10 Tips to Declutter Your Home

| October 29, 2012 | 6 Comments

Messy Owl

Do you ever wish your house had more space and less clutter?

More order and less chaos?

If you’re like me, you’ve probably wasted a few weeks of your life constantly looking for things amongst all of the stuff that you own. I can’t remember how many times I’ve looked for my sunglasses, keys, wallet, this or that – and it can get really frustrating.

The good news is there are a few simple things you can start doing to declutter and get your home looking clean, fresh and spacious. Plus you’ll actually be able to find things again.

I’m in the process of moving house and so I’ve just had a huge clear out myself, and thought I’d share a few tips on decluttering.

What’s interesting is the mental process that occurs when we ‘try’ to declutter. Like most things, it’s not as easy as just taking advice. We form emotional connections with our stuff and believe me, it’s much easier to throw things out once you’ve dealt with the emotional stuff first.

If I’m honest – I’ve been a bit of a hoarder in the past and so this is me sharing what I’ve learned in the process of becoming a more tidy and organised person, rather than preaching at you to be tidy!

So I’ll explain both some practical tips as-well as the thinking behind what makes us hold on to things in the first place and how we can break those habits.

Why do we hold onto stuff?

There are several key reasons why we naturally don’t want to get rid of our stuff.

Here are just a few of them:

Sentimental reasons: the item represents a key moment in your life and holds good memories for you.

“Just in case”: even though we don’t currently use it, we feel that we’ll definitely need to use the item at some point in the future.

Difficulty making decisions: if you struggle making decisions then you may hold onto things because it’s easier than actually making a decision to get rid of things.

Lack of organisation: the less organised of us find it more difficult to figure out how to create order and processes in the home. This can block a big tidy up.

Perfectionists: research has shown that people with a tendency to strive for perfection often hoard more things because they want the ability to refer back to documents or items.

Fear of letting go: I talked about change in my last post and for many it’s just easier to stick with what you know.  A big ‘throw out’ means change and this can be really frightening for people.

What I find fascinating about all human behaviours is that even though we may not consciously realise it, there’s a reason why we behave in certain ways. So even with hoarding or a reluctance to throw things out, it’s not that we are lazy or incompetent – we actually have genuine reasons for behaving in this way – like the ones I mention above.

So make sure you don’t give yourself a hard time if you struggle with these things – and before you attempt to make any changes, try to understand what has stopped you from doing so before (ie was it fear of letting go, or was it just in case).

How to Stop Holding onto Things

If you recognise the above reasons for holding onto things, here are a few counter arguments to help you re-frame your thought process:

Sentimental reasons: the item represents a key moment in your life and holds good memories for you.

Re-frame: the memories exist in your head, not in the item. By throwing away the item you are not losing or diminishing the memory at all. Know that you can still retain the memories without the item.

“Just in case”: even though we don’t currently use it, we feel that we’ll definitely need to use the item at some point in the future.

Re-frame: How often do you say to yourself “Oh I wish I hadn’t thrown X away – I really need it now.” I’m guessing this is not a common occurrence. The reality is that of all the things you keep ‘just in case’ – you actually never end up using them – instead they just sit somewhere collecting dust.

Difficulty making decisions: if you struggle making decisions then you may hold onto things because it’s easier than actually making a decision to get rid of things.

Re-frame: People who struggle to make decisions are usually afraid of making the wrong decision – or of failure. Think to yourself ‘what’s the worst that could happen if I throw this away?’ Also be OK with the fact that there is the slim chance that you might ‘need’ the item in the future – but the pay off of more space and less clutter is worth the sacrifice of not having the item to hand.

Lack of organisation: the less organised of us find it more difficult to figure out how to create order and processes in the home. This can block a big tidy up.

Re-frame: This is where practical organisation tips come in hand – I’ll share some of these with you below. Know that ANYONE can learn to become organised – it’s just as simple as following a set of rules.

Perfectionists: research has shown that people with a tendency to strive for perfection often hoard more things because they want the ability to ‘refer’ back to documents or items.

Re-frame: Newsflash: NO-ONE IS PERFECT. It’s actually impossible to be perfect – so celebrate your imperfections and learn to be OK with not knowing all the answers. In-fact people will like you better when you showcase your imperfections.

Fear of letting go: I talked about change in my last post and for many it’s just easier to stick with what you know.  A big throw out means change and this can be really frightening for people.

Re-frame:  Start to see change as exciting instead of scary. Imagine the relief you will feel when you finally ‘let go’ of all those things that are currently weighing you down!

Simple Life Strategy: 10 Tips to Declutter Your Home

Once you’ve dealt with the emotional reasons you can start to get cracking! Here’s 10 tips for decluttering:

1. Set yourself a goal or a deadline. Setting goals creates motivation and energy so you can throw yourself into the task. If you need some help with setting goals read 8 Tips for setting goals.

2. Don’t take it too seriously! Don’t think of this as a big chore instead decide to have some fun with it. Crank up the stereo with your favourite tunes and sing along while you declutter.

3. Help others less fortunate than you. Think of decluttering as a charitable act. You can give away things that you no longer need to those who genuinely are in need. When we take the focus off ourselves and onto others it stops us from obsessing over insignificant things.

4. Sort things into 4 large piles – the first section to throw out, the second section for charity, the third section to sell and the fourth section to keep.

5. Work quickly – don’t spend too long umming and ahhing over what to keep. Your gut impulse is usually right. If in doubt – ask yourself when you ‘honesty’ last used the item – if it’s more than 1 season ago then bin it!

6. Use a ‘maybes’ pile. Instead of agonizing over some items, have a ‘maybes’ pile and return to it later and deal with them all in one go.

7. Pass on the pleasure. If something has given you pleasure in the past but you feel you probably won’t use it again – pass on that pleasure. Imagine how great it will be to give that experience to someone else.

8. Buy an A-Z file to keep all of your documents organized. This is a life saver!

9. Find ‘places’ for things. Decide on a place for items like your keys, sunglasses or wallet. Stick to it and you’ll never lose another item again!

10. Focus on the outcome. Visualize how amazing your home will look when you’re done. Have a clear picture of what you want it to look like – and keep referring back to this to keep you going!

Don’t sit on the fence about whether you have the time for a big clear out! Set a date now! It’s time to finally let go of those things that are weighing you down so you can enjoy a clear & spacious home with less stress and more happiness.

If you found this post useful, please share it with others!

More Simple Life Strategies:

Image Source: Piccsy

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Category: mind training, problem solving, simple life strategies, stress management

6 comments on “10 Tips to Declutter Your Home

  1. “Just in case” – that’s my problem.

    I like your 10 tips. Organization would help me a lot right now.

    Dan @ ZenPresence.com

    • Hey Dan,

      Thanks for the comment :)

      Yep I used to suffer with the ‘just in case’ mentality. But you know what – it’s kind of liberating to just throw stuff out!

      Hope you have a clutter-free day,
      Zoe B

  2. I don’t hold on to very much. It’s my husband who is the pack-rat. Except for papers having to do with money or products I have boughten, my general rule of thumb is if I haven’t woren it or used it in 12 months, it’s time to say good bye to it.

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