Ready to part with all of the stuff that you don’t need? Don’t make it harder than it needs to be. Here’s the easiest way to declutter when you’re chronically ill.
There are bones on my dining room table. One is a humerus, I think. Or is it a tibia? In either case, they look like clutter to me. But I can’t get rid of them.
My daughter is in grad school for physical therapy. I guess the bones make an appearance during class, which is (as is everything now…) on Zoom.
So while I can’t get rid of them, I can require that they find a home in more appropriate place.
That’s where decluttering comes in. When you get rid of what you don’t need, it’s waaaay easier to find a place for the things you do need.
Like anything worth doing, the biggest challenge is just getting started. Have you tried it before? It’s not easy.
The first post in this series addresses why it can be a waste of time to try to declutter. My second post describes how to create an effective and simple plan for decluttering and provides a template that you can download to help you get started.
Are you ready?
Save your energy – here’s the easiest way to declutter!
First things first: Prepare!
A little bit of preparation is worth the effort. Your goal is to declutter without siphoning every precious drop of fuel from your body. There are a few things you need to do before you get started:
1. Be realistic about what you can accomplish today
Do you find yourself so overwhelmed that you really don’t know how to make the first move?
This is the beauty of the list. Pick a an area to start decluttering based on the how much of a priority it is and how much energy (and time) you want to spend on it today.
Just remember this: doing something is better than doing nothing.
Seriously – if you only have enough energy to clean out one drawer, then do it. If you’re not up to that, remember that clutter comes in many forms – including digital. So have a seat, open your email and start deleting old messages.
We’re going for progress and results.
It’s not a sprint.
It doesn’t have to be perfect.
2. Get rid of distractions
Do yourself a favor: be honest about your biggest distractions and get them out of the way.
Do you have a habit of frequently checking our phone for new texts or social media posts? Put it in another room.
If the dirty dishes on the kitchen counter and the unmade bed are beckoning you, take care of them.
Hungry? Take the time to eat.
It’s easier to focus and start working when the house isn’t in a total state of chaos and you’re not distracted because you didn’t eat breakfast. If it makes you feel better, tidy up just enough so that when you take a break you have a peaceful place where you can sit down and recharge.
3. Make space to work
I felt like a rock star. Finally – I was decluttering the storage spaces in my attic and I was kicking butt. I had 25 years’ worth of stuff – and 100% percent commitment to finally dealing with it.
But damn, there was so much! Mimeographed school newspapers from the 1970s. Art projects from when my kids were in daycare (more than 20 years ago). My First Communion veil, circa 1972.
Before I knew it, the stuff had me cornered. And I couldn’t easily tell one mound from the next. The items I wanted to donate started co-mingling with the pile of items I planned to throw out.
If you’re working in a small space, make room for yourself and all of the stuff that you’re going to pull out of a closet or a drawer. If you need help temporarily moving some items out of the way, ask for help. It’s important to have room to move for purposes of your safety and sanity.
4. Get your supplies
There’s no need to buy storage bins – remember, the point is to get rid of stuff, not shift it to a bigger, prettier or sturdier box.
To get started, you’ll need three or four ample-sized boxes or bags – one for each of the following categories of items:
3. keeping but consolidating with other similar items (think photographs, for instance)
4. personal documents that need to be shredded.
That’s all you really need. But I recommend listening to music or a podcast and having a beverage available – maybe some water, tea, coffee, or wine (your secret is safe with me).
Just do it!
Keep your end goal in mind. Make this time well spent. Be a little bit ruthless – it’s the best way to use the time wisely.
If you come across items that you didn’t remember you had, it’s time to let them go.
Chances are you’ve got duplicate items. Do you really need them? Donate them to someone who does.
Remember when you preferred a different style of decor or clothing? If you’ve moved on and those items no longer suit you, it’s time to part with them. They’ve served you well.
If you’re really on the fence about a particular item, ask yourself if it can be replaced for a reasonable amount of money (maybe $20 or so). If so, get rid of it. You haven’t used it in years, what makes you think you’ll want to use it in the future?
Dealing with nostalgic items can be especially difficult – there are some strategies you can employ to help you through the process. (Confession: Remember my First Communion veil? I didn’t get rid of it.)
“Rehoming” your stuff
There are lots of options for donating your items. You can schedule a charity truck to pick-up your donations. If you have sentimental items handed down to you from other family members, perhaps someone else in the family might appreciate them. Do you know anyone who may have friends or family members in need of any of the items you’re parting with?
There are also networks such as Freecycle where you can give away your unwanted items to people who actually need and want them.
Once you start to see progress, you’ll be motivated to keep going. And whether it takes you a week, a month or all year, this really is the easiest way to declutter, because it allows you to manage your energy and still achieve your goal.
This process isn’t about “minimalism”. I like to think of it as a strategy for maximizing my peace of mind and the space in my home.
Remember those bones I mentioned? They’re not on the dining room table anymore. They’re resting comfortably out of sight but close at hand, ready for their next appearance on Zoom.