11 SIMPLE THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOU START DECLUTTERING
Decluttering can be overwhelming or time-consuming but it doesn’t have to be that way. Try these tips and things to do before you start decluttering so you can have a clutter-free home with more ease and less stress.
WHAT IS DECLUTTERING AND WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
Before we look at ways to make decluttering easier and, importantly, how you can plan and prepare before decluttering, I wanted to briefly talk about decluttering and why it matters. We all have different motivations and starting points for wanting to declutter and there are many benefits to decluttering which can help simplify our lives in many ways.
A cluttered home is more difficult to keep clean and tidy. There always seems to be stuff lying around and clutter attracts more clutter. Imagine you have a countertop or table with nothing on it. You’d soon notice a pile of random papers suddenly appear. But, if that surface was already full of stuff, then you probably wouldn’t notice an extra set of paperwork, or anything else dumped on it for that matter!
Clutter doesn’t just attract clutter. It confuses the mind, makes us distracted, lose focus and generally more stressed and less calm. Read more about the emotional and psychological effects of clutter.
Decluttering is the act of removing the excess stuff from our homes (and even our life in general). It makes for a calmer, more relaxing home environment where there’s more physical space to move about and live in. It’s easier to keep clean and tidy and ready for unexpected guests. A quick re-set every now and then and some daily habits to keep that clutter away is all you need to remain pretty much clutter-free.
So, that’s what decluttering is and why it’s so important. If you’d like to read more about how to declutter and keep that clutter away, here are some articles you might find helpful:
- How to declutter your home and life
- What is clutter?
- How to decide what to keep and what to get rid of
WHY IS DECLUTTERING DIFFICULT?
Decluttering doesn’t have to be difficult. However, for many of us, it’s not simply a question of moving room to room and throwing out everything we don’t want to keep.
- Perhaps you don’t have much spare time and don’t want to spend a whole weekend decluttering your entire home?
- Maybe you have little kids and not much time, energy or freedom to embark on a decluttering project?
- You might find it difficult to part with years of accumulated belongings. It might be emotionally too difficult or you feel anxious or scared about letting your stuff go?
- Perhaps you feel guilty about getting rid of stuff that you’ve previously paid money for and it feels like a waste.
- Your family might not understand or be on board with decluttering your stuff so they can’t or won’t help and you’re feeling on your own and unsupported?
These are just some of the common reasons why people find decluttering difficult and they’re all very valid arguments we use to put decluttering off until another time.
However, with a few tips and some thoughtful planning and preparation beforehand, it IS possible to declutter your home (and your life) without stress or overwhelm.
Really all you need is a little moment to think and reflect on this list of things to do before you start decluttering to make decluttering so much easier!
Planning and preparation beforehand, both practical and for your mindset, will help make decluttering easier. It will also help you overcome some of the common decluttering challenges and obstacles which trip us up or impede our decluttering progress.
Are you ready?
THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOU START DECLUTTERING
Here are 11 things to do before you start decluttering to make clearing your clutter easier and less stressful!
1. Decide your decluttering goal
Firstly, ask yourself why you want to declutter. Getting clear on why you want to do something will help you decide how to do it. And, if you have a good reason for doing something, it’s more likely to keep you motivated and on task if you lose a little enthusiasm or motivation along the way.
Before you start decluttering, decide on why you want to declutter. What’s your goal?
In terms of decluttering goals, perhaps you want:
- A home that’s easier to keep clean and tidy
- More space and flow around your home and between rooms if your home is small
- Less time spent clearing away toys etc at the end of the day and more free time for other things
- A home that you’d be happy to invite guests over to
- A room where you can relax in the evening without stuff everywhere
- A clear desk to do your work or studying
- A kitchen where you can easily reach for your baking equipment when you need it
- A garage where you can find your tools easily
- What do you want your home to look like? What function does that room serve? Does your stuff have to fit in a certain amount of storage space?
2. Decide the time you have available
It’s no good saying you’ve got all weekend to declutter, coming up with a plan, getting to the weekend and only then to find that you’re taking child A to activity B and child C to activity D so you have less time than you thought. It becomes demoralising when this happens and you’re unlikely to be in a positive frame of mind to declutter in the time you do have left.
That’s why this next tip is so important before you start decluttering. Get crystal clear on the time you have available to declutter.
- Is it half an hour whilst the baby naps?
- Is it when you get back from work and before you have to cook dinner?
- Is it Saturday morning before you head out for the afternoon?
- Is it five-minute windows or a whole weekend?
Pull out your diary and look at it carefully. Can you time-block some spaces where you can declutter and really keep these free so you can get on with decluttering.
Five-minute slots are all you need, if that’s all the free time you have available. You can do a lot with five minutes here and five minutes there. You don’t need an entire weekend.
The trick is being clear on how much time you have and then choosing a decluttering project that fits into that time slot.
Nothing is more frustrating than starting to declutter and then realising you don’t have enough time to complete it. Stuff will just get left out, or shoved back in, and left to deal with another day.
So, before you start decluttering, decide exactly how much time you have.
3. Have a decluttering action plan
Once you know how much time you have, then your next step is to decide what you’re going to declutter. This means coming up with a decluttering action plan.
Without a plan, you could risk wasting time not knowing where or how to start. You might not have everything you need with you and you flit from one thing to another, looking and feeling busy, but not being very productive.
A decluttering action plan means that you have a specific goal in mind. It could be decluttering one kitchen cupboard in the ten minutes you have spare. It could be going through one book shelf, or setting aside a whole evening to look through old photographs.
You could write a list of different decluttering projects – a room, a type of object, a certain number of items, for example, and against each item on this list of projects, write how long you would estimate each project will take you. That way, the next time you have some time spare, look through the list and match up how much time you have against the next project you’d like to complete.
Break big projects down into smaller ones. For example, when it comes to clothes, declutter your underwear as one project, your sweaters as another, bags and accessories another.
Again, write down your plan for decluttering each area or item in your home and tick it off as you go. Before you start decluttering, understand what you want to achieve and the steps to make that happen.
4. Be realistic
It’s very demotivating and frustrating to embark on a project and be unable to complete it. Give yourself plenty of flexibility and be realistic in what you want to achieve and how.
- Don’t give yourself too much to do in too short a space of time.
- Don’t expect to have a clutter-free home in one afternoon if your home is currently clutter-full.
- Don’t expect your kids or partner to love decluttering and help you with it.
- Don’t expect decluttering your home will make your life suddenly perfect.
We have clutter (and keep it) for so many reasons. It builds up over time and it can take time for it to go. Not everyone will be as keen as you to part with stuff and sometimes it just gets tough to look though our stuff and feel able to part with it.
Be kind to yourself, be honest with yourself. Don’t expect everyone to be on the same page or that you’ll get things decluttered quickly and efficiently without a few hiccups along the way. Be realistic!
5. Check in with yourself
Decluttering can test our emotions. Some decluttering projects are easier than others. For example, the bathroom tends not to have many items which bring back memories, whereas old photos or sentimental items can make us feel nostalgic.
No matter what you’re decluttering, the process is easier when we’re feeling positive, upbeat, motivated and in the right mindset to make good decisions. Decluttering is more difficult when you’re in a low mood, feeling sad, anxious or frustrated.
Before you start decluttering, check in with yourself. Ask yourself:
- Am I feeling motivated?
- Am I feeling ready to take action?
- Am I ready to make positive change?
If the answer is no, then be wary of decluttering. The very act of clearing your clutter may lift your mood and spur you on, but equally, it may just feel too much right now. Listen to yourself and declutter when your body and mind are ready to support you!
6. Decide what to do with your unwanted items
I hear it so many times. I even fell into the same trap myself when I was starting to declutter my own home… I’d declutter an area or item in my home, put it in a bag or box and there it would stay. Maybe in the hallway by the front door waiting to be taken to the charity shop or for recycling. It might even make it into the boot of my car, where I’d drive around with it for ages.
Sometimes the bag or box would be ready to go, but my children or husband would find it before I’d dealt with it, and start rooting around inside to see what goodies were lurking in there.
Other times, I’d be holding items up, deciding whether to keep them or get rid of them, only to be stuck knowing what to do with them if I didn’t keep them. Should I sell it, give it away, or recycle it? If I didn’t have a clear answer, I’d procrastinate or waver and then sometimes end up keeping the item until I’d decided what to do with it. Of course, that meant I usually kept it for a while, cluttering up my home, when really all I should have done is decide beforehand where my decluttered stuff would go.
So, this next thing to do before you start decluttering is key. Decide what to do with your unwanted items:
- Recycle – good for clothes, textiles, paper items that don’t require shredding etc
- Sell – good for valuable or unique items
- Donate – for items that are in good enough condition and that could provide value to someone else
- Throw – if the item is broken or damaged beyond repair
The choice is yours. But make that choice before you start decluttering and create a few basic rules to keep in mind before you start decluttering.
Create different piles/boxes/bags so you can gather up everything easily at the end of your decluttering session and deal with the unwanted items as part of the declutter.
