It isn’t uncommon for us to accumulate a wide variety of belongings over the course of a few months to a year. The luxury of storage (drawers, bins, folders, etc.) makes it relatively easy to find places to tuck new and old items away, out of sight, out of mind.
However, before we realize it, we can often accumulate a large amount of stuff we just simply don’t need.
Many of us are guilty of keeping old receipts from places like coffee shops or clothing stores for no reason whatsoever.
I posted a while back regarding minimalism and how usually people have the misconception that minimalism = throwing everything out. In reality, minimalism is eliminating all but what you need and what brings you joy. The actual processes of eliminating excess items can be a bit stressful and emotional, but the afterward result is worth every second.
When you decide to dedicate time towards a full reassessment of your belongings, it’s most effective to force yourself to start and finish your cleanup project within no longer than a months’ time. For some with busier lives, it can be a bit daunting but the biggest benefits of discarding unnecessary items come when you do it all at once.
My current favorite go-to for tidying is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I stumbled upon this book when it was being given away as part of a library cleanup (ironically) and it has been a treasured part of my book sets ever since. It truly changed my perception of deciding what to keep or discard, and my room has been consistently clean for the past year and a half. I’ve only had to do a routine cleanup about once or twice a year.
Here are a few takeaways on how to effectively declutter.
1. Clean up by TYPE of item, not location. Begin with all of your clothes, then all of your books/papers, followed by skin/personal care items, technology, and then miscellaneous items. Cleaning up by clothing first is good because clothes often take up the biggest chunk of space. You’ll likely have more room to put away the other objects you decide to keep when you have less clothing taking up drawers and closets.
2. Avoid storage traps. Storage is the enemy of tidying because it allows us to keep items we truly don’t need and shove them out of sight. When you face the fact that you need to truly discard the things that don’t serve a purpose or bring you joy, it makes your tidying process much more impactful. For example, if you have a bunch of old, worn out t-shirts, the temptation of storing them will just make you have to deal with the stress of deciding to discard them at a later date.
3. Understand that it’s ok to have collections – if they truly bring you joy. I watched a documentary on minimalism and was surprised to hear two minimalism ‘experts’ say that someone can have a large collection of books or figures and still be considered a minimalist. This is because minimalism is at its core being able to only be surrounded by items that add value to your life. If you absolutely adore books and enjoy looking at a large stack of them gracing your room, you don’t have to throw them out!
4. Make digital copies of sentimental things like photos and letters. We’re lucky that today’s technology can fit an entire photo album on a tiny device. Photos, while great to keep for memories, can take up a lot of space. Invest in a small scanner to upload photos, letters, and other paper mementos to your computer. You can still look at them whenever you’d like AND save space in your closets & drawers.
5. Don’t worry about being perfect. Odds are you’ll stumble across a few items that you know you should discard but simply can’t bring yourself to. Sometimes you might want to really see whether or not you’ll wind up wearing a specific item of clothing. If it helps give you closure to keep a few items and test if they really give you joy, do so!
- For clothing on hangers, place the hanger backward (so the hook isn’t facing the usual way while hanging). If you wear it, you’ll put the hanger back normally. If not, the hanger will still be backward in a few months and you’ll know that it’s not something you ever decided to wear.
- For jewelry, place any items you aren’t sure about discarding in an obvious place (right on your vanity, first in line on your display, etc.). If they’re the easiest to reach and you still don’t end up wearing them, you can know they’d be better off as donations.
As you can see, the underlying concept of minimizing is quite simple. Keep only what adds value to your life, don’t rely on storage, and try to do it all at once. It took me two rounds of decluttering before I truly felt like the majority of my belongings all gave me joy, and I still definitely could get rid of more stuff. Nobody’s perfect and it’s common to not want to give up belongings.
Bonus: now, you can watch Marie Kondo on her Netflix series and see exactly how people put her advice into action!