Decluttering is an event, or a process. Minimalism is a lifestyle.
|Photo by Tracey Hocking on Unsplash|
We're real people. We work, we socialize, we have hobbies and husbands and kids. Stuff enters our homes every day, and if we have no system for dealing with it, clutter can reappear. So part of the minimalist lifestyle is learning to be a gatekeeper, to keep stuff from once again overwhelming our lives.
How can we do this?
1. Don't just put it down - put it away.
Use the old adage, "A place for everything and everything in its place." As you declutter, you need to make a home for each item you need, use, and love.
Items often end up "homeless" because we simply have too much stuff. If your bathroom counter is covered with bottles and potions, for example, you probably have too many. Get rid of the duplicates, and the things you used once and didn't like, and the outdated creams and remedies. Use the medicine cabinet and vanity drawers to store the things you need and use regularly, and try to keep the counter clear of everything except hand soap. It's not only more soothing and spa-like, it's FAR more sanitary.
Remember that organizing, by itself, isn't the same as decluttering. Simply organizing stuff in boxes and bins can hide the fact that we have too much clutter. Containers are meant to contain, or control and corral, the items they hold. Containers such as drawers, cupboards, closets, spice racks, book cases, and shoe bags place limits on what we store. The answer is not to run out and buy more containers, it's to put your favorite items in the containers you have and declutter the lesser-loved items that don't fit.
Don't waste another minute searching for your misplaced phone or checkbook, or shuffling through drawers looking for your most comfortable and supportive bra. Find a home for these things, and never put them down except where they belong.
2. One in, one out.
When you purchase something new, discard something comparable. That way, your containers don't overflow and everything still has a home. For example, if you replace a worn pair of sandals, discard the old ones. New laptop? Recycle the old one. Don't waste all the time and effort you spent decluttering. Drop your habit of hanging on to old stuff you don't need.
3. Curb the impulse.
Shopping for the sake of entertainment, novelty, or on a whim is another habit that needs to stop. Nothing derails your decluttering efforts (and your budget) more quickly than impulse buys.
Be aware of your weaknesses. Are there certain stores you "can't resist?" Certain items you tend to collect? Have yard sales become a favorite form of entertainment? Awareness is an important part of changing habits. Several strategies may help: carry only cash, change your route so you don't drive by the tempting store, wait three (or seven, or thirty) days. Find more helpful strategies here.
Remember it takes a while to change a habit. I still have to avoid certain stores unless I have a specific reason to shop there, and then I bring only so much cash and no credit cards. I can browse and enjoy all of the pretty merchandise as long as I remind myself that I already have plenty and I don't need to own everything that catches my eye (I know, I sound like I'm 3 years old).
4. It's a lot easier to keep up than to catch up.
Develop routines for doing household chores, since piles grow when chores are neglected. It really takes just a couple of minutes to sort through the mail every day. The longer you wait, the bigger the pile gets and the more you dread the job. The same goes for doing dishes or laundry.
Do you put off a chore because you hate doing it? Try timing it. It may not take as long as you think, and once you realize that, it will be easier to make yourself do it. Or trade a chore you dislike with another household member's least favorite chore. My husband vacuums for me, and I never ask him to dust or pay the bills.
Your children benefit from learning to do chores, so teach them to help you. Make a list of jobs the kids can do weekly, such as sweep the front porch, strip beds and put out dirty sheets, clean the bathroom mirror/counter/sink, or tidy and dust living room tables. Have them rotate responsibilities each week.
Create daily habits for yourself and your kids. Be specific about what you want them to do, such as "Make your bed (at least pull up bedclothes neatly and put the pillow at the head)," "Put clean clothes away and dirty ones in the hamper," "Hang up your towel," and "Put toys where they belong." These habits should become just as routine as "Brush your teeth" and "Wash your hands."
Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, reminds us that "what you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while." It's the daily events, habits, routines, and attitudes that make up our lives. But I like Anthony Trollope's more humorous take on the same idea:
"A small daily task - if it be really daily -
is worth more than the labor of a spasmodic Hercules."
Decluttering in the first place was the Herculean task. Make minimalism your daily lifestyle, and you'll never have to do a huge declutter again!