I don’t know about all of you, but I often find that when my environment is not organized, then I am not organized. I’m not sure if I am just really Type A or what, but there is something about having piles of stuff everywhere that drives me crazy until it’s cleaned up or put away. Enter decluttering.
I recently read about the Minimalist Challenge. Basically, the challenge goes like this: You pick a month when you would like to declutter your house, or basically become more of a “minimalist.” On the first day of the month you get rid of one thing. On the second day you get rid of two things, and the third day you get rid of three things, etc. All the way to the end of the month. You can donate, sell, recycle, or throw items away, as long as by the end of the day each day the items are out of your home.
There are a lot of advantages to being more of a minimalist. Put simply, if you have less stuff it takes less to maintain it. Fewer things break. People who are more minimalist tend to have less spending because they are more conscientious of not bringing too much “stuff” into their lives.
As someone who recently became a parent, our home has been overwhelmed with “stuff” over the course of the last few months. Add that to the fact that until recently I had a very stressful job that often required me to work long hours, and that means that basically we had not done much decluttering in the past few years. In short: Our house was jam-packed full of stuff. I immediately decided to complete the Minimalist Challenge last month.
To make a long story short, we got rid of hundreds of things over the course of the month. We made two trips to a pawn shop to sell old electronics, three trips to Goodwill, sold close to a dozen items on Amazon and eBay, and we even made a donation to our local domestic violence shelter. We got rid of an old stereo system, and old TV and VCR, an entire bag of travel sized hotel toiletries (that’s what went to the DV shelter), three big bags of clothes, a file cabinet, and so much more. Our trash can was overflowing every week. So was our recycle bin (at the end of the month when I was getting desperate I took to cleaning out our paperwork files, and everything that did not get shredded got recycled).
We also got rid of cable last month, so we got to take the DVR, cable box, remotes, etc. back to the cable company. I even got all crazy and decluttered the toolbar on the browser on my computer (that’s how you know I was in serious declutter mode)! The only links I left on my favorites toolbar are for Personal Capital, Harris Poll Online, and Swagbucks. I left those three things only because I visit those sites frequently- Personal Capital for our money management (review here) and Harris Poll Online and Swagbucks for earning money/rewards (review here).
I don’t think any of that makes me an expert, but I CAN tell you that I have definitely decluttered and gotten rid of a lot of stuff over the past month. Here are some of my top tips!
10 Smart Tips for Decluttering Your Home
1. Don’t try to do everything at once
Especially if you’ve let things accumulate for a while, as we had, it’s a big job. Don’t let the size of the task overwhelm you. Start small here.
2. Expect that it will take some time
I really do think that a month is a nice time frame to do this in (if you need to declutter your whole house), as it is long enough to give you time to space out the work, but short enough that you should be able to keep focus.
3. Try to organize your decluttering to one room/closet/section at a time
For example, a bathroom or a closet could possibly be done in one day. A bigger room like a bedroom, living room, or kitchen might take a few days.
4. Start by clearing out a certain space in your home, such as a table, and designate that spot a clutter free zone
Nothing should ever get left in the clutter free zone because by definition it is clutter free!! Eventually you could work to expand the clutter free zone to include an entire room, floor, etc.
5. Pick up the things around your house that never quite seem to have a “home,” and find them a home!
For us this was my dumbbells for a long time. Yes, I have a set of small dumbbells that I use to do some upper body strengthening, but they never quite seemed to have a home- until I finally got around to designating a home for them.
6. Keep a running list/box of items to donate
When the box is full, it’s time to make a trip to your chosen donation location. I also keep a box of items to be sold on eBay/Craigslist/Amazon, and once a week I list at least one thing for sale.
7. Empty your drawers
This includes bedroom dresser drawers, bathroom drawers, kitchen drawers, etc. Take some time to carefully look at items before putting them back in. Are there things you can get rid of? I found myself getting rid of sooooo many things in the bathroom drawers, including expired medications, travel-sized toiletries from hotels, eye cream that did not seem to do much, etc.
Papers can most definitely account for a great deal of clutter! It will be helpful for you to set up a filing system so that when papers come in that you need to keep, you actually have a place to put them where you can find them again. Depending on how much paperwork you have, it might not be a bad idea to invest in a good filing cabinet to help keep you organized here.
9. Get other family members on board
For some, this may be as simple as enlisting the help of your spouse (and sometimes it may not be so simple!) If you have children, it will also be necessary to work on helping your children remember to put things away. This will likely not be something they are naturally inclined to do, so have patience while you work on teaching them where things go, and be willing to provide reminders.
10. Set a date to start
One of the most important steps! I think this is why the Minimalist Challenge helped me so much- it gave me a definite time frame to work on decluttering in. I’m planning to do it again in six months or so to see if I can get rid of even more stuff!
The most important take-home here is to not let yourself get overwhelmed by the process. Start small if you have to. Even doing a little bit of decluttering for ten minutes a day is a step!
Suggested Reading: One of my fav books on decluttering and organization is Declutter Your Life: Quick and Easy Tips for Busy People. Worth a read for anyone who is looking for a lot of more specific tips and assistance in this area! Also, New York Times Bestseller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is a great read- although after reading it, I am not sure that I am quite as hardcore about decluttering as the author is!
Do you consider yourself to be a minimalist? What sort of things have you done to help keep your environment clutter-free?
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