Okay, so you might be wondering: why am I posting about decluttering habits in the middle of the year, and not on January 1st? The short answer is that I think new year’s resolutions are kind of crap.
The long answer is that I don’t believe in choosing goals just because an arbitrary date rolls around. See, the only thing that can really propel you to make changes is deciding you’re ready to make those changes. It’s also having such a strong reason why you need to do something that you feel there’s no real choice but to make your life better.
Or, as I prefer to put it…
CHANGING YOUR DECLUTTERING HABITS
Now, obviously being tired of your own shit can sometimes coincide with a new year. These are generally the people who successfully keep their resolutions. But for many of us the timing doesn’t line up – which could be why we convert back to our old ways again by January 23rd.
My biggest life changes sure as hell didn’t coincide with January 1st. I went vegan overnight on a random day in October 2014. I started decluttering in the fall of 2015. And I started adopting a low-waste lifestyle in the spring of 2017 – honestly, I can’t even remember which month it was.
Each one of those changes required a clear reason why I wanted to change. But they also required me to create and practice new habits. Otherwise, there’s no way I could have stuck with the goals!
So if you’re fed up with your clutter and ready to make a change, I gotchu. Here you can find 12 decluttering habits that will completely transform your home in a year.
And if you’re ready to get your home in gear, I highly suggest grabbing my free decluttering guide:
1. SHOP WITH A LIST
You’ve probably heard this advice for grocery shopping, because we tend to impulse shop when we’re hungry. (Guiltyyyyy!) But did you know it works for anything? Seriously!
2. DOCUMENT YOUR PROGRESS
There’s pretty much nothing more motivating than accountability, and documenting your progress is a great way to achieve that. I mean, for one thing, it’s a reason to get your ass in gear. But it’s also super inspiring to see the progress you’ve made since the initial “before” photo!
I recommend taking photos of any space you’re looking to declutter before you start. Then, take progress photos every day or week (or even month), depending on how quickly you’re able to get through the space.
And if you’re looking for an extra dollop of accountability, you can share your goals and progress photos on social media! (Feel free to use the hashtag #lettingthatshitgo on Instagram, and I might even feature your success in my stories. )
3. KEEP A BOX BY THE DOOR
If you’re decluttering and you’ve identified some items you know you want to part with, keep them in a box by the door. You can even pick up a cute basket or tote bag to keep there, if that’s your aesthetic!
4. USE LAUNDRY DAY AS A GUIDE
This is such a simple little hack that I tried out a few years ago, but it works! Every time laundry day rolls around, have a look at what’s still in your closet and drawers. Generally speaking, these are the clothes that you’re not reaching for regularly – the ones that don’t fit quite right, or don’t match enough of your other clothes. (Obviously I’m not counting out-of-season clothes in this.)
5. GET SCIENTIFIC
I run experiments in my home all the time. And while I know that makes me sound like Dr. Frankenstein (or, let’s be real, more like Dr. Frankenfurter!😉), hear me out.
If there’s something you’d like to get rid of but aren’t sure if you’ll miss it, tuck it away in a cupboard as an experiment. (A drawer or closet works too, depending on how many things you have!) The important thing is that it’s out of sight.
Then, try living without it for a week, or even a month. I’m willing to bet that a bunch of the things you put in your cupboard won’t be missed at all, so you can get rid of them without as much worry!
6. IDENTIFY YOUR “FANTASY SELF”
Your “fantasy self” is the person you wish you were, and often the person you tend to shop for. For example, your fantasy self might be a fashionista, so you have all sorts of fancy dresses – but your real self rarely goes out, and the dresses all still have tags on them. Or maybe your fantasy self is a knitter, so you have all sorts of yarn – but you never use it, and it just gathers dust.
One of my favourite decluttering habits is to become aware of your thought patterns. So start by noticing the things you’re keeping for your fantasy self – specifically, the shit you see and think “I should do that” or feel guilty about not using. And then give yourself permission to let go of (and stop buying) those items.
7. GET YOUR GOALS ON
Choose one Big Scary Goal (BSG, as I call it) each month as you work toward decluttering or sustainable living, and tell someone about it. Maybe your goal is to finally declutter your kitchen, or to meditate every day.
8. DO THE IMPORTANT SHIT FIRST
Mark Twain once said: “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” What he meant is that if you have a big ugly task that you’re probably going to want to put off, it’s best to get it done right away. Otherwise you’ll probably end up procrasti-watching Schitt’s Creek all day (or is that just me??) and the task won’t get done. Again.
So when you create your to-do list for the day, get the “frog” task done first and rip off that band-aid. You’ll see that the task probably wasn’t quite as unpleasant as you thought it’d be, and you’ll gain momentum for the rest of your day.
9. RECHARGE YOUR BATTERIES
Treat your “recharge time” as sacred, and commit to it the same way you commit to your goals. And yes, sleep counts!
Decluttering is mentally draining (in fact, there’s a concept called decision fatigue which can totally derail your efforts) so you need to prioritize rest. Real rest. Quiet rest. None of the mindlessly-watching-TV-or-scrolling-through-social-media nonsense while you recharge. And if I may quote Ron Swanson… “never half-ass two things, whole-ass one thing!”
Make recharging your one thing that you focus on when you do it, and take time to fill your cup back up in a way that actually helps you feel rested – so you can tackle your decluttering with more energy.
10. FEEL YOUR FEELS
Rather than avoiding unpleasant emotions that arise while decluttering, sit with them. Feel them. Name them. Write about them. Talk about them with someone you trust. I know it might feel easier to ignore feelings of anger or sadness or guilt, but unless you allow yourself to really feel them, they don’t actually go away. They’ll continue to simmer under the surface, and chances are that they’ll come up in other ways (like snapping at a loved one).
11. PAY ATTENTION TO PATTERNS
Are you constantly putting off one task in particular? Do you get halfway through a project and then abandon it? Do you go through the decluttering process and then never actually sell or donate the items?
12. STRENGTHEN YOUR RELATIONSHIPS
This might sound overly simplified, but hear me out. So much of our physical clutter is a replacement for external needs that aren’t being met. You might have a tendency to keep certain things to feel “cool” – but if you strengthen your friendships, you’ll feel cooler even without those things. Or you might keep things “just in case” – but if you strengthen your bond with your community, you could borrow those items if you ever needed them in the future. (Even though chances are, you won’t actually need them.)
Every time you get the urge to buy something new, or struggle to declutter something, consider what emotional needs you’re trying to fill. Then, ask yourself how you can meet that need in another “non-stuff” way.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON DECLUTTERING HABITS
The state of our home – how cluttered and stressful it is, for example – is often a direct result of the decluttering habits we have. So by adopting a few specific habits, you can dramatically alter your surroundings, and create the peaceful and clutter-free home you’re craving.