The most popular question about decluttering or simplifying is, “What’s the best way to start?” The next most popular question is, “How long will it take?” These are the questions we want answers to about everything we do, especially when starting something new. What’s the best way to …
- declutter my life?
- clean out my closet?
- pay off my debt?
- quit my job?
- travel lightly?
- feel healthier?
And what do we want to know right after that … How long will it take?
One thing I’ve noticed though, both getting asked these questions and asking them one million times myself is we don’t really want to know how to or how long, we want to know how to get through this with the least amount of pain and struggle as possible. I get it. There is enough pain and struggle out there. We should be able to declutter a junk drawer, pay off our debt, and find a good place to donate our stuff without completely depleting ourselves. And there is a way. So many ways. Some will work for you, and some will not work for you. Not even a little bit.
The best way is the way that works best for you. Because we each learn differently, approach change in our own way and have unique methods to our madness, we have to find what works best for us when it comes to finding the best way to start anything. Following are ten ways to declutter your life. One may sound like the best way for you. If so, start there. One of them may sound like almost the best way. If so, adjust it and start there. They might all sound horrible. If they do, read this.
Ten Ways to Declutter Your Life (find your best way)
1. Create a minimalist sanctuary or a slow space.
Choose a corner in your home, a countertop in the kitchen or the table beside your bed (if you have one). Clear the clutter from that one small area and only keep things that make you calm and happy in that space. That might mean you include a candle, or a book or nothing at all. Perhaps the space itself makes you calm and happy. Use the space you create as inspiration and momentum for the next slow space.
2. Declutter your morning.
When you become more intentional about how you start your day, things begin to shift on the inside and the outside. You’ll feel less scattered and more focused all day long when you give yourself time first. Here’s how to start a morning routine. It’s a good first step in decluttering your life.
3. Discard the duplicates.
Why not make the start of decluttering your life something super simple and easy? Grab a box and fill it with duplicate items that you don’t need or use. Measuring cups, coffee cups, picture frames, vases, decorative items, extra clothing and other things that don’t really serve a purpose but you have “just in case.” If you are up to it, donate the box immediately. If not, hide the box for 60 days. If you can’t remember what’s in the box and you don’t miss the stuff, let it go.
4. Try a decluttering burst.
Let go of 100 things in an hour with this fun challenge.
Information isn’t bad, but too much becomes clutter instead of the inspiration, education, or entertainment it’s meant to be. Instead, the constant stream of information just turns into noise. Delete apps from your phone that you only use to fill space and time and give your life room for boredom, curiosity and quiet. Declare certain areas of your home and life off-limits when it comes to consuming information like your car, bedroom, or another space that deserves to be distraction free.
Once you limit the amount of information and streamline when and where it’s coming from, schedule blocks of information-free time. A few hours a day, and a full day a week to unplug gives your mind a chance to recover and reset.
6. Write a break-up letter to your stuff.
You can’t write this letter wrong, but if you’d like some guidelines, this is what I recommend.
Timing is everything, especially when it comes to an impulse purchase. Delay your next purchase for 30 days and see if you are still as passionate about the purchase as you were initially. Stop the inflow.
8. Take a victory lap.
My friend Sarah has a beautiful strategy for letting go of meaningful items. She says …
“Like everyone else in the world, there are many, many things in my home that I’m struggling to part with because they’re steeped in sentimental value. My grandmother’s vintage dresses, my mom’s fondue pot, the scarf I bought while teaching English in Brazil – all these things are filled in meaning, but that’s about it. My grandma’s dresses are too cinched and fitted for my 2015 style sensibilities, the fondue pot is too thin to be of much use, and that scarf doesn’t match anything.
After much thought, I created a process I call the ‘victory lap.’ I give each item one last intentional, loving use. I wear my grandmother’s dress to Thanksgiving dinner and my aunts ooh and ahh over it. I ask my mom for her favorite cheese fondue recipe and then I invite friends over for a party in honor of melted cheese. I take my scarf on a tour of the art museum and out into the crisp fall air.
Then I mentally thank that item for the role it played in my life, remind myself that an object is not a relationship and tuck it lovingly into the ever-present Goodwill donation bag in my front closet. It’s a bit woo-woo, but I find it’s a sweet way to honor the people who gave me these things while also honoring my own desire for a simpler, more pared-down life.”
9. Take me to your closet.
I’m ready when you are, so grab your computer, phone or whatever device you happen to be reading this article on, and take me to your closet.
10. Ask for help.
Sometimes, we are so attached to our stuff that it’s hard to know when to hold on and when to let go. Ask a friend or family member to help you. Let this person vote “yes” or “no” on clothing, decorative pieces, and other items. Even better, swap services, and agree to go to your friend’s home next to reciprocate. Bring snacks and good music.
I don’t know which way will be best for you and the only way to find out is to be open and curious and get started. Even if you don’t pick the very best way at first, you’ll make progress and you will learn something about yourself. You’ll know when you’ve found the best way because you’ll make progress with less struggle, and more ease, less pain, and more relief.
And to answer your second question, I don’t know how long it will take either. It might take days or months or years, but it will be worth it.