In the last episode we started talking about decluttering. I gave you a long list of some common sources of clutter that most people have around the house. That list should help you decide what to keep and what to get rid of once you start going through all of your things.
As I told you, decluttering gradually, over several months to a year before moving, will decrease the overwhelm that usually comes with decluttering an entire house in a short period of time.
This week, I’ll give you a decluttering plan that you can use to help make the process easier and more methodical.
It’s ideal to pare down before you move into your new house because transporting unwanted and unused stuff from one house to another means more time, effort and money when packing and unpacking.
Before we get into the specifics of the decluttering plan, I want to discuss excess clothing for a moment.
Clothing can be especially difficult to part with for some of us. That’s why it accounts for the largest portion of the clutter and unused items in many households. As you’re looking through your closets and dressers, you should be able to clearly identify some stuff that you want to release, either because you don’t like it anymore or because it hasn’t fit for many, many years. If you have clothes that are way too small, but you have dreams of fitting into them again, strongly consider getting rid of them anyway. Maybe keep your very favorite outfit or two, but donate your clothes that are significantly too small, or too large so they can actually be worn by someone who needs them.
And if you do the hard work and sacrificing that’s needed to lose that much weight, don’t you think you’ll deserve to buy yourself a fresh, new, up-to-date wardrobe? Or at least reward yourself with some nice clothes from a brick and mortar or online consignment store.
So after you’ve gotten rid of the clothes that show wear and tear and those that are the wrong size, you may still have a ton more clothes than you need or want. In that case, if you’re honestly having trouble deciding whether you should keep certain items of clothing, ask yourself the decluttering questions from the last episode. Do you remember those questions? They are:
1. Do I love it?
2. Do I need it?
3. Does it fit who I am today?
4. Will it fit in my new house?
5. Does it serve me by making my life better or easier, or would it serve someone else better?
You really should be able to answer yes to every question before you decide to keep an item. Let’s talk about a few of these questions as they relate to clothes.
- Do I love it and need it? In other words, do you really enjoy the way it fits, feels and makes you feel? And would you miss it if it were gone because you wear it regularly
- Does it fit who I am today? For a clothing item that means, does it fit your current style, not your previous style? If you’re not sure of your current style, or how your style has evolved, think about someone whose style is the best version of your personal style, or whose style you admire. Then, when you’re considering what clothes to keep and what clothes to donate, think about your style role model. Ask yourself “Would he or she wear this?” If the answer is no, strongly consider donating that item and getting it out of your closet.
- Will it fit in my new house? In other words, do you have enough room in your closet or dresser to add another dress, sweater or pair of shoes? And does the item deserve a place in your brand new beautiful closet? That bright turquoise bridesmaids dress from 1998 probably shouldn’t make the cut.
- Does it serve me by making my life better or easier or would it serve someone else better?Does it serve you by making things better by making you feel good about yourself, or easier because it’s versatile and easy to pair with other things? If not, maybe donating it makes more sense because that item could serve someone else better.
Okay, let’s go to our decluttering plan.
As with all my advice, I want you to eat the meat and throw out the bones— use the tips that resonate with you and forget the rest. But this plan should give you at least a few tips for sorting through and editing your things so packing is less difficult.
1. Set Up a Decluttering Headquarters.
Get a set of 5 large boxes or storage bins and label them. The labels should say:
Friends and Family
Have those boxes or bins set up and in place at all times in a seldom used space like an office, guest room, or garage. Again, this is your decluttering headquarters and it should always be set up.
In addition to that, have a set of 5 shopping totes or paper bags that are sturdy enough to be free standing, but that are collapsible or foldable. This set of totes will have the same labels as the large boxes in the decluttering headquarters. The totes will go with you from room to room as you’re sorting through your stuff. Put unwanted items in the appropriately label tote. Using different colored totes or bags, like large gift bags, for example, will help you quickly identify which tote is which without having to read the label.
At the end of each decluttering session, take the 5 totes to the decluttering headquarters. Empty each tote into its corresponding box or bin. So drop the items from donations tote into the large donations box. At the end of your decluttering session, fold up the totes or bags and put them aside until you’re ready to open them up for the next session.
2. Go Through One Small Section At a Time.
Divide rooms or large spaces into smaller sections. This will help prevent overwhelm and burnout. Don’t try to tackle your entire bedroom or bathroom in one fell swoop, for example. Instead, start by cleaning out one drawer, shelf or section at a time. Remove all items from that drawer, shelf or section and start sorting— placing items you’re keeping back in place. Put stuff you’re getting rid of in the appropriately labeled tote.
Only after you are finished with every section of the entire room should you move on to another room. Once your bedroom is decluttered, for example, head into the bathroom. Again, sort through one drawer or section at a time. If you find things in one room that should be stored in another, now is the time to combine like items in one space, eliminating any duplicates.
3. Start With The Room Where Decluttering Will Have The Greatest Impact.
This doesn’t necessarily mean starting in the room with the greatest amount of clutter. If your basement is the most cluttered space, but you never go down to the basement, don’t start there. Instead, begin your process in a room where the clutter is causing you the most problems or where having more free space will make life easier for you right now. If your closet is so crowded and cluttered that it makes getting dressed frustrating and time consuming, then your closet should be one of the first spaces you declutter. If you start where you’ll get the greatest impact and reward for removing excess, living in those spaces will be less stressful and more enjoyable and you’ll be motivated to continue the process.
4. Schedule and Time Your Decluttering Sessions.
Assign an allotted amount of time per day, or per week for your decluttering sessions. If you do better with short sessions, set the timer on your smart phone and challenge yourself to go through a drawer or section or two for 20-30 minutes per day 4 or 5 days per week. Or if after a half hour, you’re just getting into the groove instead getting into a funk, schedule 2 or 3 hour sessions at least once or twice a week.
