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10 Ways to Declutter When You Want to Keep Everything

10 Ways to Declutter When You Want to Keep Everything

Decluttering can be a daunting task, especially if you feel emotionally attached to your belongings and find it hard to let go. However, living in a clutter-free space can bring some wonderful benefits. Some of these include reduced stress, a calmer and more enjoyable home and increased productivity, not least because you can find things quicker and easier!

If you’re struggling with the idea of parting with your possessions but still want to create a more organised and peaceful environment, here are some tips which you may find helpful. They are 10 practical and easy ways to help you declutter when you want to keep everything.

Start Small

Begin with Tiny Tasks

Start your decluttering journey by tackling small areas or categories. This could be a single drawer, a shelf, or a specific type of item like shoes or books. Focusing on smaller tasks makes the process less overwhelming and helps you build momentum.

Although these tiny decluttering projects might not quickly give you a clutter-free home, what they WILL do is help you build confidence and develop your skill in decluttering.

These are invaluable, especially if you want to declutter more ruthlessly or when it comes to dealing with difficult-to-declutter big, cluttered spaces or sentimental items that make you feel nostalgic or emotional.

Getting some smaller decluttering quick wins under your belt will help you feel confident you can declutter harder stuff too!

Celebrate Small Wins

Each small decluttering success can motivate you to keep going. Celebrate these victories by acknowledging your progress and enjoying the newly organised space.

Even just one less item is one less message your stuff is sending to distract or overwhelm you.

Tell a loved one what you’ve achieved, think about how you feel even just clearing a few, smaller items and imagine how you’ll feel if you can carry on decluttering!

Set Clear Goals

Define Your Vision.

Before you start decluttering, think about why you want to do it. Do you want a tidier home, more space, or a simpler lifestyle? Having a clear vision will help you stay focused and motivated.

Decluttering can be hard and simplifying isn’t easy either. They don’t have to be that way, but we often get stuck. Not just on the physical process but on the emotional and mindset shift that’s needed too.

Keeping in mind what you want to achieve, and more importantly, why, will help you stay motivated. You don’t want to get stuck and fall into a slump or ‘decluttering rut’!

You might like this article on decluttering goals to help you define your vision.

Create a Plan

Break down your overall goal into smaller, more manageable tasks. For example, if your goal is to declutter your entire home, list each room and the specific areas within each room that need attention.

A plan doesn’t work for everyone. Some people find it too restrictive or overwhelming to see all the steps they’ve got to go through.

However, if a plan works for you in other areas of life, then give it a go with decluttering. I’ve created a free printable Declutter Any Room checklist to guide you through the process of decluttering any room in your home or pop your details in the box at the end of the article to get your copy.

How to declutter when you want to keep everything

Use the Four-Box Method

Get Organised.

Grab four boxes or bags and label them as follows:

  • Keep
  • Donate
  • Sell
  • Trash/Rubbish

Organising and doing some preparation before decluttering is a useful way of saving time and makes decluttering more efficient.

You don’t need to stop and start whilst you go to find more boxes or bags and anything else you might need. This also means you can stay focused on decluttering and not get distracted by multi-tasking or switching tasks, forgetting what you were doing, or losing track of where you’d got up to.

The four boxes also keep your mind focused on just four available options for dealing with your stuff, which makes quick decision-making so much easier.

Make Quick Decisions

As you sort through your belongings, place each item in one of the four boxes. This method helps you make quick decisions and keeps the process organised.

I like this approach as a helpful way to declutter when you keep everything because it stops us having decluttering paralysis. By this I mean that we get stuck weighing up all the options and making decisions and we don’t take enough action.

Quick decluttering decisions prevent us procrastinating, deliberating and over-thinking. It doesn’t work all the time, or for every item, but it can be a useful way of clearing a lot of clutter, or clutter that might pretty obviously be clutter.

Ask Yourself Key Questions

Evaluate Each Item.

When deciding whether to keep an item, ask yourself:

  • Do I use this regularly?
  • Does this item bring me joy or do I appreciate it in some way?
  • Would I buy this again if I didn’t already own it?
  • Is this item worth the space it takes up?

There are many more decluttering questions you could ask yourself. But, if you struggle to declutter because you want to keep everything, these questions will focus your mind on the key points about the value and true cost of our clutter.

If your stuff isn’t truly serving you in some way, it might be time to let it go.

