Learn what to do with clutter, make easier decisions, and finally get the stuff gone without freaking out.
When I talk to people about decluttering their homes, it seems the biggest struggling block tends to be getting started. Taking that very first step and actually approaching an area of your home to cleanout. For some people, the struggle begins even earlier than that, as they get stuck with the decision to clean out the stuff in their home or just leave it as it is. And then there are people like me, that get a bit paralyzed with the decision-making process once they are in the middle of a project.
Struggling with decisions can be mentally and physically exhausting, especially when you have a lot of decisions to make in a short amount of time. Over the years I have learned a few tricks that actually help with the struggle of making clutter decisions. Decisions such as should I keep this sweatshirt or throw it away, should I donate this blanket or put it in the attic, should I sell this old set of dishes or give them to charity. All of these decisions when looked at now seem mundane at best, but when you’re in the heat of a decluttering moment, one where you are actually working through piles and boxes of random things that you consciously and deliberately brought into your home, it changes the dynamic of the question completely. Sometimes, your surroundings can add stress and weight to a question when you are in the moment.
Look at it this way, if your kitchen was neat, tidy, and clutter-free and you were walking through it one afternoon and you see a large stack of newspapers on the counter all by itself it would immediately call your attention. The decision is clear and simple to make because the site of the papers is front and center and completely noticeable.
What’s the decision? Take the newspapers to the recycling bin so that the counters are completely cleaned off once again.
However when that same stack of newspapers is intermixed with other random items. Items such as rolls of paper towels, dirty dishes, random tools, unopened bills, groceries that never got completely put away, junk mail, books from the library…. those other distractions give that initial pile of newspapers imaginary unimportance. You may then find questions that pop into your head making a simple decision a paralyzing one.
- “Did I go through those newspapers?”
- “Are there any coupons in there I may want to have 4 my next grocery shopping trip?”
- “Maybe I should save those newspapers and I can use them in my garden this summer.”
- “I can save them for starting fires in the winter.”
It’s not the item itself that is giving you this decision making struggle, it’s the appearance of the other clutter around it that tends to give unrealistic importance to unimportant things.
So how do we fix it? How do we find a way to make the decision process easier no matter what situation you are in as you are decluttering?
You make a plan and pull in a few tools to help.
What to do With Clutter
Set up a Sorting Area
A sorting area is a spot in your home where you can sort out the clutter as you come across it. If you are doing a full room project you can set your area right inside of that room. If you are doing a full home (a little at a time) declutter, then a central location is best.
To set up a sorting area gather up a few sturdy boxes, totes, or bags. Use large clear labels that are easy to see and tape them to each container. Your main categories are:
- Keep/Put Away
- Give Away
Having those containers out, labeled, and ready to use, it will help you to make quicker clutter decisions on whatever items end up in your hands.
Create a Deadline
I think one of the biggest tools that you can use when decluttering a space is to give it a deadline. My knowing there was an approaching finish quickly headed your way, it pushes you to move more quickly and, in turn, make decisions more easily.
You can do temporary deadlines such as “I’m giving myself 20 minutes to declutter the space” and setting an alarm on your phone, or you can give yourself a full project deadline and tell yourself “my bedroom closet needs to be decluttered by the third week of February”. When you have that deadline right in front of you that keeps approaching your way no matter what, it gives a level of importance to the work you’re doing as you declutter.
Don’t believe me? Try it out.
Go find yourself a junk drawer, any one will do. Set your alarm for 10 minutes and get to work. I bet you will finish that drawer before the alarm goes off simply because the alarm is there. If, however, you tell yourself that you are going to declutter that drawer before you have company again that drawer will most likely stay a cluttered mess forever.
By making a definite line in the sand that is constantly approaching your way, you put the importance of the project front and center. This will help to take some of the pressure off of making decisions allowing you to make progress instead.
What is the difference between the Donate and Give Away box?
If you are new to Declutter in Minutes, you are probably thinking that a donate and giveaway box is the same thing, but actually, they couldn’t be more different. And once you know that difference, you might just look at decluttering in an entirely new light.
Let’s start with a donate box.
I am sure you can guess what goes inside of this container. Any items that you are willing to donate to a charity or organization. this could be clothes that no longer fit, excess kitchen tools, bed linens that you no longer need or use, or toys your children may have outgrown. These are items that do not hold a strong emotional attachment to you or your family and it’s easy for you to give them to someone that may need them more than you do at this time.
