The Decluttering Quick-Start Guide, Part 1

Congratulations!  You've decided you want to own and do less so that you can focus on what is truly essential to your happiness.  You want the simpler, clearer, freer life that minimalism promises.  But the task just seems so overwhelming.  Where can you start?

uncluttered bedroom

The best way to change is one step at a time.

Some people make radical promises to themselves and actually succeed.  They quit smoking or give up sugar, and once they take the plunge they don't look back.  The people I know who have managed to stick with such drastic, immediate changes always had a strong catalyst, usually a major health crisis.  But how can you manufacture a crisis that will make you simplify?  You can't just burn down your house.

If you insist on getting everything perfect today, you might be setting yourself up for failure.  And once you go back on a radical promise, you'll feel helpless to make any changes.  You might believe you're stuck where you are and have no choice in the matter.

So take a simple path to minimalism.  Don't try to clear out every last bit of clutter this weekend.  Just simplify one thing.  Make it completely doable.  Choose something from this list and do it today – right now, in fact. Continue it tomorrow and the day after.  When you're ready, try one of the other ideas I'll be sharing over the next few posts.

3 quick ways to simplify your personal space

1.  Make your bed.

I know, I sound like your mother.  But the whole bedroom looks better when the bed is made, and it really does make a clear, fresh start to the day.  

My bed used to have a dust ruffle and a bunch of decorative pillows, and it only looked good if I fussed with it.  Now I have a solid-color quilted coverlet and one decorative pillow.  I merely pull up and smooth the sheets and coverlet, fluff our sleeping pillows and place them at the head of the bed, and center the decorative pillow in front of them.  Pare back on your bed's decorative items if it will make the task easier, and make your bed today.

2.  Clear off the top of your dresser.

Dresser tops are a catch-all for eyeglasses, receipts, phones, loose change, used Kleenex, empty mugs, books, cords, TV remotes, stray toys and more.  This level of clutter is not exactly restful!  

Take five minutes to clear away everything, toss it or put it away, and dust or polish the wood.  Replace just two or three items such as a lamp, a special framed photo, a jewelry box, a scented candle, a vase, or a green plant.  Now practice keeping it this way!

3.  Clear the bathroom counter, cabinet, and drawers.

Take everything off and out, and clean the area.

  • Remove all decorative items.  The only thing you need on your bathroom counter is hand soap.  If they are used multiple times per day, you might add a tube of hand cream or a box of tissues.  A (nearly) empty counter is far easier to keep clean and ready for use.
  • Dump half-used beauty products that you didn't like down the sink (it's where they go anyway when you use them), and recycle the empty bottles.  
  • Donate unopened potions and makeup you bought on a whim, unless you can make a plan to use them in the next one to three months.
  • Put unused or expired medications in a sealed plastic bag mixed with coffee grounds or kitty litter to discourage scavengers.
  • Now store the items you use regularly in the cabinet and drawers.  They'll be easier to find and to keep organized.

Now it becomes your daily task to keep your bathroom counter and cabinet clutter-free. 

Don't own so much clutter that you will be relieved to see your house catch fire.
Wendell Berry

Find Part 2 right here.

Updated March 2023


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