I realize decluttering is not a new concept by any means, however, I discovered so many benefits to decluttering as part of the life planning process that I thought it was worth doing a deep dive into why and how in case you are interested in giving it a try.
What do we mean by decluttering?
First, let’s take a look at a few definitions from dictionary.com:
- to remove mess or clutter from (a place)
- to simplify or get rid of mess, disorder, complications (love that last one)
- to organize and prioritize (one’s commitments, materials possessions, etc.)
If you’re like me, you probably think of getting rid of ‘stuff’ or material possessions as the primary way of decluttering.
While that is true, there are benefits to decluttering many different areas of our lives.
Some of those areas include:
- the way we eat
- our routine
- our schedule
- the people in our life (I know that sounds rude but sometimes helpful)
- credit cards
- subscriptions (do we really need Netflix, Prime & Hulu?)
- Facebook friends (quality over quantity)
- others (leave a comment with your ideas and I’ll add them to the list)
But Why? Why is Decluttering Important?
In my experience, the primary reason to declutter is to allow space for something new. To get rid of what’s no longer serving you in order for that ‘something’ new to find its way home.
I now realize after going through the decluttering process, that a lot of my ‘stuff’, systems, habits, people, etc. in my life was a carryover of the ‘old’ me.
Therefore, hanging on to the old stuff was making it difficult for the ‘new’ me to find space to blossom and grow.
Now that I let go of the things that were important to the ‘old’ me, I feel a new sense of freedom. I’m now excited, rather than overwhelmed, to welcome whatever new people, places and things want to make their way into my life. It’s a great feeling.
I wonder if clutter is the reason so many of us feel stuck at times?
We accumulate so many things depending on our current interests that when our interests and values begin to shift, it’s difficult to let go of those things that no longer serve us.
Therefore, the decluttering process may not be a one and done sort of thing.
I would propose it’s a process that needs to occur regularly throughout our lifetime if we hope to continue to change and grow.
In fact, I have decluttered several times in the past and my younger self always wondered why I felt so called to do so. My older self has started to figure it out.
How Often Should You Decutter?
That’s hard to answer because it will be different for everyone.
How Do You Know It’s Time?
Perhaps it’s time when you begin to feel uncomfortable and you’re not sure why.
Perhaps it’s time when you find yourself more easily frustrated or annoyed for reasons you can’t explain.
Or, perhaps it’s time when you experience physical symptoms that cannot be explained by a health professional.
For me, I start to feel a heaviness in my chest that seems to linger and I know there’s no physiological reason. It’s just where I carry stress.
So, is now a good time for you to think about decluttering?
If so, here are a few ideas to help you get started:
1. Make a Commitment
- Determine your deadline. How much decluttering do you need to do? When do you want to finish your decluttering project? Give yourself a reasonable amount of time.
- Determine a set day/time that you can devote to your decluttering project on a consistent basis. I find short periods of time more frequently reduces overwhelm.
2. Don’t Add to Your Clutter
- Write down all the ways that you bring clutter into your life.
- During your decluttering project, make a conscious effort not to add any new clutter. I used to love going to resale shops but I brought home a lot of stuff I didn’t need. While I decluttered, I committed to no resale shopping. Since then, I haven’t wanted to go. I’m enjoying freedom from the clutter much more than I enjoy shopping for thing I don’t really need.
3. Work in Layers (this is most important)
- Approaching this project in layers can be extremely important. You will be making many decisions so in order to keep overwhelm at a manageable level, start with simple ones.
- Begin with one room, one drawer and/or one cabinet at a time. Remove anything you haven’t used in a year or those things you have no problem getting rid of. You might even find yourself saying, “Why do I even own this?” If so, that’s a simple decision; get rid of it.
- The first layer should be easy. You’re looking for stuff that doesn’t force you into big decisions. You need to shed this top layer to get down to the stuff that will make the most difference in the decluttering process.
- Do not move on to the second layer of decluttering until you have gone through the top layer of all the spaces you want to declutter.
- The second layer requires a bit more decision-making. Questions to ask yourself include:
- Do I really need this?
- If I don’t have it, will it decrease the quality of my life?
- Does this bring me joy? How often?
- Could someone else benefit from having it more than me? I love this question as it makes it easier to get rid of stuff knowing someone else can use it.
- The number of layers you work through will depend on how decluttered you want your life to be and perhaps how stuck you’re feeling. I worked through four layers and I’m still considering another. Each layer opens my heart a little more and the more I get rid of, the easier I find it to breathe (from a physical and spiritual perspective).
I hope this idea and process is useful for you, either now or in the future. Leave a comment and let me know if you’ve given it a try and how it went for you. Do you have a story that might inspire others? Please share.
If you need help developing a plan to get started decluttering your life, the DECLUTTER YOUR LIFE: DECLUTTERING SYSTEM was designed to help you do exactly that.
When you’re done decluttering, you may be ready to develop a plan for the next phase of your life. These LIFE PLANNING ESSENTIALS are available to help you with that process. They can work wonders helping you recharge and refocus your life.