Jan 22, 2019

How to Declutter Your Home

How to Declutter Your Home
Should I declutter room by room?  Should I declutter a little drawer each day?  How should I begin? 

I was at a loss on how to declutter and feel good about what I did.  I would find ways to declutter, but then in 3 months, 6 months, or even 1 year later I would find myself needing to declutter that same area again.  It was quite defeating. 

I can say that after doing this challenge for myself and my readers last year that this way works.  It transforms your way of thinking and you won't go back to more clutter.  It is amazing and I have been so happy that I took the time to do this.  

As I mentioned in the first post about the challenge, you will do it by categories.  This helps you start with the easiest things and then work towards the harder things.  That way when you get the the hardest category (sentimental) you will have had lots of practice before hand.  

I want to give you some tips I learned along the way for each of these categories.  I mention a book and when I do it is always the book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  I wrote a whole blog post about why you need to read it!

How to Declutter Your Home

My biggest thing with clothing is to make sure you love what you keep.  Even if that means getting rid of something you only wore once.  Even if it means you get rid of a gift.  Things like that will just sit there and collect dust and take up space.  

You will feel so much better and confident with a closet full of clothes you like and want to wear.  I have had a 36 piece wardrobe for about 3.5 years now.  It has been amazing to me to see how much I love my closet now and I have A LOT LESS STUFF than I used to have. 

How to Declutter Your Home

This is from the book: "Books are usually arranged in rows in bookcases so that their titles are clearly visible, so it does seem to make more sense to weed out those you don't want when you can see them. Not only that, but books are heavy. Taking them all off the shelf only to put them back on again seems like a waste of effort. Even so, do not skip this step. Remove all the books from your bookcases. You cannot judge whether or not a book really grabs you when it's still on the shelf."

She goes on to say, "Once you have piled your books, take them in your hand one by one and decide whether you want to keep or discard each one. The criterion is, of course, whether or not it gives you a thrill of pleasure when you touch it. Remember I said when you TOUCH it. Make sure you don't start reading it. Reading clouds your judgment."

Then once you are done and only have books that you LOVE it will feel SO GOOD!  She says, "For someone who loves books, what greater happiness could there be?"

Here are some quotes from the book about books.  I loved them and wanted to share them.  Anything that isn't in quotations is my own thoughts:

"The most common reason for not discarding a book is "I might read it again.'"

"Books you have read have already been experienced and their content is inside you, even if you don't remember. So when deciding which books to keep, forget about whether you think you'll read it again or whether you've mastered what's inside. Instead, take each book in your hand and decide whether it moves you or not. Keep only the books that make you happy just to see them on your shelves, the ones that you really love. That includes this book, too. If you don't feel any joy when you hold it in your hand, I would rather you discard it."

"The problem with books that we intend to read sometime is that they are far harder to part with than ones we have already read."

"If you missed your chance to read a particular book, even if it was recommended to you or is one you have been intending to read for ages, this is your chance to let it go. You may have wanted to read it when you bought it, to teach you that you didn't need it. There's no need to finish reading books that you only got halfway through. Their purpose was to be read halfway. So get rid of all those unread books. It will be far better for you to read the book that really grabs you right now than one that you left to gather dust for years." 

Talking about old text books, notebooks, and qualification books she says...
"So if, like many of my clients, you have any books that fall into this category, I urge you to stop insisting that you will use them someday. Get rid of them today. Why? because the odds are very low that you'll ever read them. Of all my clients, less than 15 percent put such books to use......If you haven't done what you intended to do yet, donate or recycle that book. Only by discarding it will you be able to test how passionate you are about that subject. If your feelings don't change after discarding it, then you're fine as is. If you want the book so badly after getting rid of it that you're willing to buy another copy, then buy one-and this time read and study it."  I followed this advice when cleaning out my books.

She went on to say keep the books that are in your personal "Hall of Fame" category.  These are those books that you know you will read again and just by looking at them you can't help but smile. 

Then the next category of books to keep but didn't make the "Hall of Fame" are books that inspired you. These books will change as life changes. So you need to keep tabs on these books and discard when necessary.

