Over the years there are many lessons I have learnt when it comes to decluttering, and it is these lessons I will share with you before going into decluttering specific rooms and furniture. Without these small nuggets of wisdom, it is easy to lose motivation or even hamper your attempts to live a clutter-free life.
Firstly, it’s counter-productive to buy more storage. Once-upon-a-time, whenever I ran out of storage space I would either buy one of those plastic under-the-bed boxes, or I would buy larger pieces of furniture. At the time I didn’t realise that all that was doing was encouraging me to keep stuff that no longer served me. I was organising and re-organising my clutter again and again, whilst telling myself that more storage was the answer. It isn’t.
Secondly, clutter is something that you need to keep on top of every single day, because clutter accumulates over the years as our tastes change, as Christmases, birthdays and other celebrations fly by, and as paperwork comes into the home. Once you become complacent and allow the odd piece of paperwork or the occasional old t-shirt to remain in storage, before you know it, the paperwork has become a mountain of overwhelm and the clothes are back overflowing the drawers. You’re back living in Clutterville and all your hard work feels completely meaningless. I’ve watched people despair that they had an all-day tidying session, only for it to look ‘as if a tornado passed through the house’ days later. To truly be in control of your environment, not only must you be mindful of what goes into your shopping bags and what you already own, you must continue to be in tune with your emotions, and the tendency to hold on to your possessions. As I discussed in my previous post, it is of utmost importance that you understand the relationship between you and your stuff.
Thirdly, it does get easier. The more you declutter, and the more of your true-self that emerges, the easier it will become to discern between what’s important to you and what can go to be loved by somebody else.
So how exactly does one go about decluttering so many years of stuff? You start off small, and with what is immediately in your line of sight.
For example; if you’re more like I was, and drawers and cupboards are hiding the mess, then start off by emptying one. Just one. By setting yourself that one small challenge to begin with, you’re much less likely to become overwhelmed and give up. Tasks are much more do-able and easier to stick to when they are chunked. However, if you feel the motivation to keep going, then definitely do so! Just focus on one small part of the room or on one piece of storage at a time.
If surfaces are an issue for you and are crowded with years old trinkets that have gone through many themes of decor in your home, it can feel almost impossible to get started. In that case you need to ask yourself some serious questions: How many of them do you really need? Do they add anything of value, or do they make you feel stressed and uncomfortable? Do they have memories attached? Were they just on sale at the time? Were they an unwanted gift? Go through each item and feel for which ones truly make you happy to display.
As you get into a flow of decluttering, you’ll naturally start to notice other objects that completely eluded your attention in the past. Perhaps you’ll discover handfuls of ballpoint pens and several pads of unused paper – I did. And what about those old books? Should you donate the ones you know you will never touch again so that somebody else may enjoy them? Why have you still got that old chipped mug?
With all this in mind, please remember that you don’t have to get rid of everything all in one go, even if you are just working on a small corner. If getting rid of one object a day is all you can manage to begin with, then go with that. Any progress is better than no progress at all. For many people, the path to minimalism is a challenge because of the deeply ingrained beliefs that come from marketers, a consumerist society, sentimentality, and guilt. If you struggle with letting go, it is a lengthy and emotional journey, and it is important to tackle large projects with a calm mind, in bite-size chunks.
Persist in the journey towards minimalism,and you will find that the long-term rewards will far outweigh the allure of material objects.
My upcoming content will be a series of ‘how to’ posts to declutter specific rooms, starting from when you enter your front door. Stay tuned for my next post about hallways and entrances.