Most spaces can be decluttered in a month’s time or less if you consistently work on it for several hours over the course of the month. If you have extra time after you’ve gone through every space in the house once, consider decluttering your most utilized rooms a second time to pare down even more.
5. Be a Ruthless Savage About What Goes.
Play Megan Thee Stallion’s song Savage in the background if you need to. Be brutally honest with yourself about what you actually use or wear. It’s just stuff. Have no guilt about kicking that stuff out of your house. Sometimes asking yourself what you should keep, instead of asking what you should get rid of, can help reframe your thoughts about an item.
6. Make It a Game.
Sort through things as quickly as possible and see how much you can get done during each session. Can go through an entire junk drawer in 20 minutes? Can you narrow down your collection of jeans from 15 pairs to just 7? Compete with your spouse or kids to see who can go through the most drawers during the section, or who can put the most stuff in the donate tote. These challenges will gamify the decluttering session, make it more fun and make it easier to get your kids involved.
7. Touch It Once.
Part of the game you can play with yourself is to only touch an item once. When you pick something up, decide immediately about what to do with it. And don’t go to another item until you make a decision. If you get frustrated because you’re having a hard time making decisions about the fate of several items in that area, move to another drawer or space and revisit that difficult space at another time.
8. Store a Decluttering Box or Tote Your Closet.
Every time you, or your child, puts something on that doesn’t fit well or is uncomfortable, worn or unflattering, toss it in your closet decluttering box. At the end of the month or end of the season, move the clothes from the closet decluttering box to the appropriate box in the decluttering headquarters. This is an easy way to add decluttering into your routine.
Another thing you can do to add closet decluttering into your routine is to keep track of what you wear over the course of 6 months to a year. Then get rid all that you haven’t worn. To help keep track of your unworn clothes, use this process: Start out with all your hangers hooked onto the rod in the conventional way. Then after you wear something and put it back in the closet, place the hanger backwards, in the opposite direction of your unworn clothes. This will be your indication that it’s been worn. At the end of your 6-12 month period, donate or sell all the clothing on hangers that have not been turned around.
You can do something similar for your drawers or shelves. Instead of folding clothes after they have been worn, roll all worn clothing before putting it back into the drawer. Or fold worn items inside out.
9. Pair Decluttering With Something You Enjoy.
As a reward for your hard work, listen to a podcast or audiobook while you declutter. Or listen to music, the nightly or morning news, or phone a friend or family member and chat while you work. In addition, allow yourself to watch tv or scroll social media only after you’ve done a decluttering session.
10. Beware of Brain Drama.
Our brains come up with false beliefs and dramatic questions to protect us from lack. Our brains don’t realize that if we are able to build a house, we are not likely to experience true lack. So during a decluttering session, the primitive brain might make you think “I can’t get rid of that, what if I need it later?” The primitive brain doesn’t realized that most of us have the ability to replace most material things that we give away if we ever need them again.
If you have that “what if I need it later?” drama going on in your head, comfort your brain and yourself by saying “I can buy another one later if I need to.” And don’t be surprised if you have to say that to yourself over and over again in the beginning. But after a few purging sessions, your brain will relax when it realizes that nothing bad will happen if you get rid of clutter. In fact, you’re likely to get a dopamine release and a feeling of satisfaction the more you declutter.
11. Eat What You Have.
If your pantry and freezer are stuffed like mine are, resist the urge to continue buying more and more food, and eat what you have. Clear the pantry, fridge and freezer of food that you don’t like or that’s outdated. Cook what you have rather than regularly eating out, or buying a full grocery list. I don’t know about you but I don’t want to pack and move a bunch of food.
12. Use the One In One Out Rule.
To keep our spaces uncluttered, we’ve got to put limits on ourselves. If you don’t put a boundary in place, you’ll end up accumulating a bunch of clutter again, maybe even before you move. So make a pact with yourself that if you buy something new that is not a necessity, you have to remove a similar item from your house. It’s okay to buy another pair of black shoes, just remove and donate or sell an old pair that’s already in your closet. If you see a great deal on a set of sheets and you already have 5 sets of sheets, take advantage of that deal if you want, but remove and donate sheets from your linen closet before you store the new set. But don’t let yourself buy something unless you have space to store it. Everything should have a home, if not, leave it in the store. No place, no purchase.
12. Start Packing.
While you’re going through your stuff, start packing items away. Place packed, labeled boxes that are ready for moving day into a room that’s rarely used. Maybe you have extra space in your decluttering headquarters room or in an office, guest bedroom, your attic or basement. Start packing up things that you don’t need for day to day life. Maybe you know you’ll be moving before winter rolls around again. If so, box up seasonal and holiday decor and clothing, and put boxes in an out of the way area, ready for the move.
Only box up those things that have already been sorted through and deemed worthy of your new life in your new home. Label boxes so you know what’s in them and in what room they should be placed in the new house. After you’ve moved, you can reevaluate everything once again when you’re unpacking. If you have any doubt, toss it out! Like that rhyme? And remember, you can always buy another one if you need it.
Decluttering makes almost everyone feel better. You might not feel great in the midst of the process, but after you clean out your spaces, you’ll have a great sense of accomplishment. And you’ll be able to move into your new home clutter-free and have a truly fresh, new beginning.
Please remember that the purpose of this podcast is simply to educate and inform. It is not a substitute for professional advice. The information that you hear is based the only on the opinions, research and experiences of my guests and myself. That information might be incomplete and it’s subject to change, so it may not apply to your project. In addition, building codes and requirements vary from region to region, so always consult a professional about specific recommendations for your home.
Hope these tips help you. Thanks for stopping by.