D/M NEW CLUTTER-FREE HABIT: When you are decluttering and you find your donation box is full seal it up and put it into your car immediately. Out of sight is out of mind and allows you to let go for good. If you leave the box inside of your home you risk forgetting what is inside and possibly opening it up to go through things again. Cut yourself a break and only make those clutter decisions once. Tape the box up, put it into the trunk of your car, and the next time you are out, drop them off at the donation center.
What is a Give-Away box?
A giveaway box is completely different and what I like to call a clutter game-changer. This box is for any items that you want to pass on to a family member or friend to share the love it has given to you with them.
Let’s see it in action. Say you are going through your things and you find toys that your kids used to play with that you have a strong emotional attachment to. Donating them to strangers may not be something you are easily comfortable with, however, you know you do not want to keep them anymore inside of your home. What you can do instead is find a family member or friend that may not only get use out of these toys but may love to have them. This is what I like to call giving “second life” to items that hold attachment to your heart.
It is important to note here that you should not be using this box just to make the de-cluttering process easier. What I mean by that is, you cannot just put things into this box to pass off on to someone else. You first need to determine that the receiver you have in mind for a specific item is open to taking ownership of that item in the first place. Be honest, tell them why you want to give it to them, ask them if they want it, and then be fair to the person and respect their answer no matter what it is. Remember, they are not saying no to hurt your feelings they are saying no because they honestly do not want the item.
Just because you love something does not mean that anyone would love it as much as you. Do not give your clutter for someone else to have to deal with.
For any items that you put inside of the giveaway box, you will want a label with the recipient’s name. This will allow you to know that the decision you made is final, meaning you will not have to go back and go through the decision process again. Once the name is on the item it can go inside of the box. Then, when you are done decluttering an area you can then reach out to all of the people that have an item inside of the Give-Away box and confirm that they are happy to take what you are offering them. Again remember if they say no respect their answer and either find a different recipient, keep the item yourself, or be okay to donate it to a charity or other organizations.
Dress the Part
It’s funny, but I get a lot of flack for this one. For some reason, the thought of “one more thing to do” is just too much for anyone with clutter. And putting on decluttering clothes is more than a heavy clutter-bug can handle. Okay, I do get that but I am still going to push my point because dressing for business really does matter. And besides, how long can it take to tie your hair up, grab your headphones, and put on a pair of sneakers? Not long, I’m guessing, and if that short time investment is going to help you to make crazy amazing progress…..THEN JUST DO IT.
Okay, let’s back up. What do I mean by dressing the part?
Get your hair out of your face – I seriously cannot concentrate where there is hair in my face. It’s an annoying distraction that will keep on annoying me the entire time I am trying to stay laser-focused. Ponytails are part of a declutterer’s uniform of choice, so tie that mop up!
Work clothes – If you want to make serious progress with your clutter you need to dress the part. Get on comfortable clothes (but not to comfy) that you can set aside for any time you are working on clutter. Each time you put these clothes on they will flip a switch inside of your head telling you it’s time to get down to business.
Wear sneakers – I have yet to meet a person that decluttered their home in slippers. Put on your “work shoes” AKA a comfortable pair of sneakers and add that last touch to your clutter-busting uniform.
Motivational distractions – Last and most importantly you need a distraction for your head. Something to keep those nagging thoughts that might second guess you into freak out land. You can download a super upbeat playlist or even a good suspenseful book.
This is your clutter only distraction and you are only permitted to use it when working on your project. Get a list of songs or an audiobook that is good enough and you might just find yourself excited to declutter that closet!
When it comes to decluttering our homes, it is important for us to throw the rules out the window. Find a process that helps you to let go without the stress or overwhelm. Decluttering is not meant to be painful, it is meant to be a liberating process that allows you to regain control of your home. If the things you have tried in the past are not working that means it’s time for you to try something new.
Think outside of the box. Implement as many tools as you can and find a process that makes sense to you and allows you to free yourself from the stuff and mess and clutter that is holding you back from truly loving your home.
When you are in a project and stuck on what to do with clutter, bring out the Donate and Give Away box and let the magic help you through the project ahead.