When you look around your home and, in your cupboards, do you feel a sense of frustration and defeat?
You want space to relax, create and simply enjoy life– but you’re suffocating with the sheer overwhelm of the clutter around you.
Instead of space, your bench, dining table, cupboards and drawers are fill to overflowing with ‘stuff’ you’ve accumulated over time (and let’s not even get started on that shed in the back yard where you barely have space to move).
Living with too much clutter can drain your energy. It’s distracting reminding you each time there’s a job to be done.
Decluttering is one of the most attainable, practical and immediate ways to lighten your load. Every single item you get rid of takes a bit of that weight off your chest. Plus, less stuff, means less time cleaning, less time tidying, less time looking for stuff and more time to enjoy life!
People can find themselves overwhelmed at the prospect of tackling clutter, to the point that it can be put off for months, years or indefinitely!
However, it doesn’t need to be this way….
Making tiny changes to the way we see the task of decluttering, organising and tidying our homes will turn it from an insurmountable and dreaded job to being a manageable task that is definitely doable, immensely satisfying (and dare we say fun!)
In this article, we’ll share our tops tips for overcoming what makes decluttering hard as well as some easy ways to get started.
What makes decluttering hard
- I feel like I’m throwing money away
- I might need it one day
- My things have sentimental value
- My family aren’t on board with decluttering
- I don’t have time!
- I don’t know where to start
Solutions to common decluttering problems
I feel like I’m throwing money away.
Have you ever seen a skirt or perhaps a new lounge chair (let’s say they’re non- refundable) that you fell in love with and on impulse bought? Then on getting home and living with the chair, you find that quite frankly there’s no space for this chair, now it’s hard to move around the room, and the space just feels tight. Or that skirt that looked amazing in the store that’s not your usual style, but what the heck, I’ve had a hard week, I deserve this. You get home and find that it doesn’t go with any of your tops, and that actually looking at it in your home mirror and sitting down in it, it might be a bit on the tight side, it’s not really to your taste and you know you’re never going to wear it. Not only that you already have a closet full of skirts, what on earth do you want with another skirt? But you paid a lot of money for that item, you can’t just get rid of it, as that’s just throwing away money, right?
Wrong! If you look at it objectively it’s no more valuable to you if you’re not using it, than it would be if you no longer owned it. In fact, there’s a cost of keeping it. It’s taking up valuable physical and mental space, and in my opinion your mental and emotional space is just as valuable (if not more so) than the dollars in your pocket.
Now you could always try to resell the item (a good option, albeit a more time consuming one) or you could donate it to a charity and think along the lines about how that item could go on to really help someone else. Perhaps there’s a young family setting up their first home on a tight budget, who could really benefit from your donated chair? Or a single Mum down on her luck who finds your skirt in the charity shop and it is just the thing to make her feel confident going into a job interview?
The takeaway from this being that there is a cost to holding onto stuff you aren’t using and that there is a mental and emotional gain in letting things go.
I might need it one day
Getting rid of things that are inherently useful can be hard to part with, but generally all it requires is reframing your thinking. Instead of asking yourself, ‘what if I need it one day?’ (and be lumped with the physical and emotional weight of storing that item) ask yourself, ‘what would be the worst-case scenario if I do move on this item?’
Let’s go to the worst-case scenario for this one…. you get rid of it/donate it/sell it and then say 2 years from now you have a need for that item. For example, you’re going to host a sushi party and a rice cooker would make things a heck of a lot easier, but you donated yours to charity a couple of years ago. Now this is a one off, you’re not likely to be using a rice cooker all of the time, so could you just borrow one from a family member or friend? Or go old school and use the microwave absorption method (let’s face it, this is hardly more effort than a rice cooker). Has it been a catastrophe that you parted with the rarely used rice cooker? Or did you just work out another simple solution? Life certainly didn’t come to a standstill.
The takeaway being the space gained amasses to a lot more than the potential what if scenario.
My things have sentimental value
Decluttering items that hold sentimental value can be the hardest to part with due to the emotional attachment and/or the sense of duty. You might have received some family paintings or ornaments, or perhaps a large armchair. None of these things are to your taste, they don’t go with your décor, nor do you really have the space for them…. but they have been passed onto you by a much loved relative or friend, so you have a duty to hold onto them…. or do you?
Now, I believe you do have a duty, a duty to make sure that these treasured items get the respect they deserve. This does not mean you have to hold onto them, quite the contrary, these items deserve to be somewhere where they will be treasured and appreciated, they should be with someone who is really going to love them. This could be relatives, or friends, perhaps a school or even a museum, depending on the nature of the item.
Passing the item on can be an act of respect for that item, and at the end of the day, the real value is in memories not things, and passing on an item does not mean getting rid of the memories associated with it.
