I have long known that a cluttered and messy home or work environment is a recipe for disaster in my life. Not only does the clutter and mess feel stifling, it also blocks any and all productivity, creativity, and focus.
When I came across the concept of decluttering while reading Get Rich, Lucky Bitch*, I began to see the impact of clutter and mess in all areas of life, and not just in my home. From mindset to relationships to physical possessions, clutter had taken on many different shapes, sizes, and forms in my life and was wreaking havoc.
Decluttering became my new mantra and I started to systematically work through the different facets of my life and began processing, organizing, and letting go of anything that wasn’t useful or loved.
So what, exactly, is decluttering?
According to Dictionary.com, decluttering is
- the process of removing a mess or clutter from a place, or
- the process of organizing and prioritizing something (one’s commitments, material possessions, etc.)
In other words, decluttering is an action whereby you remove, organize, and/or prioritize the things that are taking up space in your life.
It could be…
- tidying up the papers on your desk and putting them in a file where they belong
- putting dirty dishes in the sink instead of letting them pile up all around the house
- clearing out anything you don’t wear, doesn’t fit, or is stained from your closet and only leaving what you wear behind
- deleting, responding to, and archiving the emails in your inbox
- sorting through mail and other piles of paper around the house
- prioritizing how you spend your time
Where to start?
I want to preface this section with a disclaimer: there is no right or wrong way to do this.
(Or right or wrong place to start, for that matter.)
I’ve always looked at decluttering as an active and ongoing process. Because, let’s be honest. We, as humans, are really good at generating more stuff and making messes.
I tend to go for the thing that will give me the most bang for my buck or help me build momentum to tackle other (and bigger) projects, but that doesn’t mean YOU have to. You could decide to devote 15 minutes each day to clearing out something or pick one drawer at a time. Conversely, you could also devote an entire weekend each month to clearing out everything in a particular category (clothing, paper, digital, emotional, etc).
The key here is to do what feels right (and exciting) for you and to keep on doing it.
To help get you started on your own decluttering journey and give you an idea of a few places to tackle in your own life, here are twelve of my favorite areas to declutter.
- Your wallet. Empty out any old receipts, gift cards, coupons, membership cards, or customer loyalty cards that you don’t use or no longer need. I even like to make sure all of my cash is organized and easy to access and remove excess change to store for another time.
- Your desk or workspace. Organize and file away any papers that you want to keep and recycle the rest. Clear off any old dishes, cups, or mugs and put them where they belong. Wipe down surfaces and give your screen a good cleaning. And then throw away or donate any supplies that you no longer need.
- Your kitchen. Take care of any dirty dishes or utensils, put away anything that is out of place, and wipe down all surfaces. Go through appliances, storage containers, etc and remove anything that is broken or never used. Throw away any food that has expired. Remove any spoiled food or condiments that are in the refrigerator. Wipe down appliances and clean the inside of your refrigerator. Clean and organize your spices, organize your under-sink area, and remove any old or unwanted papers hanging on the refrigerator.
- Your inbox. I am admittedly on Team Inbox Zero, and am a firm believer that digital clutter is still clutter. Clear out any spam or promotional emails that no longer apply. Archive anything that is older than 6-12 months old. Respond to and archive all other messages in your inbox. Want some help? Here are some great tips for Gmail and Outlook.
- Your computer. File or delete anything on your home screen that you don’t actively use. Same goes for your downloads folder. Go through your camera roll on your computer and delete any duplicates or photos you don’t like/want to keep. Empty the trash. Back-up your computer files and move over anything that you don’t need onto an external hard drive or cloud-server.
- Your phone. Clear out your old messages, delete voicemails, and remove any apps that you don’t use or love. Delete photos you don’t like/want to keep. Remove any contacts from your phone that you don’t use or make you feel unhappy in some way. Back up your device.
- Your closet. Take everything out of your closet and put it on your bed. Go through and remove anything that has holes, is stained, or is unwearable in some way. If there is anything that you don’t like, don’t wear, or don’t want anymore, put it aside to donate or sell. Wipe down shelves and vacuum or dust before putting your clothing back in. Fold, hang, and organize your clothing so that you can easily access everything and see what you have. Store away any seasonally inappropriate items (if possible) and take anything that needs it to the dry cleaners.
- The car. Throw out any trash and remove leftover food or snacks. Remove empty water bottles or drink cups. Clear out the center console and glove box and leave only what you need inside. Clean up any spills, dirt, or sticky spots. Wipe down surfaces, clean windows, and vacuum the carpets. Set radio to your favorite stations and make sure your chargers and chords are easily accessible.
- The junk drawer. Why does junk get a drawer?? Take stock of what’s in the drawer and find a home for what’s inside or get rid of it. Fill the space with things that you will actually use or leave it empty until you can figure out what truly belongs there.
- The garage, basement, and/or attic. Take stock of everything that’s inside and create piles for donating, selling, tossing, or keeping. Sort accordingly. Once you know what you’re keeping, organize and put them away. If you need shelving or bins to help yourself get and stay organized, do it.
- Your mindset. We all carry around stories and beliefs based on our life experiences and what we’ve been taught (in school, by family, etc). Problem is, they aren’t always helpful. Take stock of your thoughts and beliefs — through tools like journaling, therapy, meditation, and mindfulness — and let go of anything that isn’t serving you anymore.
- Your calendar. Take a good look at how you’re spending your time. Is it in alignment with what you value most or are there things that you could remove to create space and be open to the things you really want to be spending time doing? If yes, great! If not, time to start saying no or find ways to decline your current commitments that feel good.
Your turn! What would you add to the list? What are your favorite areas to declutter? And what decluttering activity gives you the most bang for your buck?
Here’s to creating space and giving yourself peace of mind.