Why does decluttering rank high on resolution lists every single year?
We feel better when things are organized, but it turns out it is also quite important for our health and wellbeing. Psychology Today provides 8 reasons messes are proven to cause stress including overstimulation, lack of focus, inability to relax, anxiety, and guilt, and stifling creativity. Nobody needs these extra stressors in their lives especially when you can do something about it. If you completed or started a quarantine decluttering project (or finally want to start), you will find it not only decreases stress, it also increases productivity, and even saves you money.
The reality is that it can be challenging in practice to keep clutter away but we offer three key tips to start you on a successfully decluttered 2021 and make it easier to prevent the clutter from coming back.
1. Make clearing clutter a regular habit
It seems simple, so why does stuff seem to always accumulate? There are many methods of 'project' decluttering, whether you choose Marie Kondo, or others, where you set aside a bunch of time and really hit an area to declutter. For most people with busy lives, it is hard to carve out that time. Just like making your bed or brushing your teeth, if you can make a habit of clearing clutter regularly, it becomes more manageable and gets done. First, you need a strategy that work for you. Here are two steps you can start right away.
STEP 1: Create a small space where you feel OK about putting things that you need to donate. Create a 'to donate' bag or box somewhere near your door where these items can go and plop them in. When it fills up or gets in the way, make a trip to donate or post it stuff for neighbors on Nextdoor, Facebook, or you could even just send a message to friends or family who might like the items.
STEP 2: Create a place where you can put things that need sorting between repair, giving, or trash. Set it somewhere you are regularly or are likely to do a passive activity. Hide it next to a couch where you'll be watching TV or under a chair where you'll be sitting with a child while she does homework. Get creative and find what works for you. When you sit down in that space, you are automatically reminded and the items are right there. Many find sorting a very satisfying activity, plus you make progress toward your decluttering routine.
Now, how do you get through all of the stuff in a 'routine' way? Here are a couple of ideas that other people have found helpful depending on their personality:
If you struggle with routine and scheduling tasks, try this: When clutter frustrates you or makes you bad, deal with a little right away. Can't shut your utensil drawer? Right then and there, quickly identify one or a few things you don't use and plop them in the 'to donate' bin. That way, it doesn't have to derail what you are doing, and you get the satisfaction of removing a frustration in the moment. Yay!
If you love a to-do list and organizing but don't have much time, try this: Give yourself the gift of a tiny bit of time - maybe just 15 minutes on a Saturday morning. Identify a small area like a shelf in your closet, or specific drawer. Take just the allotted time and do a super quick sweep of that area. You can dump everything out, or just pull the things you don't need out - It's your choice. Focus on items that haven't been used in a while, are broken or no good, out of date, or just taking up too much space. Put them aside in a 'to donate' receptacle by your door or if you need time to sort the give/fix/repurpose/trash, set it somewhere you are doing a passive activity like watching TV or sitting with a child while she does homework.
2. Give your items where they are needed.
You may well find the extra motivation you need to get things out of your home when you know your items will find a meaningful new home where they will be used and enjoyed. Most people, when they find out someone needs something, bend over backward to get it to them. However, when it's just a pile at your back door without a plan, it can sit for weeks or longer.
Donate Good Stuff is a great resource to help you find organizations that need what you have, nearby, and provides you with the info to easily deliver. Here are some examples of what you can find:
Donate sports and outdoor equipment so kids can participate in activities to Urban Ventures
Wherever you donate, carefully read what is needed and what is not ensure your donation is appreciated and used and doesn't become an unintended burden for the organization that can cost them time and money they often don't have. Make sure it is in excellent condition, freshly cleaned, and free of damage, fur, stains, odor and any other unpleasantness unless the listing specifically states otherwise. Always do a re-inspection of items right before you donate!
If you have stuff might not be considered 'good', there are still options:
If you can't find an organization that needs it near you, try some neighborly options like posting your things onFreecycle, the NextDoor app or Facebook community groups and marketplace. Consider other simple and local solutions like delivering a few books to a neighbor's little free library.
3. Be careful about what you bring into your home.
Is it a virtue to say no? It might be. The less you bring in, the easier it is to keep your space neat and clutter-free. There are many reasons we tend to buy so much more than we need, including perceived lack of time for repairing or making something, as a response to emotions, and just because it is so easy to click and buy. For some people, it it can even become a compulsion or addiction. Reducing excess consumption is critical to keep clutter at bay, and it has a positive impact on the environment.
How can you curb your shopping enthusiasm? Keep these questions in mind before you click 'buy now'
Is it more than I will use? can seem like exciting bargains, but not as fun once things pile up in your closets. It's still cheaper to spend $5 to buy one item than $10 on 2 you don't need.
Is it a quality item or 'fast fashion'? Poor quality and temporary styles of clothing and goods quickly become clutter and is a major source of waste.
Is it kitschy or seasonal? Funny T-shirts and silly socks are popular gifts, but they tend to have a short shelf life and a long waste cycle. Steer toward experiences, or a useful gift based on a personal joke or shared experience
Do you expect to use it more than once or twice? If you don't plan to use something until it's worn out or used up, you may want to reconsider the purchase....or spend more time decluttering again next year. Consider borrowing an item from someone else or using a suitable alternative.