Feeling overwhelmed by clutter in your home? You’re not alone. Most of us struggle with too much stuff and not enough functional space. The good news is decluttering can provide relief.
As someone who has gone through their own decluttering journey, I understand the emotions involved. It’s difficult to let go of possessions, especially those with nostalgic meaning. However, I’ve learned some key rules that make decluttering easier.
In this post, we’ll cover my top 7 rules for guilt-free decluttering and tips on deciding what to keep.
Why Decluttering Matters?
Before we get into the how-to, let’s look at why decluttering is so important:
- Reduces stress and anxiety caused by the disorder.
- Makes cleaning easier and faster.
- Frees up room in your home.
- Encourages organization and efficiency.
- Allows you to find items quickly.
- Prevents buying duplicates.
- Helps you focus on joyful possessions.
As you can see, clearing the clutter has wide-ranging benefits. Even though it may be difficult, it’s worth pushing through any fears or uncertainties you have about the process.
My Experience with Decluttering
My decluttering journey began when I moved into a smaller apartment. With limited space, I had to be ruthless about what made the cut.
This meant finally sorting through:
- Old school projects and artwork.
- Clothing from high school and college.
- Books I was keeping for “someday”.
With each item, I asked myself:
- Do I use this regularly? If I hadn’t read a book in years, it was added to the donation pile. The same went for clothing that no longer fit my style.
- Is this essential to my life now? I took photos of sentimental art projects and yearbooks before passing them along.
- Could this be digitized? I scanned favorite papers and records to reduce physical copies.
Although the process was difficult, I felt free and clearheaded after. The space seemed peaceful and open. My possessions finally matched my priorities.
While decluttering takes effort, the benefits are massive. To make the process smoother, let’s look at some key rules.
7 Decluttering Rules
Follow these guidelines to declutter efficiently and make the tough decisions easier:
1. Start with obvious trash.
Old receipts, broken items, expired products, and random papers are easy wins. You don’t need these things, so start by tossing them. Having quick successes builds momentum.
2. Get rid of duplicates.
Do you really require 10 spatulas and 5 tape dispensers? If you have duplicates, keep only your favorite 1-2 of an item.
3. Keep things you use frequently.
Marie Kondo popularized the advice to keep possessions that “spark joy.” But a more practical test is whether you actually use something. For example, keep tools you reach for regularly.
4. Take photos of nostalgic items.
Some things are hard to part with for emotional reasons. Take photos of these items, so you still have the memories without the physical item.
5. Let go of guilt.
Feeling guilty about decluttering certain things? Remind yourself the purpose is to create space and reduce stress. Don’t let obligation weigh you down.
6. Evaluate your current priorities.
Your passions and interests change. So periodic decluttering helps ensure you have items that match your priorities now versus years ago. Ask yourself what’s important today.
7. Cut items you don’t need after moving.
Moving is a great opportunity to cull your belongings. Be ruthless as you pack. If you haven’t needed something in the past 6 months, consider leaving it behind.
Using these rules prevents you from getting bogged down by indecision. They provide a structure for making logical choices.
How to Decide What to Keep?
Even with the rules above, you’ll likely still face dilemmas on certain possessions. Here are tips for deciding what to keep:
- Use the 20/20 rule. If you can replace an item for less than $20 in less than 20 minutes, donate it.
- Think long-term. Don’t make decisions based on temporary circumstances. For example, don’t keep baby clothes if you don’t plan to have more children.
- Consider practicality. Keep items aligned with your lifestyle and needs. For instance, get rid of formalwear if you rarely attend black tie events.
- Evaluate usefulness. Be honest about when you last used an item. If it’s been over a year, chances are you won’t need it.
- Check expiration dates. Toss food, cosmetics, medications, and cleaning products once they’re past recommended use. Cluttered pantries and cabinets defeat the purpose of stocking up.
- Assess seasonality. Keep just one bin of seasonal decorations and clothing. Store off-season items elsewhere until needed. Rotate them yearly.
- Give yourself a test period. For items you’re uncertain about, box them up for 3-6 months. If you don’t need them during that time, feel free to donate them.
Making decluttering choices is easier when you have a system. Use these tips to guide your decisions.
The Secret of Successful Decluttering
As you declutter, you may feel tugged by obligation, nostalgia, or other emotions. To stay focused:
- Shift your mindset. Instead of thinking “What should I get rid of?” ask “What do I want to keep?” This small reframe helps you focus on your priorities versus perceived obligations.
- Start small. Tackle one area, cabinet, or drawer at a time. Small bites prevent you from feeling overwhelmed.
- Celebrate wins. Praise yourself for filling each donation box and clearing each shelf. Enjoy your home’s new spaciousness.
The process takes effort but becomes easier with time. Remind yourself of the benefits. A clutter-free home allows you to focus on what matters most.
Decluttering requires bravery but pays off tremendously in reduced anxiety and improved organization. Use the rules and questions above to guide your decisions. Remember to start small and celebrate successes.