The last quote I want to share and completely think this is true is "I have noticed that having fewer books actually increases the impact of the information I read."

Magazines can be one of those things that can build. I like to keep my cleaning to a minimum on Sundays. It's the one day a week that I give myself rest. However, I always take 10 minutes to look through a magazine. I might take longer if I have a bigger pile of magazines. That way I make sure to get through one or two magazines. If I see something that I HAVE to reference later then I usually tear out the page that I need to reference or take a picture of it and file it in a folder to look back on. I always make sure that this is something that is worth keeping. I don't want clutter in my home or even on my computer/phone if it will never be referenced again.

Once I am done with the magazine I recycle it and move on. If I didn't do this then my house would be swimming in magazines.

How to Declutter Your Home

Lecture/talk/seminar materials: 
The reason we go to a lecture or seminar is to learn and grow in that area of expertise. Now I am going to say something that might seem harsh, but I don't mean it that way. THE ONLY WAY YOU WILL GET RESULTS FROM A SEMINAR IS TO PUT IT INTO PRACTICE.

I say this because if you keep the notes for years, more than likely you won't ever look at those notes and they will clutter your home. If you do then you might not remember what was meant by your notes after years of sitting in storage and you will probably want to take another class on the same thing to freshen your memory.

Think about it! How many past notes do you reference all the time? Probably not many. If you do then you are putting it into place and pretty soon you will have a great routine and know what the notes say just by practicing what the notes say. Therefore you won't need the notes anyways.  (Wow I said the word notes a lot there!)

If you REALLY can't part with something then get it converted electronically. I like to take stock of my electronic files yearly just to stay on top of them as well.

Credit Card & Bank Statements: 
My number one piece of advice is to immediately go (like right when you start decluttering this type of paper) and get these put online. There are paperless options. Please use them. If you can't do that then take this advice:  Once you get these statements then check the content to confirm everything is correct and record it where necessary. Then get rid of it. At that point it has fulfilled its purpose.

Pay Stubs & Greeting Cards:
Pay Stubs first...The main reason you should keep these is to check what is on there and that it is correct. Most times at that point it is a good idea to get rid of it. If you are applying for a loan then maybe keep a few months worth. No more than a year!

Greeting cards: When I get a thank you card or any card for that matter I read it and cherish it in the moment and then get rid of it. I will say I keep some that are more life changing.  Basically really special ones only.  The purpose of the card was to let you know that you were thought of. If you took that positive vibe in then its purpose is over. I do keep Christmas cards. These bring me TONS of joy so I punch holes in them (only the ones with pictures) and then bind them with book rings. My family and I love to look back over all the years and see how much everyone changes. It brings us lots of joy so it makes sense for us to do this. I also store them with my Christmas stuff.

Medical documents (this includes insurance documents and HSA docs):
Here is my thing. The ONLY reason you should keep something is for reference or to provide information for yourself or others. Here is what I do with these kinds of papers:
1. I keep them if I have a print out of what was paid for tax purposes. Then I keep it with my tax documents for 7 years. If it is provided online then I don't print it out.

2. If I have a large bill that hasn't been paid (babies anyone?) then I keep all the supporting documents until it has been paid. Once it is paid the only thing I keep is the record of what was paid for (again for tax purposes).

Warranties and manuals:
Manuals-Only keep ones that you continually reference. If you are going to stick it in a file then get rid of it. Utilize it when you first get the item and then toss it. Most of these manuals can be found online anyways.
Warranties- Keep them as long as they are not expired. Keep them all in one file together. Then either each time you have to pull one out OR once a year go through them and get rid of the expired ones.

How to Declutter Your Home
Real picture of what I did to my closet outside of our main bathroom.

Let's talk about the the things around the house that we don't notice all the time because they have become part of our house.

Unused gifts - I'm talking about party or wedding favors, souvenirs from friends/family, gifts given to you on your birthday, and so on. Now I am not talking about things that are your taste or that you love. I am talking about the ones that you have used once, if at all. They are the items in your house that cause you guilt every time you look at them because you wish you liked it or could use it, but you just can't. They are either put in the back of a closet, on top of a shelf, or in a drawer.

