6 Strategies for Decluttering and Maintaining Your Home
I don't know how many of you can relate to what I'm about to say, but I have either a very special trait or something completely missing from my brain that, well, allows me to have very little attachment to things. People, yes... I love my people; but things, no. For example, I can buy something that at the time I feel like I love, but then a few months later say, "Eh. I'm not feeling this anymore. It's going to the curb.” (Actually, now that I am dumping these thoughts out, perhaps it's actually a combination of my perfectionism and hyperactivity that are to blame here; my perfectionism wants everything to be clean and fresh and matchy-matchy and my hyperactivity wants everything to move and change constantly. That kind of makes sense, right?).
Daily self-psychoanalyzing sesh: check.
Anyway, whether this trait be a gift or a curse in my own life, I like to think it is one of the qualities that has helped me to become a successful home organizer. As I've shared in previous blog and social media posts, the decluttering process is the most important in creating functional, sustainable systems within the home. This process, however, tends to be the most challenging for my clients to complete; the majority of them have reached out to me because of feeling overwhelmed by the cluttered spaces in their homes and not knowing how to tackle them on their own.
Not only does having my presence as their body double assist my clients in beginning the decluttering process, but working with them to decide which rules to follow when it comes to discarding, donating, and keeping helps to get stuff moving... and fast.
So, what are some of the rules and strategies I use with my clients in order to assist them with effectively decluttering and maintaining their spaces?
Decluttering Rule #1: Would you buy it again today?
When you're focusing on one specific item, think about whether or not you'd buy it again if you saw it in the store today. Like, would you stop dead in your tracks in the aisle at the sight of the item and say, "Oh my gosh, I LOVE it!"? Does it make you genuinely happy when you look at it? If not, I'd urge you to consider donating it.
Decluttering Rule #2: What shape is it in?
When reviewing the item, take notice of what overall shape it's in. Is anything about it broken, missing, or moderately scratched up? How about stained, full of holes, or pilled beyond repair? If the answer is yes to one or more of these questions, it's time to discard it.
Decluttering Rule #3: When did you last use it?
Think about when the last time you used the item was. If it has been one or more years and you cannot make an immediate plan for using it, my advice would be to donate or discard it, depending on its overall condition.
Decluttering Rule #4: Would keeping it align with your end-goal?
Keep in mind that the purpose of going through the decluttering process is to give you the space you need, want, and desire to have back. If you're really hung up on whether to discard, donate, or keep an item, remind yourself of the end-goal you established for the space. Would keeping the item help you to reach that goal? If not, use the vision of what you want the space to look and feel like to motivate you to donate or discard it.
Now that you've done the hard work of getting your space decluttered, it's time to discuss some strategies for maintaining it. I'll be the first one to admit that this part can be especially difficult. Why? Because following these strategies requires you to be mindful and purposeful when purchasing items in the future. Knowing this, I'll stick to the two tips that are the easiest to memorize.
Maintenance Strategy #1: One in, one out.
I know this can be tricky. It takes a lot of self-control and habit-building time to master. But I'm going to give you a dose of real-life right now... none of the spaces in your home have the magical abilities of a Mary Poppins bag. There is a limited capacity to your drawers and your cabinets and your shelves and your closet bars, and by buying and buying without purging a bit, your space is going to once again get to the point of overwhelming you. You cannot keep buying new things without discarding or donating old ones in return.
So, when you purchase something new for yourself (which you deserve to do, by the way!), take stock and try, just try, to donate or discard something in return. Even though it's best to donate or discard an item in the same category as your new purchase--a shirt for a shirt, for example--you can work on strengthening your one in, one out muscle by getting rid of something smaller and easier to purge, such as a pair of socks or undies. Notice how accomplished it makes you feel to be able to use the strategy, because this is what will encourage you to use it again with future purchases.
Maintenance Strategy #2: Wants vs. Needs.
When you are getting ready to buy something that will enter your newly-decluttered space, try doing a wants vs. needs assessment first. So much of the clutter that we end up drowning in comes from overbuying. Do you really need the item? If so, then by all means, buy it (but then refer back to Maintenance Strategy #1, please); however, if you just want the item, consider saying no to buying it. Pull a Kelly Clarkson and just walk away. How does that make you feel? Empowered? Proud? In control? If so, let these feelings motivate you when making other purchases.
I understand that the process of decluttering and maintaining your home is easier said than done, and that it's even simpler for people like me who have minimal attachment to the things they own. However, I hope that--if nothing else--the rules and strategies provided in this post can serve as a guide to get you started.