WHY IT’S SO HARD TO STAY CLUTTER-FREE
- You’ve decluttered your closet, then felt like you had nothing to wear. So over the course of the next few weeks or months, you ended up going on multiple shopping sprees and your closet ended up just as jam packed as it was before.
- You’ve dropped off items at the donation center, only to pop in “just to see what they have” and ended up with more crap you don’t need.
- Or, you know, maybe you got swept up in the Marie Kondo craze a few years ago and ruthlessly purged anything that didn’t “spark joy.” But your home felt kinda empty, so you started acquiring new things that “sparked joy” – and before you knew it, the clutter was back with a vengeance.
MY CLUTTER STORY
1. FIGURE OUT WHICH SHIT YOU’RE ACTUALLY USING
If you’re anything like me, you’re probably so used to seeing all the things that you own – but you rarely stop and think about whether you actually use them on the reg.
Luckily, there are plenty of little hacks you can use to figure out what you’re actually using day-to-day! Here are some strategies I’ve tried over the years:
- Every laundry day, look at all the clothes still in your drawer or hanging up in your closet. These are clothes that, for whatever reason, aren’t getting worn. Maybe they’re for a different season (which is fine), but if they don’t fit or they aren’t your style, then it’s time to either alter them or say “see ya never!”
- Divide any drawer (or shelf, or cupboard, or even closet!) in two. Put everything on the left-hand side. Like, literally everything. Then, when you use something, put it back on the right-hand side. You’ll learn very quickly which things you reach for, and which ones are gonna collect dust forever on the left-hand side. This works especially well for small stuff like jewellery, hair accessories, and socks.
- For things made of metal, glass, or hard plastic, grab a wax pencil or China marker and put a marking on the item. After a couple of weeks, you’ll have a clear visual of which items aren’t getting used. I recommend this for things like spice jars, cleaning products, and some toiletries.
Sometimes we need a little visual of what we’re using, and what we’re just accustomed to looking at every day. Implementing these little tactics – or, hey, creating your own! – can be a great way to stay on top of clutter.
2. HAVE A PLACE FOR YOUR “QUESTION MARK” ITEMS
As you figure out what you’re actually using, you might come across some shit that you know you don’t use (or don’t use often), but you just caaaaan’t quite part with.
This is where you can designate a cupboard specifically for those things. (We call ours the purgatory cupboard – you know… because the stuff inside is awaiting judgment.) Write a reasonable “expiry date” on each item, and if you don’t miss it by that date, then you know you can get safely rid of it without that nagging “what if” question rolling around in your noggin’.
Many of the things we’ve kept in our purgatory cupboard got sold or donated – especially kitchen clutter like our toaster, tin foil, and garlic press! But some of them we actually ended up missing and brought back out into circulation again, this time with way more gratitude for how they help us live comfortably.
3. KEEP BASKETS BY THE DOOR
A really useful step in decluttering 75% of my stuff was keeping all my decluttered items by the door. I separated them into different baskets (or boxes, or whatever) and organized them into piles for selling/freecycling, donating, or placing out on the curb. And it’s still a handy practice, long after that initial decluttering is done.
Having a designated spot to put your decluttered stuff means that you can immediately find the stuff you’re selling when the buyers came to the door. It also means you have a visual cue to take the stuff with you when you leave for the day, so you can drop it off at a shelter or wherever else may need it.
There are plenty of places to donate items to that don’t involve dumping them at a big box thrift store (I explain here why I’m not a fan of them). Having different baskets by the door can make it easier to get your items to places and people that really need them, all year ’round.
4. HOLD A YEARLY CLUTTER “CHECK-UP”
Our needs naturally change over time, so there’s no such thing as decluttering once and then never having to declutter again. That’s why it’s important to hold a yearly clutter “check-up” after your initial declutter, where you go through everything you own again and reflect on questions like:
- When was the last time I used this?
- Will I need it again in the coming year?
- Could I make do without it?
- Could it benefit someone else?
By taking stock of your stuff like this, you can figure out if an item still reflects your needs, your style, and your goals. If not, it’s time for it to find another home! (Oh, and if the thought of going through everything you own again stresses you out, it might be a sign that you really need to do it.😉)
Choose a time of year when you naturally get the urge to set goals and establish new habits – it could be the new year, or spring cleaning time, or even the back-to-school rush. Then ride that motivation wave, baby!
5. BUY LESS CRAP
I can totally see you rolling your eyes and being all, “yeah… no shit, Sara.” But stick with me here.
If you want less clutter, you have to stop bringing clutter into your life. There’s no way around it, my dude. So here are five questions you can ask yourself before you buy anything, that’ll help you acquire less clutter overall:
- Do I actually need it? Like, for realsies?
- Could it wait a week? (Or a month?)
- Do I already own something that could do the trick?
- Could I borrow it instead?
- And if it’s a sale item, would I buy it at full price?
6. PRACTICE GRATITUDE
Look, here’s a cold hard fact for ya. Until you’re happy with what you have, you’re always going to want more. (And I’m sure you know as well as I do that constantly wanting more is what ultimately leads to clutter!)
There are plenty of ways to incorporate more gratitude for the items in your life. I’m talking simple things, like slowing down with your morning cup of coffee and thinking about how awesomesauce it is that you have a mug to drink it out of.
But my personal favourite is carving ten minutes a day for a month-long gratitude challenge. I actually created one called Grateful as Fuck! It’s specifically for people who are decluttering, to help you appreciate all the awesome shit in your life. I recommend it to all my students, because when it comes to maintaining a clutter-free home, gratitude is still the best and easiest skill I’ve ever come across.
If you want to up your decluttering game (or you’re determined to stay clutter-free forever), you can grab a copy of the Grateful as Fuck challenge here.
The methods you use to declutter aren’t always the same ones that’ll help you stay clutter-free. The strategies above can help you switch your mindset from “purge” to “maintenance mode,” which means you’re much less likely to fill your space back up again in a few months.
Because yo-yo decluttering is super discouraging, amirite?!
If you want to make sure your clutter doesn’t come crawling back, then it’s time to implement strategies like:
- Decipher which crap you actually use, and which you don’t
- Designate a place to keep all the items you want to get rid of, but aren’t sure if you’ll miss
- Keep a “sell/donate” basket by the door, so you can remove items as soon as you realize you don’t need them anymore
- Schedule a yearly clutter “check-up” to go through everything you own
- Buy less crap in the first place, by using strategic questions before taking out your wallet
- Practice gratitude on the reg – because appreciating what you already own is the best way to prevent clutter!
In order to stay clutter-free, it’s all about prioritizing what’s important in life and creating habits to stay on top of the stuff in your home. And whether you’re just starting out or you’ve hit a decluttering wall, my free Ultimate Decluttering Guide can help you reach your goals! Grab your copy here: