By Susan McCarthy
Everyday practice - Declutter one, small, specific space or category each day - socks, dishes, or a drawer.
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Here we go again. A new year and probably a lot of the same resolutions you made last year. Oh, look, “get organized.” Right behind “lose weight” and “get a better job.” It’s discouraging.
You really, really hate feeling overwhelmed by all the stuff in your home. You can’t stand that you misplaced your car keys (again). You’re annoyed that you spent 15 minutes this morning trying on all six pairs of black dress pants hanging in your closet trying to find the pair that fits and doesn’t need to be hemmed. You’re annoyed by all the money you’ve spent on items you don’t even use.
But, where should you start? How much time will the process of decluttering your home take? Do you need to block out every weekend for the next six months or take a week off work so that you can dedicate yourself to decluttering and organizing your home?
Start with Your Why
Why do you want to declutter your home? Yeah, yeah, I know, “duh, too much stuff.” But, here’s a kick in the pants … if “too much stuff” was your reason for decluttering and getting organized last year, then it’s just not a good enough reason.
Do you want to sit around the dining room table with your family instead of perching on the couch while eating dinner? Do you want to show off your personal fashion style (once you find it)? Do you want to get rid of the camping gear you haven’t used since college, so you can use the art supplies you do want to use (but can’t, because, camping gear)?
Your “why” will probably be very specific. It might be so specific that you don’t think it will be useful because you have so many things and spaces to declutter and organize. The thing is, once you clear off the dining room table, you’ll probably start decluttering the space around the table, so you aren’t staring at clutter while eating dinner. Then, you’ll work on tidying the rest of the room. While going through things, you bring the scissors, a bottle of glue, and a blank notebook to your home office, which starts you organizing your desk and then the file cabinet and then the bookcase.
You get the idea. Start small. Start specific. Start with doable.
Declutter in Small Steps
Oh, small steps, like, “declutter my closet.” Ah, no. Chances are you’ll open your closet, pull out a few things, and then drop to the ground, curled into the fetal position. Small steps are most effective when you think of them and roll your eyes at how simple they’d be to accomplish. So,
“I’ll clean my dresser (all six drawers).” NOPE
“I’ll dump everything out of these three drawers and reorganize the stuff.” No
“I’ll tidy this one drawer.” Hmmm, maybe.
“I’ll pull the sports bras out of this drawer and see which ones are still in good condition. I’ll put back the ones that I can still wear to the gym.” Yeah. It took me longer to make that statement than it did to do the task.
This small task may not make a significant difference to the clutter in your home, but, and this is a big, meaningful but, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment instead of feeling overwhelmed frustration. (Is your closet a point of stress? Check out my book Get Dressed with Less Stress.)
After completing the small task chances are that tomorrow you’ll find it easier to do another small task. If you tried to tackle too much, you would have been so frustrated that it may have taken you a couple of weeks before you went back to the task of cleaning your dresser.
Get in the Habit of Maintenance
From this day forward, get in the habit of putting things away when you finish with them, particularly when the task will take less than two minutes.
You finished your cup of coffee? Take the mug from your desk and put it in the dishwasher (you can stop by the bathroom afterwards). When you take off your jacket as you walk in the house, hang up the jacket instead of wearing it into another room and then tossing it on the back of a chair.
This gets you in the habit of figuring out where things belong, which may be a major source of your clutter. Some clutter is stuff that doesn’t have a home or that isn’t put back where it belongs (where you’ll go looking for it the next time you want it).
Surprised? You may have thought that clutter was stuff you had to get rid of. Sometimes yes; sometimes no.
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Other helpful articles:
The Organized Squirrel, Susan, shows you how acorns (small habits) can grow into oak trees (a better life).