Why declutter vs. organizing clutter?
I keep seeing articles and questions about organizing clutter and I have to ask myself, “why?” There is no such thing as “organizing clutter”. Why would you even want to? Clutter is stuff you don’t need or use or want… it’s the excess in your life crowding you out of your home. So why organize it? Instead, you should get rid of it!
I think what people really need to ask more about is “how to declutter”. Learning how to purge your excess belongings and learning how to let go will take you a lot further to what you’re really looking for than just storing away your excess stuff into boxes in the attic, basement or closets. No matter how nicely organized your clutter is, it’s still clutter. It still holds you back mentally and takes up space physically.
Learning to Let Go of Clutter
There is some psychology behind the clutter you own. Many of these things we store away from our past hoping to look at them again in the future, hand them down to someone, wear them when we lose more weight, etc. These things weigh on our emotions and hold us back. Clothes that are too small keep reminding us of how we used to be thin. Old school books and notes remind us of when we were in school. These things are just “things” and you probably don’t even look at them. My guess is they’re stuck to the back of a closet or in a box in a garage or basement. We need to let these things go. They serve no purpose to us right now except to hold us back in our past. You can’t go back. You must live in the now and look forward. Even if you were able to fit back into that skinny outfit, it’s probably not in style anymore, and the notes you took in college are most likely outdated information.
Here’s a personal example. When I moved across country I left a lot of stuff in my parents shed. Mostly a ton of college books, notes taken in all my classes (I loved school and was an avid note taker) and the only other thing that comes to mind is a pair of shoes, but I know there was a lot more. I was gone and my stuff took up space in their shed. I have been gone for about 14 years now and I don’t miss any of it! When they moved they dumped it and I had to let it go. How many of you have put something somewhere for “someday” and it’s years later untouched, un-noticed, maybe even completely forgotten about? So, that just goes to show that these things that are unused and forgotten really serve us no purpose today. Thinking about them holds us in our past, or maybe even stresses us out thinking “I need to do something with that someday” or how about “I plan to finish that someday”. Let’s let these things go today instead of someday and be free of them calling upon us wanting to be remembered or used.
Once I started de-cluttering I really got hooked. It’s a good feeling to let things go once you get used to it. I love finding space! In the beginning though, it’s hard, because you think the memories attached to it will be thrown out with it, but they won’t. You might think you’re going to need it but chances are you won’t, and if you do you can replace it in many cases. Letting things go has left me with a clearer mind and with more space. It has become almost a game trying to see what I can get rid of. I will admit, some things are still hard to let go of and if that’s the case for you too, that’s OK. Start with smaller steps and de-clutter what you feel comfortable about and go from there. I guarantee you, once you start to see more space and think less about what you’re going to do with all these possessions, you’ll be hooked.
But be sure to not overstep your bounds and start tossing other people’s belongings! It’s sooooo tempting! I look at some of my husband’s and kids stuff and wish I could go through it and get rid of it. But I know that wouldn’t end well at all. Things I think are pointless may mean something to them. The only thing we can do is lead by example. When we let things go and exhibit how good it feels they will begin to want to let go of things too. My husband hasn’t purged nearly the amount of stuff I’d like him to, but he honestly has begun to look at things and think “do I really need that or is it just taking up space”.
One item I let go when I started decluttering was my wedding dress. Some people gasped at the thought of me getting rid of it, but it was taking up lots of closet space and I never intended to wear it again, or make my daughter wear it. I’m sure it helped that I didn’t spend a fortune on it and I have some beautiful wedding day photos of it as well. But that’s truly all I need. What kinds of things can you declutter? Remember, it’s ok to start small!
Declutter What You Don’t Want
In the beginning I said that clutter is stuff you don’t want, need or use. Do you have things that you don’t truly love but you keep them anyway? Perhaps you feel guilty about letting something go that you’re not fond of because a friend or relative gave it to you as a gift. Will they even know? Do you have things around you that you keep “just because”? Things that you perhaps used to really love and made you smile, but now they no longer do. Instead they remind you of a time in your life you’d rather not think about? What about clothing that doesn’t quite fit right but you keep it and maybe even wear it because you don’t want to feel like you wasted money on it? Can you also see how all of these things not only take up space, but they weigh on you mentally? We need to let them go. Keep the things that put a smile on your face and give you a special feeling. Let the rest of them go along with the emotional baggage tied to them.
Declutter What You Don’t Need
When you begin to declutter, ask yourself what you truly need? What is necessary for you to function and live happily? Do you truly need 100 pair of shoes or can you be happy with 50? Do you really need all those tools and gadgets or are there some you could part with because you have duplicates? You need to look around your house and think about what you can part with that you don’t need in order to get along. Reducing the number of duplicate items is a great way to get started in this area.
Declutter What You Don’t Use
Are there other things you no longer need because you don’t use them? Ask yourself about what you have that you actually use on a daily basis… weekly, monthly, annually. Do you use that bread maker or is it collecting dust. Do you use that exercise bike, treadmill, or whatever, or are they being used as clothing racks. If you haven’t used something in the past year or more you should consider letting it go. A year is a pretty long time to give yourself and chances are if you haven’t used it in the past year, you’re simply not going to. So why not let it go along with the guilt of it staring at you and free up some space as well in the process.
Try to remember that by letting go of old unused, unneeded, and unloved stuff you’re creating space for new things to come into your life that are better suited your life as you live it “now”.
And an added bonus to think about when you declutter: The less stuff you have, the less stuff to organize, clean and put away every day!
I’m still working on de-cluttering my home and life. Especially after writing this I know there is much more for me purge. Some things are simply harder than others to let go of. I don’t think decluttering is something that ever ends. As our lives change some of our possessions no longer suit our needs and they become clutter. We must continue to remove these things from our homes. I have truly learned to love and appreciate decluttering my home and loving the space it opens up for me, both mentally and physically. I hope you can find that too.
Start with one small area. Pick a closet, a drawer or a corner of a room or desk, something small and start there. If you think about decluttering the entire house you’re going to feel overwhelmed. Do it a little bit at a time.
Do it for 15 minutes at a time. Set a timer for 15 minutes and when the timer goes off, give yourself permission to stop. And pat yourself on the back for completing that small session. Later do another 15 minutes. They will add up before you know it!
Sort into: Keep, Toss, Donate. Sort your items into those three categories as you declutter the area you’re working on. The things you decide to keep will then need to be put away. The other two categories can be taken right out to the trash or to your car to drop it off at the donation center.
Don’t bring more clutter into your home. When you’re out shopping, stop to think: “Do I really need this? Will I use it often? Do I really love it?” If you answer “yes”, then fine, bring it on home and make sure you have a spot to put it away in. If it replaces something you already have, be sure to get rid of the old item. Some people have a rule where they must get rid of one or two things for every new thing they bring into the house. Not a bad idea.
But I Just CAN'T let go!
For those of you who have tried the above method and still get stuck, STILL have a hard time letting go of things, and end up quitting with an even bigger mess on your hands, you might be interested in Mimi Tanner's DeClutter Fast method.
Click here to read my review of her decluttering technique she presents in her short ebook.