Ever look around a room and think, “Where did all this stuff come from?” We all have junk drawers, stuffed closets, and a space where we cram stuff hurriedly before company arrives. But what if we didn’t need those spaces?
A tsunami of toys often arrives at birthday or holiday celebrations. Well-meaning grandparents or family members may spoil your child (or you!) just because. Those oddball gifts given in the spirit of love or friendship crowd the closet. On the other hand, items with sentimental power gather dust on shelves and in drawers or are boxed away.
Clutter creates significant stress in everybody’s life. Many studies support a correlation between clutter and depression. And sometimes, just staring at clutter can elevate an individual’s blood pressure.
It took the cycle of life for my husband and I to sit down and take stock in our own clutter. His grandmother, an Alaskan-born, fiercely independent lady, had decided to downsize her home and move into a more manageable apartment. Her home lovingly displayed seven decades of her life. Triaging her belongings became a significant struggle. And while she did rise above the clutter, it wasn’t without significant difficulty.
We realized that we didn’t want our home to embrace clutter. We didn’t want the stress of all the stuff. So we sat down and really thought about how we could change our lifestyle.
Here are 5 great tips that helped us rise above the clutter:
1. Two Out for Every One In
When our daughter receives a new toy, or buys one with her allowance money, she chooses two old toys to give away. When I buy a new book, I donate two older ones. When my husband buys a new video game, he gets rid of older ones. We’re striving to hold true to this philosophy until we pare down enough that we no longer have an abundance of unused items taking over the house.
2. Purge Quarterly
To really take stock in what we need, we’re working on purging our stuff quarterly. As a family, we’ll go through room by room and really look at what’s in there. We have bags for broken items, donateable items, yard sale or pass-along items. This way we don’t have broken toys or dead batteries hanging around; we can recycle what we can and free up the space in our home. When I started, I owned twenty eight summer dresses; now I’m down to my favorite ten. And that Pampered Chef cookie icing tool? Yardsaled it to a mom who might actually take it out of the box. Use it or lose it!
3. Clear the Surfaces
At first, I considered investing in better storage for all the stuff we had. But then I thought: we don’t need more storage—we need less stuff. Clutter accumulates all over surfaces: kitchen counters, coffee tables, dressers, shelves, sinks…you name it and there’s likely something on it. Designating homes for items and clearing the surfaces really helped to eliminate clutter. It also encouraged us to be more organized and develop working systems for mail, paperwork, knick-knacks, and everything that ends up on bedroom dressers. I tackled one room a week in the beginning and focused on effectively clearing the surface—no stashing stuff elsewhere, but finding it a place or getting rid of it.
4. Go Digital
Part of the clutter in our home resulted from paper items: newspapers, magazines, mail, and books. We changed many subscriptions to digital subscriptions for newspapers and magazines. We signed up for text reminders instead of postcard reminders for doctor and vet appointments. Most of our bills arrive digitally. While I still love turning a book’s pages, I’m buying less books and reading more digital versions—or simply visiting the library! We now buy movies, music, and video games all digitally and are slowly clearing the house of all the physical cases.
Related: Why I am Raising a Minimalist
5. Reassess Sentimentality
Sentimentality gets me all the time. It’s hard to let go of something that once belonged to family member or represented an amazing moment. For example, a family member passed down a set of French onion soup bowls. I loved this family member; I love French onion soup. And in 15 years of possessing said bowls I never once used them. I had to work on severing that sentimentality and let them go. I needed to realize that my memories weren’t tied up in those bowls and I found them a home with someone who might actually put some soup in them!
Facing clutter head-on can be daunting. And sometimes you’ll need to make a mess in the process. For example, you may need to dump that junk drawer or remove everything from the closet to really begin sorting. Set a timeline and start small; all those little accomplishments will add up. Just don’t procrastinate: that feeling of an uncluttered life is priceless.
Have any tips or tricks for clutter? Share them below!