Now I want you to hold that gift and think about the person that gave it to you and remember that they gave it to you because they love you and thought of you. They would HATE to know that it is causing you guilt or is going unused. You will do so much better getting rid of it and letting someone else actually ENJOY it!

Cosmetic samples saved for trips: If you do not use them within a year please throw them out. Reason is that when the quantity is very small (like samples) the quality deteriorates faster. You don't want to be on a trip trying to relax and realize that the lotion, shampoo, or conditioner is all dried up or bad. Then you are driving around trying to find these items or paying an arm and a leg for them.
Just make it a habit to toss them yearly. Set a reminder on your calendar if you have to. Just do it!

Electronics Packages: I have to tell you that this is what my husband kept the most of. I have broke his error of judgement (haha), but it has taken years.
Boxes take up SO MUCH ROOM! So get rid of that box your cell phone came in as soon as you get it out of the box. My husband kept them because he thought the electronics would be easier to sell if he had the box, but he has sold so many without the boxes since I had him get rid of them right away.
You also don't need them for moving...unless you are moving in the very near future. Don't save them for a "someday" move. Get the boxes for moving at that time of moving.

Unidentified cords
HAHAHAHAHAHA.  WE ALL HAVE THESE! 99.9999999% of the time you can toss it and you won't even know the difference. However, if you get nervous then keep the pile of them and make sure after you are done decluttering that each of your electronic devices has a cord. Then toss the pile (it is probably a pile of cords for already disposed of electronics).

Honestly, if you find that you need a cord later on then go buy one. It will take you less time to do that then to try and find it in the mess of cords.

Broken Appliances: Get rid of them. Unless you have a hobby and ENJOY fixing these things, then get rid of them. The only exception is if you can't live without it and you need it repaired right away. However, if you don't NEED it or it's going to sit for months or years to "someday be fixed" then please get rid of it.

"Bedding for the guest who never comes": Don't keep tons of bedding for guests that you never have. It is such a waste of space. I am not talking to anyone who has regular guests.

Products from the latest trends: This can be any kind of trend. It is the trend that you went all in and got so many things to do it...health trends, hobby trends, kitchen trends, etc.

If you are no longer passionate about it then get rid of it. I know it cost a lot of money, but it made you happy while you did it. It is no longer making you happy. So let it go!

Spare buttons: My mom had a Tupperware full of them and they were RARELY used. Many times if you lose a button on a clothing you will either wear it without the button, be done with the piece of clothing anyways, or let it sit until the article of clothing becomes faded because it has been sitting too long. Don't keep the buttons if you aren't going to use them. If you have suits or coats that you KNOW you will replace the buttons to then sew the extra buttons to the inside of the article of clothing. They do that now with a lot of coats anyways.

Free "Swag" items:
This one is my favorite category.  Phone cleaners, notepads, pens, fans, plastic cups/water bottles, glasses, Post-It notes, folder, calendars, balls, whistles, the list goes on and on. You didn't buy any of these things because they don't bring you joy. So get rid of them!  Only keep the things that bring you joy! 

Any guesses on what Marie Kondo finds the most of laying around all over the house?
Coins....I found it interesting and I can totally see this. Her advice is to put coins IMMEDIATELY in your wallet. Coins are not junk. They are money. So make sure to use them! Don't just think they are worthless because they aren't paper. We have an allowance system in our home. So we have a bank with coins to give our girls, but they aren't all over the place. They are either in the "bank" or in our wallets.
Key point to take from it....use your coins.

Marie has a part in her book about stock piles. Do you want to hear some of her records for stock piles?
Toothbrushes = 60 (this person sounded like they lived alone)
Plastic kitchen wrap = 30-20 meter rolls
Toilet Paper = 80 (from the sound of it this woman lived alone)
The ultimate record she writes of was cotton swabs = 20,000 (again it sounds like this woman lived alone)

She goes on to say, "Unlike a shop, if you run out of something at home, it's not a big deal. It may cause you temporary stress, but it does no irreparable damage."

