Clear the Clutter
You probably don't see stacks of movies on the coffee table or toys scattered over the floor. You don't see a kitchen counter too crowded for meal prep, or a dining table so cluttered that no one can eat there. You don't see piles of mail, laundry, dirty dishes, unfinished repairs, or things that need to be cleared away before you can sit down.
You see the beautiful home you'd love to have.
Unfortunately, it can be hard to get started with the difficult job of reducing the amount of stuff we've accumulated over the years. As much as we might want to live with only the things that "spark joy," that also means we have to deal with all of the things that don't, things we don't really want or need, things that weigh us down and make us feel stressed or unhappy.
But that relaxing home is not an impossible dream. And there isn't one "right way" to clear the clutter. Try one or more of these strategies to get started.
1. Start with the most visible areas.
Tackle stuff on countertops or the floor, for example. Leave closets and drawers for later. You'll see immediate positive results, which will make you feel confident and energized. Visible progress will help sustain your decluttering efforts.
- Are you always searching for your keys? Put a hook for them near the door, or clear clutter from your purse and designate one pocket for keys.
- Is the TV remote always buried? Declutter some throw pillows from the couch, clear out a drawer to give it a permanent home, or clear off the coffee table and place a tray or a basket for it there.
- Do coats, backpacks, and shoes always end up on the kitchen table or strewn across the floor? Declutter the front closet so there's plenty of room to hang coats, and put up some heavy-duty hooks for backpacks. Place a basket on the floor of the closet for outdoor shoes.
- Are your sink and counter always full of dirty dishes? Take three minutes each morning to empty the dishwasher, and help everyone start the habit of putting dirty dishes into it. Is there no room to put clean dishes away? Sort and declutter the 21 plates, 18 bowls, 28 mugs, 7 cooking pots, and piles of utensils that overfill your kitchen cupboards and drawers.
3. Start with the biggest items.
Do you need a couch and a love seat and three chairs for everyday use? Can you mount the TV on the wall and remove the entertainment center? What about that table covered in junk mail? If all it does is collect clutter, remove it, and dump the mail in the recycling bin. Do you need four bookcases? Declutter unloved books and trinkets, and maybe you can remove one or more. Do you need a hutch and a sideboard? Declutter unused china, linens, and miscellany at the back of the cupboard, and maybe you can delete one piece of furniture. You might love the space far more than you love the stuff.
4. Start small.
Choose a drawer, a shelf, or a cupboard. Empty it completely. Sort stuff into three categories: keep, donate, or toss. Clean the area, and return only the items you use and love. Organizing is easier once you remove the excess.
5. Do it all at once.
Take the next several weekends, or a week's vacation, and declutter all at once. Work room by room or category by category (all of your clothes, for example, or books, kitchen items, knickknacks, hobby items, etc.). Stay hydrated. Take a short break every couple of hours to eat, stretch, or simply close your eyes. Stop each evening and do something fun and relaxing, such as going out for dinner or a movie, taking a bike ride, or having a soak in the tub and an early bedtime.
6. Do it little by little.
Slow and steady isn't glamorous, but it might be more thoughtful and sustainable. Start with the easy stuff, like duplicates and items in storage that you've basically forgotten you own. Each thing you part with will give you the strength and motivation to let go of the next.
Maybe you think you have no time to declutter. Do you have 10 minutes? 10 minutes a day times 7 days a week times 52 weeks equals 3,640 minutes. That's more than 60 hours. You can do a lot in 60 hours!
Clearing little by little has a snowball effect. As you continue, your rooms will feel lighter, look brighter, and be more usable. You'll get closer to the dream home you've imagined.