Decluttering your life has a profound impact on your mind. When your life is decluttered, simplified, and organized it’s easier for your brain to think clearly, be present, and focus.
Just imagine walking into a room with stuff everywhere. Whether you’re trying to connect with someone, trying to find something, or trying to sit down, everything is easier in spaces that are organized and decluttered. I probably don’t have to sell you on this idea! And yet, so often we find clutter in our lives that just “happened” (over time, of course), and we don’t do anything about it. Why is this?
Why It’s So Hard To Declutter
I think there are two main reasons why it’s hard to declutter: 1) scarcity thinking and 2) indecision.
Scarcity thinking sounds like “not enough.” I don’t know if I’ll need that some time in the future, so I’m going to keep it. Someone I know could use that sometime someday. I’m not sure if I have enough, so it’s best to keep it.
Indecision sounds like “I’ll get to that later.” And the intention is genuine, but there’s never a plan put in place, so later never actually happens.
If you find yourself in scarcity thinking or indecision, you, my friend, are definitely in good company. It’s a very normal part of the human brain to consider resources to make sure you are “safe.” And a different part of the brain wants to be efficient and avoid making decisions. Because of this, it actually takes a lot more energy and effort (at first) to break these patterns and overcome them.
But the reward is oh so very worth it.
7 Benefits Of Decluttering
Here are the most impactful benefits of decluttering:
- You’ll feel better in a decluttered space.
- You’ll save time by knowing where everything is.
- You’ll stop having mental chatter around decluttering.
- You’ll be able to focus on what matters most.
- You’ll have more clarity because it will be easier to think.
- You’ll feel proud of your space.
- You’ll have decreased stress and anxiety around your home.
How To Get Started Decluttering
Because decluttering can feel like “another task” that you can get to “later” it’s important to have a strategy going into it so that you’re as effective as possible.
The best strategy that I use and recommend is to 1) start with one space at a time, 2) commit to decluttering that area in a certain time block, 3) make decisions for the space, and 4) create a system for maintenance.
- 7 Ways I’ve Decluttered My Life (podcast)
- How To Declutter Your Home And Simplify Your Life (blog post)
Part 1: Choose one space to declutter.
Instead of decluttering randomly, decide on specific areas to declutter at a time and don’t move on to the next area until that space is done. Because of the nature of decluttering it can be so tempting to switch rooms mid-purging and organizing. But this just leads to more overwhelm because it turns into organizing the entire house in a two hour window, which of course, is impossible.
So, start small. Choose a closet, a drawer, or one small room. Start by decluttering only this space.
Part 2: Commit to decluttering in a given time block.
This essentially means put decluttering on your calendar. Schedule it like it’s an appointment that you wouldn’t miss. This is the only way it will happen because it can always be done “later” and well, later typically never comes.
Start with an hour or a couple of hours, depending on the space. Carve out that time and dedicate it exclusively to decluttering. Don’t go on your phone or social media while you’re decluttering because that will distract you from your task at hand. You can add in some light music or a favorite beverage to make it fun, but you want to be able to focus (so a podcast or audio book may not be best here unless you know exactly what’s going and staying already).
If you haven’t already, check out my podcast, Design Your Dream Life where I discuss mindfulness, overwhelm, and how to manage it all.
Part 3: Make decisions for the space.
With everything you declutter, decide whether you want to: 1) keep it, 2) trash it, 3) donate it, or 4) sell it.
The key to this step is to make decisions quickly and confidently.
This is where you’ll notice a mindset drama come up, if you have them around decluttering. It’ll sound like, “well, I think I remember my sister-in-law’s best friend’s mom gave me this plate for Christmas one year, so I think it should stay because I don’t want her to be offended if she finds out it’s gone.” This is a classic case of thinking that you control other people’s emotions, i.e.: people pleasing. While of course there’s room to be considerate, typically, with decluttering, I see more worrying than genuine love.
If you’re on the fence about something here are a few things to consider:
- When was the last time it was used?
- When’s the next time you know for sure you’ll use it?
- Do you love the item?
Everything in your space should be there on purpose. You get to decide what that “purpose” is; you can keep something just because you want to. You just want to make sure that it’s providing more good than harm (i.e. it’s not turning into clutter).
Part 4: Create a system for maintenance.
It’s always our minds that are creating our spaces. I have an idea of what I want my bedroom to look like in my mind before I go out and get furniture and actually create the bedroom. The idea comes first. This means that our minds are always creating our spaces. The little thoughts like “I’ll put this here now and figure out where it goes later”. That seems so useful in the moment to move faster and get things done when it actually is the very thought that creates clutter.
To overcome the part of the mind that created the clutter in the first place (so you don’t create the same clutter again), I recommend creating a system for maintenance.
This system will depend on space and what’s most likely to get “cluttered.”
Here’s one example: Let’s say there’s a basket next to the couch that typically gets a lot of random things in it, resulting in clutter. Decide on purpose what the basket is going to be for—blankets, for example. Going forward, only blankets go in the basket. If that doesn’t work, then question whether the basket should be there in the first place if it’s too hard to follow the system.
Another example: Any time you buy a new clothing item, you have to purge a clothing item. You can do this for all members of your family, too. This way there’s a natural flow of things coming in and out, instead of holding on to too much for too long.
The idea with systems for maintenance is to make it easy on yourself to stay clutter free.
A Final Note
Decluttering brings up a lot of our internal “stuff” (pun intended!) because it’s what’s going on inside for us that’s preventing us from decluttering. It may be as minor as procrastinating making decisions or it may be serious, like attachment and meaning given to so many material items that it’s paralyzing.
Whatever it is for you, let decluttering your space be the gateway into a growth journey for you. It’s work worth doing, my friend!
UP NEXT: Listen to the Creating More Space And Simplicity In Your Life Podcast.