7. Have supplies ready
Before you start decluttering it’s helpful to have everything you need handy. This could include bin bags, boxes, labels for recycle, sell, donate and throw. It could even be a cup of tea, glass of wine, snacks and background music! Make decluttering fun too!
Making sure you’ve got everything you need handy will speed up the process and make it more efficient.
8. Be prepared for getting stuck
I’d love to encourage you by saying that once you’ve started decluttering, it’s a smooth run all the way to the finish. You’ll find your mojo, find it increasingly easy to make decluttering decisions about what to keep and what to let go of, and your home will become clutter-free in no time at all.
In truth, decluttering can feel like one step forward and two steps back. Sometimes we do run out of time or find a box of old photos that we end up reminiscing over for hours, or we feel indecisive and just don’t know whether to keep something or not. All perfectly normal, but not a reason to give up!
Before you start decluttering, I suggest you prepare yourself for getting stuck! Here are two examples:
- If your children have many toys and don’t want to part with any, establish a toy rotation. Box up some of the toys they want to keep and put them away out of sight for a month or so. At the end of the month, get these toys out and put the ones they’ve been playing with out of sight. Rotate them around and every time you rotate the toys, your kids will feel like they’ve got a whole set of new toys! The same principle could apply to books for example.
- Create a ‘not sure’ box. Don’t stall your decluttering progress with indecision. If you really can’t decide whether to keep something, put it in your ‘not sure’ box. Again, put it out of sight for a while and if you miss it, then you know you should keep it. If you forget about it, do you really need it?
We can all have indecision clutter – the stuff that we’re not sure whether we want to keep or not but can’t justify keeping or getting rid of it. Be prepared for getting stuck like this but don’t let it put you off.
Decluttering isn’t about making sure you’ve decluttered every minute detail of your home. It’s important to look at the bigger picture and reflect on how you generally feel about how cluttered your home is.
9. Decide exactly where to start
Getting started decluttering is the most difficult part. Once we’ve begun, it’s often easier to keep it up as we practice our decluttering skills and become more confident in making decisions. It might be helpful to have some suggestions to help you decide where to start.
Here are a couple of tips:
- You might find it helpful to do a quick sweep of a room and remove the obvious clutter before you go back again to take a fresh look and see what you missed first time around. Decluttering is a bit like peeling off the layers of an onion. Each time you peel back a layer, it reveals the next layer (of clutter) left behind.
- You could start in an easy place. The bathroom is a good one because it tends to be a small space, with limited storage, and you usually know what you use and what you don’t. There aren’t many sentimental items for you to get stuck on.
Read this post on where to start decluttering for more ideas.
10. Stop shopping
Buying new things is a great way to bring clutter into our homes. If you’d like to start decluttering your home, I’d encourage you to stop buying new things. Find something else to do if you’re bored one weekend, or browsing the internet on a quiet evening. Stay away from shopping websites and shopping centres.
Decluttering what’s already in your home is one thing, but you also want to avoid bring NEW stuff into your home to add to that clutter!
11. Adopt a Minimalist mindset
Thinking differently about the stuff and clutter in your home will help you declutter and stay clutter-free. It does take time and it’s not an overnight process but shifting your thoughts away from material possessions to a life with less stuff may be worth exploring. Try these reasons to own less stuff and see if they appeal to you?
A LITTLE RE-CAP
Clearing our clutter can be life-changing and free up time, space and energy for so much else. However, many of us struggle to declutter because of lack of time, not knowing where or how to start or we’re not in the right mindset.
We can make decluttering easier, less daunting and so much more effective if we plan and prepare a little beforehand. It saves time and helps us declutter with a clear purpose and defined goal, let alone make best use of the time and energy we do have!
Here are 11 things to do before you start decluttering:
- Decide your decluttering goal
- Decide the time you have available
- Have a decluttering action plan
- Be realistic
- Check in with yourself
- Decide what to do with your unwanted items
- Have supplies ready
- Be prepared for getting stuck
- Decide exactly where to start
- Stop shopping
- Adopt a Minimalist mindset
RESOURCES ON DECLUTTERING YOUR HOME
Here are some other helpful resources and articles on decluttering your home:
- 9 decluttering tips for hoarders
- How to think like a minimalist
- 10 reasons to declutter your home
- Simplify Your Home – a step-by-step decluttering guide and workbook to help you declutter your home room-by-room. Decluttering checklists, actionable steps plus plenty of expert tips to declutter your home, overcome obstacles and keep that clutter away for good!