One of the things that gives me most peace is having a clean and simple home. When I wake up in the morning and walk downstairs into a kitchen and living room that have been decluttered, that have a minimalist look, and have no junk lying around, there is a calm and joy that enters my heart.
When, on the other hand, I walk out into a living room cluttered with toys and magazines all over the place, it's chaos and my mind is frenetic. And trust me, with my 2-year-old who thinks all of her toys need to be laid out in order for her to play with them, this happens a lot.
Let me first state the obvious: any life that includes children is going to add clutter to your home, to at least some degree. You’ll never get a completely minimalist lifestyle with kids, and I’ve learned to accept that.
I’ve been a simplifier and a declutterer for years now and I’ve gotten pretty good at it, but I’ve found that it's a continuous process. So, here are my top decluttering tips!
1. Find out if you prefer working in big chunks, or doing a bit everyday.
Since decluttering can seem overwhelming, I say do whatever works for you. Sometimes, for me, it’s good to set aside part of a morning, or an entire Saturday to declutter a closet or room. I do it all at once, and when I’m done, it feels awesome. But for others, only 10 minutes a day to clean out a drawer works best.
2. Take everything out of a shelf or drawer at once.
You should focus on one drawer or shelf at a time, and empty it completely. Then clean that shelf or drawer. Then take the pile and sort it, and put back only what you want to keep. Then tackle the next shelf or drawer.
3. Be merciless.
The truth is, you won’t ever use most of the junk you’ve accumulated. If you haven’t used it in the last year, get rid of it. It’s as simple as that. If you’ve only used it once or twice in the last year, but know you won’t use it in the next year, get rid of it. When going through my endless piles of clothes, I usually ask myself, “Will I wear this again?” If not, then I make piles for friends or I will donate it. I know someone out there will make use of it.
4. Toss all papers but the super important ones.
Magazines, catalogs, junk mail, bills more than a year old, letters and cards from exes, old work documents…toss it! The only exception is with tax-related stuff, and other important documents such as warranties, birth and death and marriage certificates, insurance, wills.. But you’ll know those when you see them. Otherwise, toss!!!!
5. If you're on the fence with some of your things, create a “maybe” box.
If you can’t bear to toss something because you might need it later, put it in the box, then label it, and put it in storage, out of sight. Most likely, you’ll never open that box again! If that’s the case, pull it out after six months or a year, and toss it or give it away.
6. Figure out how to stop clutter from accumulating.
There’s a reason you have papers all over the place, and big piles of toys and books and clothes. It’s because you don’t have a regular system to keep things in their place, and get rid of stuff you don’t need. I always ask myself, “When will I ever need this again?” or, “What am I actually going to do this decorative bowl?”
7. Kids clutter. Less is more.
Teach the kids that they don’t need to have huge piles of stuff to be happy. They can’t possibly play with everything anyway — there aren’t enough hours in the day. With less stuff, they can find things more easily, they can see what there is to play with, and they can own better quality stuff. Instead of getting them a huge pile of cheap junk, go for quality toys or possessions that will last a long time. Wood is better than plastic, for example. It’s better to spend your money on a few great things than on a whole bunch of cheap things that will break and be relegated to the junk pile in no time.
8. Celebrate when you’re done!
This is actually a general rule in life: always celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small, even if you just decluttered one drawer. Treat yourself to something delicious. Open that drawer, and admire its simplicity. Breathe deeply and know that you have done a good thing. Take in your peacefulness. I know it sounds funny but do it and trust me you will have that good feeling.
9. Consider donating.
Before you throw anything in to the trash, if possible, think about donating. I used to throw everything away and my husband would always remind me there are people out there that can use my old clothes, toys, books, kitchen stuff and other things that we don’t need.
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