10 Tips to begin decluttering

I used to be a terrible hoarder. I had tonnes of things just in case I needed them. I was reluctant to part with anything I considered remotely sentimental. I used to keep shelves of my favourite magazines in case I wanted to look back at them (hint – I never did look back at them). There were lots of things that I had two of. I kept clothes I didn’t like or that didn’t fit just in case I needed them. I had an enormous collection of DVDs and books. I had lots of trinkets. Somewhere along the line though I came across the idea of minimalism and decluttering. At first I was reluctant but gradually the seed flourished in my head and I began to pare my things down more and more. Now I have significantly reduced my clutter and my house feels much more spacious, inviting and organised. I thought I would share my tips on how to I did it.

 

  • If we are keeping something in case we need it, we never will. We have to be honest with ourselves about this one. Seriously, virtually all the things that we think we may need some day simply end up cluttering up a drawer, or the loft or a garage never to be used again.
  • A place for everything and everything in its place. I like the idea that if something is worth keeping then it has a proper place in our lives. Somewhere it is appropriately kept or stored and regularly used. If we have items that are in the way but never seem to get used or we have to continually move around, they probably don’t belong in our lives. Things that do belong in our lives get used regularly and get stored properly. They add value to our lives, not necessarily in a financial sense but in how they are useful and how we enjoy them.
  • We mainly keep books, DVDs, CDs etc for narcissistic reasons. Again we need to be honest with ourselves. In the era of the Kindle, streaming and iPods there is very little reason to cling on to physical media other than because secretly we want to display our tastes to visitors. Most of us are lucky enough to live near a very large and varied bookshelf indeed (the library) so if we want access to books we can go there or download them on a Kindle rather than having to store them on our own shelves. We can now stream movies in seconds and lets face it, how many of those DVDs that we buy and then put on our shelves get watched again? A very few maybe but the majority just sit there gathering dust. Likewise since the invention of the MP3 player there is very little point in wasting space in our house with a large CD collection other than to display our great taste in music.
  • “Have we used it in the last six months?” This is a great question to ask when we’re clearing things out and trying to decide whether to keep something. If we haven’t used it in the last six months, it’s unlikely we’re ever going to.
  • Releasing stuff feels good. Getting rid of things is genuinely cathartic. We get a sense of wellbeing from passing things on to charity or to other people (freecycle etc) and knowing that they’re going to be valued. It makes our homes and our souls feel lighter.
  • We’re not attached to sentimental items, we’re attached to the memories we associate with them. There are lots of things which we become attached to sentimentally but which actually serve no purpose in our lives. We can’t bear to part with them because we think it will sever us from the feeling that they invoke. But in almost every case if we let them go, we gain more space in our lives and actually cherish the memory more. A good tip that I read somewhere is to take a photo of the item if you’re really going to miss it. The photo will still stir the memory but you won’t miss the object.
  • We don’t need more space, we need less things. Think about it, when we see pictures of or visit other people’s houses, which are the ones that we feel attracted to? It’s the ones where there is a sense of light and space, not the ones which are cramped and full of stuff. As George says in the video above, we don’t need bigger houses, we need less stuff. So many of us complain that our houses aren’t big enough, but really it’s not the house that’s the problem, it’s the amount of stuff that we hold on to within it.
  • If clothes don’t fit or we don’t love them, we’ll never wear them. I used to be very guilty of holding onto clothes that didn’t quite fit or which I didn’t really love. In reality though we only wear the clothes that we really like. The rest just sit in the wardrobe taking up space. It becomes so much easier to make decisions about what to wear if we have a nicely organised wardrobe of a sensible number of clothes that fit really well and make us feel good, instead of always having to trawl through a pile of old stuff that we never actually wear. Be ruthless, if it doesn’t fit correctly or you don’t really like it, get rid of it!
  • Things deserve to be used. There are so many people in the world, even in the western world who have virtually nothing. And yet here we are, hoarding lots of stuff that clutters up our houses and never gets used. We should feel guilty about this. By holding on to things that we don’t really use we’re actually depriving somebody else who needs the item of the pleasure and utility of that thing.
  • Start small and build up. We don’t have to tackle our clutter all in one go. It’s daunting to decide to begin reducing our clutter. So we can make it easy on ourselves by working one room at a time. Or even one area of a room at a time. Then gradually a snowball starts to build. We gain more space so that we can start to sort other areas or rooms and the momentum grows.

 

 

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