My first forays into decluttering have been fairly successful, though there’s still a long way to go. It doesn’t help that I’m visiting my parents for the next week. My childhood bedroom is still chock-full of assignments and t-shirts and toys from my first eighteen years of life. It’s hard to feel like I’ve made a dent on decluttering when every time I come home, I fall back in to a pile of nostalgia and resistance (“I don’t need to get rid of that – I may not have pulled it out of a drawer for a decade, but I loved it when I was five! Right?!”).
But like I said, I have had successes! Since my introduction to decluttering, I’ve sort of started a capsule wardrobe, which immediately made me realize I don’t wear many of my shirts; I’ve recycled or destroyed dozens of documents I was sure I would be called on to present for some sort of small home appliance convention; I’ve put a moratorium on purchasing, which has reduced the intake of clutter significantly. On the digital front, I’ve cut great swathes across my email accounts in an attempt to really and truly reach Inbox: 0. Through all of this, I’ve become firmer in how I want to spend my time and money, which really helps determine what activities are of value, and what things I do just because.
However, through all of this, I’ve been fairly inconsistent in my methods. I didn’t realize how many different ideas people have about decluttering until I started looking for guidelines in books and on the web. Some will say to do a little bit of cleaning each day, some say to do it all at once; some tell you to go room by room, others will group all your items into categories. This deluge of information has complicated how I plan to proceed.
In order to organize my thoughts and to introduce any newbies to the art of decluttering, I’ve decided to gather what I’ve learned into a few schools of thought! Each has its benefits, and each may be ideal for different kinds of people. It just depends on what best fits with your mentality and schedule. You may be like me, and need to try all of them, or you may find one that fits you perfectly. Just remember: the point of decluttering is not to get rid of everything or start completely new (though those methods may have benefits for people making moves across oceans or who spend the majority of their time traveling). Decluttering is about determining what has value in your life, and what you simply use as filler.
The Kon-Mari Method
Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, is actually what sparked my decluttering revolution. I grabbed it on a whim earlier in the year and found myself unable to sleep until I finished reading it. Kondo suggests doing all your decluttering in one fell swoop and also decluttering by category, not location. She’s got excellent credentials: as a cleaning consultant, she has a three-month waiting list and no repeat offenders. Personally, her method appeals to the spiritual side of my nature, because she thinks its important to only own items that “spark joy.” She also suggests taking the time to handle each item in order to assess if it really has value to you.
Declutter Buddy Method
I’ve seen this mentioned a few times while browsing Pinterest. This method – of using a friend to help you declutter – normally goes hand-in-hand with the idea that you should not touch your stuff. If you don’t have a buddy, there are other ways to avoid intimate contact with your belongings. Touching items is linked with feelings of ownership that might prevent you from discarding an item you otherwise don’t use. This method eliminates those feelings: a buddy can hold the items for you while you make decisions. This would probably be especially effective if the buddy knows you well (like a roommate or significant other) and could tell you when you were waffling over a pair of jeans you hadn’t worn in months. Just make sure to be a good pal and help your buddy declutter in return!
While this method can be done in a lengthy stretch of time, this is often associated with the “declutter a little every day!” mentality. The room-by-room method involves taking on clutter one room at a time, or even breaking your home into smaller parts, like a pantry or the cabinets under your bathroom sink. This helps you focus on organization and making the best out of any given space, as you are more homed in on the fine details rather than the overall picture of your home. Just be careful: this method can very easily turn from decluttering to moving items from one spot to another, without any real removal going on. But it’s a great way to organize if you find yourself leaving your flashlights in the pantry and your DVDs in your dresser drawer!
I don’t have my own school of thought, per se, but I do have strong opinions on what you do with the items you find you no longer need. So many people approach decluttering as a discarding activity, where everything you decide you no longer need, you’ll dump in the trash. Don’t do that! The vast majority of items you no longer need may be useful to someone else: donate them. Or, if you’ve got a stack of magazines you’ve realized you’ll never read, recycle them! Don’t get so caught up in your cleaning frenzy that you forget about the importance of keeping our planet clean as well. Every item I depart with either goes to a recycling bin or Goodwill, or I figure out how, in the future, to avoid getting an item that I must throw away. By discarding with a consideration for the planet, you may really change your mindset about possessions. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.