"Give it away to friends who need it, recycle it, or take it to a donation shop. You may think this is a waste of money, but reducing your stock and relieving yourself of the burden of excess is the quickest and most effective way to put your things in order.
Once you've experienced the freedom of a life without surplus stock, you won't want to give it up and will naturally stop stockpiling. My clients tell me that now life is more fun because when they run out of something they enjoy seeing how long they can last without it or trying to substitute other things. It's important to assess what you have on hand now and eliminate excess."

I have one extra toothbrush on hand for my girls at a time. You know just in case they drop their's in the toilet...or something. I always take stock of my plastic wrap when I put together my grocery list. Same goes for cotton swabs. Toilet paper I check monthly because I buy a big package when I need to at Sam's Club. I get the feeling of not wanting to run out! I hate running out of something, but I don't want my stockpile to consume my life either. This part was interesting to me.

Sentimental things
How to Declutter Your Home

Here are some quotes I loved from the first section on sentimental things.

REMEMBER: Keep the stuff that still brings you joy. There isn't a limit on what you can keep, but really think about each item.

"No matter how wonderful things used to be, we cannot live in the past. The joy and excitement we feel here and now are more important."

I love this quote and everything she says here: "By handling each sentimental item and deciding what to discard, you process your past. If you just stow these things away in a drawer or cardboard box, before you realize it, your past will become a weight that holds you back and keeps you from living in the here and now."

A piece of advice she gives is DO NOT SEND YOUR SENTIMENTAL THINGS TO YOUR PARENT'S HOUSE. That is just prolonging this process. At one point you will have to address it. Do it now!

When it comes to things your kids gave you then really think if it brings you joy. My guess is some of them will and some of them won't. So keep the ones that do.

Letters were hard for me. This is what she said about letters. "The purpose of a letter is fulfilled the moment it is received." So don't hold on to it just because...only hold on to the ones that bring you joy and happiness.  This category was hard, but after months of practice I luckily had become so much better.  So don't stress out now! 

Once again, hold on to the things that you would love to look through over and over again. (The things that bring you joy!)

Let's talk photos. I am going to quote the book again because as I did my decluttering I noticed a lot of truth in these statements.

"Because photos tend to emerge from the most unexpected places when we are sorting other categories, it is much more efficient to put them in a designated spot every time you find one and deal with them all at the very end."

"There is a good reason to leave photos for last. If you start sorting photos before you have honed your intuitive sense of what brings you joy, the whole process will spin out of control and come to a halt. In contrast, once you have followed the correct order for tidying ....sorting will proceed smoothly , and you will be amazed by your capacity to choose on the basis of what gives you pleasure."

She goes on to say that you should pile all your pictures in a big pile. Now....I was a huge scrapbooker back in the day. I did not take my pictures that I spent time and energy on (not to mention hours of journaling) out of the scrapbook just to put them in a pile. I also have many pictures already filed by date. I did not take those and jumble them up and have NO idea what year they are from.

However, I did take pictures one by one and really thought if it is something that my kids, grand kids, or great grand kids would want to see. If it truly brings me joy then I think they will want to see those pictures.

Go through them now. Enjoy them now! Don't keep piling these pictures up until you are gone and then your kids have to go through them and maybe not care what half of them are. I speak from experience in this...my husband's mom passed away 13 years ago. We have gone through picture after picture of not knowing what it was or who was in the picture (we've asked my father in law and we've asked siblings if they knew what the picture was). Many of the pictures were of things or blurry, so we didn't care about them.

However, we still cherish the ones with her and her family and ones where she is smiling. Those are the ones that bring us pure joy!

Find out how to declutter your home by going through categories instead of room by room.

Some of these links contain affiliate links which means if you purchase after clicking on the link I will receive a very small commission. I wholeheartedly recommend these items and commission would never sway me to recommend something I could not stand behind.

Other posts in this series

Storage tips

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