Lose Your Stuff, Change Your Life: Decluttering Tips

Oh, clutter: how you taunt me! Little stacks of good intentions everywhere. I wanted to do something, see something, or save something, and it turned into something else. Now I have piles of paperwork, boxes and boxes of DIY craft supplies, and not one or two but three staplers.

Somehow, while I was living my life and planning a streamlined future, I got my hands on too much stuff. When things began to pile up, I bought really cool containers for all my things. Then came the color-coded storage boxes. I even made some DIY containers. Still, I look around and all I can see is more stuff. What to do?

A sure sign that you have too much stuff is the clutter around you. If, while you are sitting at your desk (or kitchen table, if you work from home), things are stacking up, or if you find yourself looking for everything, every day, just to get out of the house, it’s probably time to declutter.

One of my favorite books is Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life by Karen Rauch Carter. When I first read the book, I was eager to find out how to arrange my home to improve the flow of energy, or chi, through feng shui. Well, wasn’t I surprised when I found out that the first, and most important step, is to declutter!

Before I could enjoy the benefits of a smoothly flowing chi, I had to do something about that stack of papers on my desk—something, that is, besides moving my work area to the kitchen table—and the unopened mail on the kitchen counter, and all those bits and pieces I was saving for… well, for something.

I have to admit that the process of decluttering is a lonely one. Sure, you could invite a pal, but who wants to invite friends over to sort through the mail? (And what if you were to come across a birthday card, unopened, from one of the friends you enlisted to help?) Perhaps the loneliness of it is what leads us to putting off decluttering. Or maybe it’s facing up to things we wished for that didn’t materialize (hello: class schedule for ballroom dance lessons, yoga mat still in its packaging, recipes from the aisles of Whole Foods). The fact is: decluttering is a one-woman, or one-man, job. However, it doesn’t have to be totally devastating. Here, from my experience, are five decluttering tips that can make the entire process a bit less overwhelming.

  1. Take small steps. The surest way to give up before you even get started is to plan to declutter your life on one Saturday afternoon. This is a recipe for sleeping until noon, making lists until 2, and then skipping the entire thing to go see a new movie. Make a tiny goal and conquer it! If, over the weekend, you only clean your kitchen counter, that’s one less area that will cause you stress in the coming week.
  2. Fill up a bag of things to donate. You’ve been thinking about this, right? Those 34 t-shirts that you haven’t worn since freshman year? The sweaters from Grandma that you felt too guilty to get rid of? Everything—and I mean everything—from that summer with you-know-who, who is now just “who?” Put it in a bag, find a local charitable thrift shop, and do your heart (and community) some good.
  3. Let go of all those papers. What, you’re still getting paper statements? Yikes. Take a look at the mail you receive every month (it’s probably stacked up on your kitchen counter). Set aside personal letters and cards, if you are lucky enough to be on the receiving end of such rarities. Then, for the bank statements, go online and go paperless. Bills? Switch to online bill-paying, if possible. Junk mail? What?! You’re still receiving junk mail? Well that’s easy enough to stop. Finally, if you have papers you are hanging onto, but you’re not sure why, consider going paperless with a scanner.
  4. Dust. Seriously. Just busting out the Swiffer and dusting your shelves will be a big boost. While you’re at it, have a recycling bin handy for any bits of paper you come across.
  5. Bring less stuff into your living space. Before you buy, pick up (for freebies) or accept (from your friends who are decluttering) a single thing, ask yourself: Do I have a spot for this in my home? If the answer is no, or maybe… don’t bring it home. The less you bring in, the less you have to sort through later.

Finally, go easy on yourself. If you were the only person in the world with a clutter habit, there wouldn’t be entire stores filled with organizing boxes, totes and file folders. But—before you run out to buy some of those things—take a few moments and clear your space. You’ll be glad you did.

Conna Shannon

Conna Shannon

Conna is a writer, editor and aspiring filmmaker. She's into DIY, upcylcing and macrobiotic cooking. She lives in Monterey, California, with a yellow lab named Daisy.
Conna Shannon

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