This year, decluttering continued to be a buzzword as people chased simpler lives less encumbered with excess. On mbg, we've featured the advice of dozens of professional organizers to help make the process as painless and productive as possible.
Though varied, their suggestions all speak to the idea that decluttering is an act of introspection. It requires you to nail down your values, visualize the future you want, and let go of anything that doesn't belong in it. It's a heavy task, and it can become daunting. To ease overwhelm, the pros often recommend dividing your home into sections, taking things one item at a time, and making a little party out of it by throwing on a playlist, lighting a candle, or diffusing oils as you go. And as the state of our environment continued to become more dire, many of them touched on the importance disposing of your clutter responsibly: taking those few extra moments to find a new home for it instead of sending it off to landfill.
While all of their advice rang true, the most memorable tip of 2017 didn't come from a professional organizer or decluttering master. It came from a former hoarder.
In a piece on her yearlong pursuit of simplicity, author and serial maximalist Eve O. Schaub perfectly encapsulated why decluttering can be such a pain, writing, "A mess is something we know what to do with. If your kitchen is a mess, you can go put things away and clean it up, or get someone else to come in and do it for you. But clutter? No one can clean your clutter for you. Clutter doesn't have a place to go yet—it's objects in limbo that are the result of deferred decisions... For me, clutter is about a fear of forgetting, of losing myself."
In order to face these decisions head-on and confront her clutter, she did something kind of revolutionary: She cut herself some slack.
"I made a deal with myself: I promised to forgive myself for the inevitable 'mistakes' that were bound to crop up. I tried to remember that, in life, it's rare to make decisions that are clearly 'right' or 'wrong' and to remind myself that there won't be anyone waiting around with a red pencil to give me a letter grade on how I did at the end."
Approaching decluttering from this place is to give yourself permission to make mistakes, keeping in mind that the consequences probably won't be that bad—parting ways with a few too many magazines or phone chargers. And what a privilege it is to make these kinds of mistakes in the first place.
Check out some more of our all-time favorite decluttering advice here.