How to Start Decluttering (And Finish It, Too)

Does the mere thought of decluttering send you into a state of panic? If yes, your space must be overflowing with clutter.How to Start Decluttering (And Finish It, Too)

A study in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin confirms that people who described their homes as “cluttered” were more prone to depression, fatigue, and elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol. In contrast, those who felt like their homes were “restful” and “restorative,” were less stressed and had better mental health.

When you think about it, going home to a stack of dirty dishes, piles of laundry, and rooms full of dusty keepsakes would make anyone want to turn the other direction. The sight of clutter and disorientation may prevent the natural decline in cortisol, researchers say. This, in turn, can take a serious toll on your mood, sleeping habits, and overall health. Taking the time to sort through your items and spruce up your space won’t just clear away the physical stuff, it will also help you feel happier and relaxed.

It may prove challenging to complete a decluttering project, but its benefits to your well-being are too good to pass up. If you don’t know where to start — don’t worry! We’ll give you the lowdown on the basics of decluttering.

Step 1: Change your mindset.

Let’s face it. After long hours of work or school, the last thing on our minds is to start a decluttering project — which is why the first step to an organized home is to have a change of mindset. If you keep telling yourself that you’ll never get things done — you won’t. If you are simply too tired to do anything after a long day, you can dedicate one weekend to an all-out spring cleaning mission.

Your mindset is the sum of your knowledge, including thoughts and beliefs about the world and yourself in it. Developing the right mindset is crucial to succeeding in anything, from a prospering career to the simpler things in life like decluttering.

A proactive approach to changing your mindset is to have a clear vision of where you want to go. Let’s say you envision transforming your attic into an extra bedroom. That vision can be broken down into goals that will create a strong pull towards your desired result.

Step 2: Know your reasons.

This step correlates with your goals. If you don’t know why you’re decluttering in the first place, then it’ll be easier to drop the project. Try to create a list of reasons why you want to live with less stuff. It’s different for everyone. Some people enjoy the freedom of living in more spacious environments, while others simply appreciate owning less. Maybe you want more room to dance in or host parties. Knowing your reasons gives your decluttering a sense of purpose.

Don’t know your reasons? Here are a few more examples:

  • Afford more high-quality items: When you stop spending and hoarding poor-quality items, you will see a difference in your savings and afford more high-quality stuff. Things like quality beddings last much longer than their cheap counterparts. Ultimately, it’s a great way to save money in the long run.
  • Have more time: Since you will be spending less time cleaning, organizing, and maintaining your space, you’ll have more time to do things you actually like.
  • Stop living in the past: Some items are representations of the past. Allowing yourself to get rid of the guilt or baggage attached to certain things can be really refreshing. Perhaps it was the ring from an engagement that didn’t work out, or something you inherited from a family member who passed away. Choosing to sell or donate those items doesn’t mean you’re unappreciative or that you are eager to forget a family member. If an item no longer serves its purpose or if you have no interest in keeping it, it’s completely okay to get rid of it.

Step 3: Have a clear approach.

Let’s get one thing straight — decluttering is not organizing. It’s about getting rid of the stuff you don’t need, want, or love. If anything, organizing is the aftermath of a decluttering spree. But this isn’t an organizing mission.

Living with less (decluttering) trumps organizing because organizing is temporary. Your ducks may be in a row, your containers may be labeled and neatly arranged in the pantry, and your underwear may be huddled in their respective and appropriate drawers. You can even ROY-G-BIV your craft supplies and yet, it’s all temporary.

That’s the thing with organizing — you need to maintain it. Decluttering, on the other hand, is permanent. When you get rid of things that no longer add joy or value to your home, you immediately gain more visual and physical space.

Step 4: Start with the small stuff.

If you’re having a hard time letting go of more significant items or those with sentimental value, it’s best to start small. This includes simple knickknacks, paperweights, old textbooks and comics, candle holders, clothes that no longer fit, and all items in your junk drawer. You can also take a look at all the towels you haven’t used in years, cords and chargers that don’t work, and empty or expired bottles of grooming products. Getting rid of the easy stuff will kickstart your momentum and ease your mindset into considering more challenging items.

Step 5: Time to lighten up.

Did your great-grandparents, grandparents, and parents hand down all of their valuables to you? Spare your children the same fate, especially if the majority of your heirlooms are massive antiques that are only collecting dust in the attic or basement.

Heirlooms represent family wealth, history, and memories. But it’s important to remember that contemporary items gets lighter and cleaner as time passes. The younger generation is less likely to decorate their homes with bulky pieces of wooden items or wear the costume jewelry our ancestors once loved. It’s perfectly fine to keep one or two items in the family, but it’s not necessary to pass down all of your possessions to the next generation.

What’s next?

If you are still overwhelmed by the idea of decluttering, here is a word of advice: Your home is not a storage box, but rather a place for joy, relaxation, and connection. There is no better reason to declutter than to make room for more of that.