The average home contains over 300,000 items. Every item in your home is sucking away your time, energy, and money. You are the CEO of your home and you are in charge of 300,000 employees. All of those items need to be organized, sorted, stored, displayed, or used. That’s 300,000 decisions. Most of us have a difficult enough time deciding what to have for dinner. Keeping all of these items creates untold stress on our lives.
De-cluttering is an anxiety-filled word. People get anxious just hearing it. They picture precious memories being thrown into dumpsters, valuables being lost, and time being spent that they don’t have. The anxiety paralyzes them and they find themselves unable to start the process of eliminating items from their home. It doesn’t have to be an overnight overhaul. Sometimes when you start small, that little bit of progress encourages you to go further.
Begin with items that have no emotional connection. For most people, the kitchen is the easiest place to begin. Start with something mostly useless like Tupperware with missing or broken lids. Move on to items that have duplicates like the extra wooden spoons clogging your kitchen utensil crock. From there eliminate kitchen gadgets with one purpose like a mango pitter or a pineapple slicer. Most of the time you end up just using a knife anyway because your kitchen is so cluttered you can’t find that gadget. Mismatched dishware is another easy thing to let go of.
The bathroom is another emotion-less place to work. Dispose of expired medicines from your medicine cabinet; make sure you properly dispose of any prescription medicines. Check your local pharmacy for proper disposal procedures. Then take care of those samples of lotions, perfume, and makeup that fill your drawers. Most people never use the free samples they are given. Either put them out and use them or toss them. Toss any opened makeup that’s older than 6 months. Clumpy mascara, lipstick that smells waxy, and foundation that separates all belong in the bin. This is also a good time to get rid of old linens in the closet. Any towels or sheets that are fraying should either get tossed or moved to your cleaning area to be used for rags.
If you are limited on time, commit to manageable goals. Decide that you’ll eliminate one thing per day, or that you’ll tackle one drawer in a weekend. If you decide to overhaul your closet one night, you may get overwhelmed and abandon ship.
Next comes the hard part, asking yourself the tough questions about whether or not to keep an item that is cluttering up your life. In Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up she posits that the ultimate question is “Does this item bring me joy?” Sometimes you need to rationalize parting with an item in other ways before you can let it go. Here are some other questions you can ask yourself if you’re feeling torn:
“If I died tomorrow, would my family want this to remember me by?” Think about this when you’re holding on to things like high school memorabilia. If you don’t care about your graduation tassels or your softball trophy, no one will.
“If I had to move, would the expense of moving this be worth keeping it?” If the answer is no, then why wait for the day you might move? Get rid of it now and free up the space in your life.
“Would someone else enjoy this more than I do?” Sometimes we need to justify letting something go. It’s not ending up in a landfill or a recycle bin, it’s going to someone who will appreciate it more than you will. The right item should go to the right person.
“Even though this was expensive when I bought it, is it worth anything now?” We have an ingrained need to get our money’s worth from an item. If we pay a lot for something, we feel we need to get a return on our investment. If you’re hesitant to let go of the projection TV or a beat up designer handbag, realize that your investment was in the time you spent with it even though it no longer can provide a return.
If all else fails and you are still having difficulty saying goodbye to an item forever, take a photo of it. Oftentimes we keep things that are tied with emotional memories and we fear that in letting go of the item we will forget the associated memory. There is nothing wrong with taking a photo of the item and flipping past it every year or two (or whenever you decide that de-cluttering your phone is the next step).