These strategies for simplifying and practical decluttering are slow and steady. There isn’t one right way to declutter, but in most cases, getting rid of everything overnight isn’t sustainable. Think about the big changes you’ve made in your life. Do you have a better track record with fast and furious, or slow and steady?
I know it can be frustrating. Slow and steady isn’t as sexy or glamorous as fast and furious, but it does have a few lovely attributes.
Slow and Steady can be gentle, meaningful, and soothing instead of a more rapid, stressful approach. Slow and steady provides a platform for change that can impact every area of your life, with the space to learn and grow in the process. Try these slow and steady strategies for practical decluttering.
10 Slow and Steady Strategies for Practical Decluttering
These practical decluttering strategies will help you create a thoughtful approach to simplifying the spaces in your home. Some decluttering tips help you decide what to get rid of, like the ones in this article and this one but revisit the tips below on a regular basis when deciding how to move forward with your decluttering process. They will help you avoid common pitfalls and build momentum.
From your closet to a pile of papers or wherever you have too much stuff, you’ll find the guidance and perspective you need for slow and steady decluttering below.
1. Stop the clutter from coming in.
Challenge yourself and your family to three months of only buying the essentials and/or getting rid of something whenever a new item comes into your home. Incoming items include purchases, gifts, and objects from school or the office. In other words, everything counts. If you buy a new pair of shoes, donate an old pair. If you buy a new cosmetic product, toss the remnants of old ones that are probably expired anyway. If you buy new dishes, donate the ones you were using before. This will help prevent clutter creep while you are decluttering.
2. Clearly define the mission.
There is a big difference between organizing and decluttering. Organizing means you’re just moving stuff from one place to another. Instead of working so hard to find the perfect spot for something, recognize that it might not have a place in your home or your heart at all anymore. This shift in how you think about the stuff in your living space will allow you to create a clutter-free home.
3. Forget about it.
If you keep things in storage, you’ve probably written the contents on the outside of each box. Otherwise, how would you know what was inside? Remembering what’s in the box without a label is a true test of how important the stuff is to you. Fill a box with things you aren’t quite ready to part with, but aren’t sure you really need. Mark the box “trash or donation after 30 days.” Then move the box out of sight. After 30 days, if you can’t remember what’s in the box or don’t miss the contents, donate it all without opening.
4. 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. Wading through the mess of our own clutter, we can’t see the forest through the trees. Consider decluttering tips or ask a friend or family member to help you. Create a checklist and let this person vote “yes” or “no” to clothing, decorative pieces, and other items. Even better, swap services, and agree to go to your friend’s home next to reciprocate. Even though it feels hard, the easiest way to make progress is to ask for help.
5. Invite everyone to the party.
When you begin decluttering, invite your family to join in. Don’t force, invite. Remember, though, that while the easiest place to look for clutter is in someone else’s space, your family may resent the pressure. So, start with your own personal items. Let family members work on decluttering their own things at their own pace. If you want people to see the joy in less, live joyfully with less yourself.
6. Declutter In Stages.
Even though you may be excited to declutter your entire house, start with the easy stuff to build your decluttering muscles. Items such as duplicates, decorative items, kitchen equipment you haven’t used in years, things you don’t use or enjoy, and things in storage that haven’t been part of your life for a long time will be easier to release. Each thing you let go of will give you the strength and motivation to let go of the next.
7. Travel with less.
Apply your practical decluttering strategies when you travel, and lighten up your suitcase. Packing lightly is a great practice for living lightly. On your next trip, pack for half the length of your vacation. Leave the “just in case” items at home, and notice how light you feel when walking through the airport, unpacking at the hotel, and exploring a new location without worrying about all of your stuff. How does it feel when you aren’t managing all of the stuff you normally do? If you enjoy your time with less, carry the inspiration home with you and let go with more ease.
8. Rethink sentimentality.
The last stage of decluttering is usually saved for the more challenging items, including the expensive things and stuff with sentimental value. If the expensive things have no meaning or purpose in your life, sell them, and use the proceeds to pay down debt or donate to charity.
If you are saving items to pass down to your children, consider that they probably don’t want it. A Washington Post article called “Stuff it: Millennials Nix their Parent’s Treasures” paints a compelling picture for parents who are holding on: “As baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, start cleaning out attics and basements, many are discovering that millennials, born between 1980 and 2000, are not so interested in the lifestyle trappings or nostalgic memorabilia they were so lovingly raised with. Downsizing experts and professional organizers are comforting parents whose children appear to have lost any sentimental attachment to their adorable baby shoes and family heirloom quilts.” In other words, your kid’s don’t want your stuff, so you can let go of it now.
If you aren’t sure about what your adult children want, ask them. Then believe them. Your children know real treasures are not in the attic or contained in any physical thing.
9. Release negative emotions.
When you let go of items that you’ve held on to because you spent too much money to buy them or made a significant investment in them, strive to also let go of the guilt of bad purchasing decisions and overspending. If you struggle with guilt about letting go, holding on, money spent, or time wasted, it’s time to shift every guilty thought to one of gratitude. If you are thinking, “I shouldn’t have spent that money,” trade that thought for “I’m grateful that I recognize what’s most important to me now.”
You have already paid enough. If you don’t let go of the guilt now, you will continue to pay with your time, attention, energy, and heart. The true cost of the items you are holding is much higher than the numbers on the price tag.
10. Make room for more of the good stuff.
Decluttering begins when you want less; less clutter, less debt, and fewer distractions, but eventually, you’ll start to crave more. Make room for more of what you really want from your life, room for how you want to contribute to the world, and room for what matters to your heart. Make room for more of the good stuff. There maybe some time where you have extra space before you clarify what you want more of and that can feel uncomfortable. Resist filling all the spaces because there are often answers in the discomfort. Take all the time you need.
Through the decluttering process, you’ll discover that the “more” you are in search of isn’t about your belongings and material possessions. Each of these slow and steady strategies for practical decluttering will help you create more space, time, and love with ease instead of struggle, and joy instead of heartache. Keep in mind that this new approach isn’t a quick fix but a long lasting change and a new way of looking at your life.
Whether you are simply decluttering spaces like a bookshelf, junk drawer, living room or bathroom or diving head first into minimalism, be kind to yourself and to your family as you learn to let go of the clutter, and hold on to the love.