Twelve Things I have Learnt about Decluttering

I’m a Personal Concierge = professional helper. My work includes assisting people with decluttering.

If you struggle with clutter, know that this is a common scenario. And it has a very real impact on people’s quality of life. ‘I have too much stuff and I don’t know where to begin. Help!’ is a request I receive, often.

Clutter can occur for lots of reasons including crazy work schedules, downsizing from a bigger home, a growing family, a changing lifestyle, or inheriting a houseful of stuff from an estate that you valiantly try to fit into your already full house.

Here are the top twelve things I have learnt about getting the clutter out of our homes.

One: Starting is hard

Even making the decision to start can be hard. I think we instinctively know this is going to be a challenge so put it off. Here’s what is harder: continuing to live with clutter.

I recommend starting small. It is unlikely you will declutter your entire house in an afternoon. Pick a drawer, a corner or a room – something you know you can complete in the time you have. Know that there is no best place to start, so pick a spot and start.

Two: Set up a sorting system

When in the sorting phase, designate areas or have containers to put sorted items. You could have three boxes marked Keep, Donate and Sell. Some people opt to just donate and not sell as it gets things out of the house faster. You will need a way of collecting rubbish. I like to separate out items for recycling and composting.

Three: Enlist help

Ask someone to give you a hand who won’t have an opinion on what stays or goes, and won't make you feel bad about your stuff. This needs to be someone who will be happy to carry items, clean the space and remove rubbish. Extra help means you see a result much quicker, it feels achievable, and you get a little hit of dopamine.

Four: You need to empty the space

Empty the space and take the opportunity to clean it. It’s easier than subtracting items from the space. Ah, appreciate the beautiful, luxurious, precious space and remember why you started this process.

Five: It gets worse before it gets better

Once removed from the space, the stuff seems to expand, and you might wonder where it all came from. You might feel like you have released a mess monster. It’s important to not lose it at this point. You’ll get there.

Six: Go treasure hunting

Select the items that make your life better – things you love and things that are useful. You probably don’t love the previous year’s taxation documents, but if it keeps you sweet with the ATO, they are certainly useful.

Seven: Making quick decisions is key

Indecision breeds clutter. If it’s clutter, and you put it away because you can’t decide, it’s still clutter. Use the Five Second Rule – if you can’t decide in five seconds, then it probably isn’t making a positive difference to the quality of your life, so ditch it.

Eight: You will have feelings about the clutter

The act of looking and holding items may bring up feelings like being overwhelmed by the quantity of clutter, feeling guilty because the items were a gift, or shame about how much money was spent on them. You might have zero recollection of how items came into your possession. Expect to feel stuff and remember why you started this in the beginning – to make life better. No one is making you do this. You get to choose.

Nine: You need to clear the decks

Put away your treasures. This is when you can think about organising. How can you group items together? What do you use often and need easy access to them? How will you containerise? Do you need labels? Don’t spend ages on this.

If you are going for Instaworthy, coordinated storage because it floats your boat, that's okay, but not necessary. You probably don’t need to buy more storage containers. Use what you already have as much as possible. Even humble cardboard boxes will do the job.

You need to deal quickly with the detritus. Don’t allow discarded items to sit and become clutter just in a different location.

Ten: It’s exhausting

The decluttering process can be mentally, emotionally and physically tiring. Plan for this. Buy chocolate in advance.

Eleven: It gets easier

Once the decluttering process has begun, it is common to see The Cascade Effect kick in. One decluttered drawer makes you want to do another drawer. Then a cupboard. Then a room. And, so it goes. You are building your decluttering muscle. Pretty soon, you are a decluttering ninja who is living the decluttering lifestyle. You make decisions about clutter as easily as brushing your teeth.

Twelve: It is unlikely you will regret decluttering

Something I’ve never heard anyone say is, ‘I regret decluttering and wish it was all back in my house.’ So, pick somewhere in your home, take a big breath, and begin. Don’t forget the chocolate.

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