if I focused on how much I had instead of what I couldn’t afford, I instantly had more gratitude.
The act of decluttering isn’t just something that clears the physical space.
It helps you realize how much you truly have, and you need less than you think. Simplifying causes us to be grateful and is a gift we can give ourselves. It shouldn’t be complicated to get back to what matters most.
Decluttering Your Home
In the spirit of gratitude, here are five simple steps to decluttering your home. You can do this easily in a weekend, or over a few days throughout the week.
1. Start with what you can see.
No need to try and brave your entire closet or attic right off the bat. Your clothes, your kitchen, your bookshelves. It can be easy to get overwhelmed when you feel must eat the entire elephant at once.
Take heart — making small steps toward victory will motivate you to keep going. Your decluttering will have a positive snowball effect, and once you begin, you will continue to gain momentum.
2. Identify the emotions attached to each item.
You must evaluate the core emotion around each item in your home. Does it spark a sense of obligation, or maybe a feeling of dread that you must keep it or you may lose out somehow?
Or does it make you feel happy, or even grateful? There are so many emotions connected to our stuff we don’t consider, and this is a great place to begin.
3. Identify what is useful, beautiful, or simply nostalgic.
Beyond the emotions surrounding each item in our home, there is the simple concept of utilitarian value. Do you use it on a daily or weekly basis? Next, identify what may not be useful, but what adds beauty to your home.
Lastly, the hardest question; what has nostalgic value? This can be where many get tripped up — we’ve all seen episodes of hoarders where people are convinced every pile in their house has nostalgic value.
But if something is simply functioning as a memory trigger, or something you want your kids to have someday, ask yourself- could I still remember this important moment without the item? Would my kids really enjoy this someday?
4. Make three piles. Trash, Give Away, and Keep.
This is the fun part. Once you begin to see items for what they are, you can make three separate piles. Work to make the “keep” pile the smallest if you can help it. It is so freeing to watch the “trash” and “give” piles grow as you let go of things that are weighing you down, and realize what you really need.
5. Organize what you have left.
You have to keep some items, of course. And what to do with those? Make sure they are somewhere they can be found and accessed easily. How many times have you made a run to the store for something you thought you didn’t have, only to find it hiding in a drawer a week later?
Don’t be afraid to set things out. If you use it every day, you shouldn’t have to dig around for it. If you use it once a week, then put it in a cabinet or drawer. Even down to the smallest item — group things together that fulfill a similar function, and place smaller items in compartments so they are not misplaced.
Once you complete these five steps, the true decluttering process begins. Never let anything into your life that doesn’t add utilitarian value, aesthetic value, or give you the opportunity to make a lasting memory.
Be diligent about filtering everything you allow into your life through this lens. When you are hounded by thoughts of what you “need” to be happy, ask yourself — what brings you true happiness?
Keep that answer in the forefront of your mind, and decluttering will become part of your life — and what is now discontentment will turn into gratitude.
Resources to Help With Decluttering:
Becoming Minimalist put together a handy decluttering checklist for those just getting started.