Sometimes it can be nice to document items first, take a photo and keep an album with the photos and a little write up on the history of that piece. If it has really special memories, perhaps you could frame the photo and the write up and pop it up on the wall as a special way to reflect on that time and share the memories with others.
The key takeaways being, if the item does not enhance my life in a meaningful way, or work in my home, then I have a duty to pass this item onto someone who ‘will’ love it. Passing on an item does not mean getting rid of the memories associated with it. Memories are in your heart and mind, not in the item.
My family aren’t on board with decluttering
This one can spark many a family feud. We all seem to have very different views of what constitutes clutter. What’s that saying, one person’s junk is another’s treasure, nothing could ring truer in most homes. I’m all too familiar with this, I live with a hoarder (specifically my 9-year-old daughter). Every item in her room is ‘special’ and ‘treasured,’ how she even remembers all those teddies, and various soft toys is quite frankly mind boggling. Now try and remove some of these special items and unleash the fury and upset and find yourself quickly backtracking and returning these items to their rightful home (not without a good amount of frustration). Expecting others to just willingly follow you on your decluttering journey very rarely works, so in this instance, our best advice is to stay in your own lane, to focus on your things and your areas of influence, and maybe, in time, when you’re not forcing your loved one’s hands and upsetting them with your decluttering exploits, they may just get on board with the decluttering journey when they see the results you achieve and the happiness you gain.
Key takeaway being focus on your things and your areas of influence and find joy and satisfaction in that, and just maybe in time your family will get on board with you too.
I don’t have time
Even if you only have 5 seconds, you have time! That sweatshirt your never wear hanging in your closet, grab it, or that pile of magazines filling up precious closet space, scoop them up too, then dump them in the box labelled ‘things to donate’ (we’ll get to the part about the box shortly), and there you go, operation decluttering is underway. Now imagine the compound effect of repeating this action each time you head out the door, it’s going to add up overtime, for next to no effort, but the rewards will be felt in terms of space.
The trick is to remember that decluttering is a process. You don’t need to tackle it all at once, but you do need to be consistent. You can work in small chunks of time, or by room, or even by draw, find a system that sits comfortably with you, and the time and energy you have and do it that way. Then before you know it, that cluttered mess that was making you feel overwhelmed, anxious and defeated has turned into a space, where there’s less to clean, organise, less stress things are easy to find and access, giving you a newfound sense of freedom and more energy and time for things that matter.
The key takeaway being there is always time, it’s just a matter of breaking the task down into manageable chunks, that overtime will lead to big gains in both mental and physical space.
I don’t know where to start
Most of us know that feeling of opening the hallway cupboard, that has become the dumping ground for all things. You stand there contemplating how on earth you are going to tackle this monumental task, thinking you’re going to have to set aside a whole day, and even then, it won’t be enough, or you may be a bit more cavalier and just get straight into it, dragging the entire contents of the cupboard onto the floor, then you look down and feel this sense of overwhelm, thinking this is a way bigger task than I anticipated. So, you scoop it all back up and shove it back in there for another day. Or for the less cavalier on opening the door and contemplating, you just shut the door again. Out of sight out of mind, right?!
This is a common problem, and the key is to start on a small area, or start with a set amount of time, that way you’re ending your decluttering task on a positive note, thus making you more inclined to keep up the process on a more regular basis. Personally, I prefer to start by clearing the flat surfaces in my home, the kitchen bench, dining table, vanity top. Clearing flat surfaces are immensely satisfying as you see immediate results, which can then give you that much needed boost of motivation to tackle other areas of your home.
The key take away being just start but begin with a small area or a small chunk of time. Decluttering shouldn’t take over your life!
Now onto the really good stuff, below we’ll share 6 easy ways to declutter your home.
6 easy ways to declutter your home
- The five-box method. Pick a room. Then put 5 empty boxes in the room, labelled as follows; rubbish, donate, recycle, keep, relocate. Next, put each item from that room into one of the 5 boxes.
- 5-minute timer. Set the timer now see how much you can declutter in that time.
- Fill a box. This can be a good family activity. Grab a box each, see how quickly you can fill it with things for charity. Winner is the first one to fill their box.
- One item a day. Pop a laundry basket or decent sized box in the boot of your car. Each day put one thing in it to donate to charity. Once fill drop it down to your local charity shop. As you get in the swing of this, you could increase it to 2 items per day, and so on.
- Try the 4-4-4 challenge. Quickly locate 4 things to donate, 4 things to throw away, 4 things to relocate.
- Make a list. Write down all the areas in your home you need to declutter, it could be room by room, or by cupboard or draw. Throw all the areas written on the list into a hat and draw one, that’s the area that you’ll tackle that day. Make sure to mark off each completed area on the list, for an extra hit of motivation and satisfaction.