Have you ever wondered what it would be like to move into a new home and take nothing, or at least very little, with you? I have and that’s prompted by my desire to live clutter free. The less clutter I have, the less stressed I feel. It’s just that simple for me. A clutter free space truly makes me happy.
If you came to my house, you’d see several books about decluttering, organizing, and keeping only those things that spark joy. I love to clear things out and organize spaces because the payoff for me is truly a sense of peacefulness and clarity. You might think that I have a home that is completely clear of clutter since this is a topic that is near and dear to my heart, and yet that isn’t true. Some rooms stay clutter free much of the time, and others manage to get out of control occasionally. Why is that? Probably because the spaces that get out of control are less visible like spare bedrooms, closets, the basement or the infrequently used dining room table.
Clutter is most likely to build up when life gets busier than normal and I don’t make the time for a regular practice. Before I know it, I have an overwhelming decluttering job to tackle. Clearing the clutter works best when I make it a part of my routine around the house, like getting the dirty dishes into the dish washer, vacuuming or doing laundry. Clutter can make me feel distracted, overwhelmed, and raises my stress level, even if it’s in very subtle ways. I know that when I declutter, even in the smallest ways, I have quite the opposite reaction. I feel happy, honestly almost giddy at times when the things piling up on the kitchen table, or thrown haphazardly in a closet are straightened up. Years ago, I worked for a large financial institution and a few close colleagues would joke with me that they knew when I was working on a project that was very challenging when they saw me standing in front of my desk with a very focused look, throwing papers away, and clearing off my desk with a passion. I seemed to do that when I really needed to focus intently on a difficult task. Taking a few minutes to clear my desk off completely, and get rid of things that weren’t needed allowed me to clear my mind and concentrate on the one priority I had without being weighed down by the distractions sitting on my desk.
I’m sure many of you are familiar with Marie Kondo and her books on tidying up. Kondo states that to successfully declutter, we should ask if each item in our home “sparks joy”, and if it does not truly spark joy, to thank it for being in our life and let it go. I have found that the “spark joy” test to be very profound. You may think that there are lots of things that you need in your home that do not spark joy, but you still need them. At first, I thought that too, and then realized that even small things like my favorite knives in the kitchen, my amazing vacuum, or fluffy towels in the bathroom can spark joy. If you’d like to check out Marie Kondo in action with some of her clients, you may enjoy her Netflix series called Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Her practice promotes taking everything out of closets, drawers, etc. all at one time and item by item deciding whether they are worthy of keeping. If you can manage that, you’ll soon be on your way to being 100% clutter free. However, I use a combination of ideas that work for me, some pieces of her practice as well as tips and tricks from other sources that work well.
Getting started can be the toughest part of decluttering. It helps to have a clear vision of your clutter free space. What’s that look like and how will that make you feel? Once you have some clarity around your motivation for decluttering, here are a few ideas to help you get started.
First, get a bag for trash and a box for donations. Set a timer on your phone for 20 minutes. Go room to room finding things that can either be thrown away or donated and fill that bag and box. You may be amazed at the progress you’ll have in just 20 minutes. And, there is nothing magical about the timeframe – do it for 10 minutes or 45 minutes, whatever works for you. Just keep it simple and manageable. Then, celebrate that success by throwing out the trash and putting the donation box in your car to deliver to your local charity. This small step will start some momentum for you, and you’ll feel good about doing a bit more.
Start small – perhaps you clean out the spice cabinet, throwing out the expired items and organizing the remaining bottles, all in one place. And, think about the decluttering based on categories, for example, books, gift wrap/bags and cards, files, cleaning supplies, seasonal decorations. These things may be scattered in several rooms and when you gather them all into one space, it’s easier to create a good space for them and find them easily when you need them. Having one place to look for each type of item can reduce stress, and eliminate the need to purchase things that you already have somewhere! Once you have tackled a few smaller tasks, you’ll most likely have the energy and enthusiasm to declutter larger areas for longer periods of time.
Imagine clearing out clutter to bring more joy and peace into your life. Visualizing that may make the work of clearing your clutter feel more purposeful and impactful. On Wednesday, July 29th Wholistic Woman Retreats will be hosting a virtual event called Clear the Clutter. As one of the partner coaches at WWR, I’ll be facilitiating the event and talking about clearing out what I call life clutter. We’ll talk about more than the clutter in our physical spaces. We’ll also consider the emotional, mental and spiritual life clutter that could be holding us back or making us feel stuck. You’ll create a customized plan for yourself that will help you to design a life that is peaceful and full of joy. I hope you will join us on July 29!