5 tips for successful decluttering

Joan Fieldstone

January 14, 2016

By: Joan Fieldstone, Home Improv Advocate

In: Interior Home Improvement

It seems as if everyone jumped on the bandwagon for decluttering their homes and offices in 2015. It was the latest craze, and a good one at that. Marie Kondo's book on tidying translated from Japanese was the hot topic at this time last year.

If you were a little late to the purging party, January is always the perfect time to renew your failed resolutions from the previous 12 months. Don't just put 'decluttering' on your to-do list, though. Most of us have a tendency to procrastinate when it comes to tasks we don't quite know how to approach. Put it on your calendar same as any other monthly maintenance chore like treating the pets for fleas.

Before you gird yourself for You vs. Your Clutter, put aside a consumable treat - a bottle of your favorite wine, a bar of chocolate, a six-pack and a bowl of buttered popcorn - whatever you want to reward yourself with -- just not something you'll have to get rid of next year. The idea is to empty your home of non-essentials, i.e. clutter. Don't touch your treat until you've completed your day of decluttering and/or reorganizing.

Here are some tips and ground rules to keep you on track:

  1. Scheduling. Pick two days each month. Mark one day for decluttering and the other for reorganizing what's left after you've thoroughly removed your unused and unwanted possessions from the domicile. (By 'removed' I mean thrown in the trash, recycled, donated or sold. Do not look back.) You can schedule the days back-to-back, one day every other weekend; two of your regular laundry days when you're wearing your old clothes -- whatever works. It may take a few months to figure that out, but keep scheduling every month and stick to it.
  2. Limited sessions. Spend no more than five hours in one day or you'll tire and lose concentration. Schedule a break at the 2- or 2.5-hour mark and remember to hydrate often. Snack as needed. Remember: the treat is for after. It's your reward. No cheating.
  3. Commitment. Set reminders for your scheduled declutter and reorganization days a few days to a week in advance, and don't double book the time. If you need some baskets and bins or want to construct some DIY storage solutions between your decluttering and organizing days, plan and schedule a shopping trip for supplies or a day to assemble your hacks.
  4. Family buy-in. Explain your plan and get older family members on board to purge their own possessions. A few days ahead of your scheduled declutter days, ask younger children which things they want, and make sure to keep those. Then, when they're not home, box up and label what you think they no longer play with. Store those toys where only you can find and reach them. If they ask for something they really miss during the next couple of weeks, retrieve just that item and rotate it in with their playthings. Have them substitute a different toy to give away. Explain that their old things will go to children who can give them a good home, too. If you do this regularly, you'll introduce them to the concept of decluttering from an early age.
  5. Baby steps. If you are still procrastinating, or if you know you have a short attention span with tasks you don't like, break these sessions into 10 or 15 minute intervals to get started. Once you get the hang of it, you may actually not want to stop for hours. If it's still overwhelming, try doing 15 minute sessions twice a day several days each week, but be just as diligent scheduling and reminding yourself of those short sessions.

Learning to declutter continually is a learned habit. The more you do it, the easier it gets. If you really can't bring yourself to do it but truly want to, enlist the aid of a professional home organizer or home organization coach.

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