Be Honest

As I mentioned above, decluttering isn’t just getting rid of our material possessions. There’s an emotional component to it too.

We often have to face up to past mistakes or regrets, feelings of grief and loss, wasted money, misplaced priorities, unhealthy habits or patterns of thinking or even lifestyles and dreams we had but may have no more. Decluttering is about self-acceptance and knowing oneself.

Answer the questions I gave you honestly. There’s no right or wrong, shame or guilt. Decluttering is just about acknowledging that life changes and we change and therefore, the stuff that we need to support us in life will inevitably change too. If an item doesn’t serve a purpose or make you happy right now, it might be time to let it go.

How to declutter when you want to keep everything

Set Limits

Create Boundaries.

Set physical or numerical limits for certain categories of items. For example, decide to keep only a certain number of books that fit on a bookshelf or limit the number of clothes that fit in your wardrobe – if this approach works for you.

This is a great way to remove some of the emotional burden of decluttering decisions from you and keeps it purely practical and logistical. Instead of feeling guilty or to blame for getting rid of something you later regret, you could instead say you let it go because you just didn’t have the space.

It may be a subtle way to reframe your thoughts but one that makes you feel better and less responsible for hard decisions.

Stick to Your Limits.

When you’ve reached your limit, commit to not acquiring more items in that category unless you replace something you already have. More on that below…

Practice the One-In, One-Out Rule

Maintain Balance.

For every new item you bring into your home, make a pact with yourself to get rid of one existing item. This rule can be really helpful for a number of reasons. Not only does it help prevent new clutter from accumulating, but it also encourages thoughtful purchasing whilst still allowing you to go shopping and buy something new!

You’re not saying you can’t have stuff, or acquire new stuff, but there is an intentional approach to WHAT you own, not just how MUCH you own.

Focus on Benefits, Not Losses

Instead of focusing on what you’re losing, think about what you’re gaining by decluttering. Imagine the benefits of a clean, organised space and the freedom from being overwhelmed by too many possessions.

There are some amazing benefits of a decluttered home that can positively impact your life in many ways. Your home is your sanctuary from the world, a place to relax and be yourself – whether you live with others or on your own.

It is YOUR space and how you set it up reflects your personality and tastes, but it also impacts your physical and mental health. To me this is a priceless benefit of decluttering as clutter was stressing me out.

Handle Sentimental Items Last

Save the Hardest for Last.

Start with less emotionally charged items before tackling sentimental belongings. By the time you reach these, you’ll be more comfortable with the decluttering process.

This is why I always encourage my readers and students to start somewhere easy, with the bathroom or a drawer of kitchen utensils.

Create a Memory Box.

For sentimental items that you find hard to part with, create a small memory box. Limit the size of the box to ensure you only keep the most meaningful items.

Using memory boxes for each of my kids as they’re growing up and my parents since they’ve died, has been a great way for me to keep precious memories and belongings but without adding to the clutter in my home.

Digitise When Possible

If you’re struggling to let go of photos, documents, or other paper items, consider digitising them. Scan and save them on your computer or an external hard drive to free up physical space while preserving memories.

I appreciate that this isn’t a solution for everyone but it’s an increasingly popular and easy way of keeping important stuff in a more clutter-free way.

How to declutter when you want to keep everything

Seek Support from Family and Friends

Sometimes, it’s helpful to have someone else’s perspective. Ask a trusted friend or family member to help you make decisions and provide encouragement.

They could also help you physically move boxes, reach on top of cupboards or stretch under beds.

You may just need a listening hear, some impartial advice or someone to enjoy your newly-decluttered space with!

Bonus Tips to Help You Maintain a Clutter-Free Space

Here are some other ways to help you stay clutter-free.

Do a Regular Declutter

Periodically go through your items to ensure you’re not accumulating unnecessary clutter. Clutter builds up daily so get some decluttering habits and daily strategies in place to keep it at bay!

Be Mindful of New Purchases

Think carefully before bringing new items into your home.

Ask yourself if they align with your goals and if you have space for them. Intentional shopping is a great way to stop the cycle of clutter by not adding yet more new clutter to your existing clutter.

Practice Gratitude

Appreciate what you have and focus on enjoying your possessions rather than constantly seeking more.

This may sound like a cliché but the reality is that modern life is usually telling us that we need, want or should have more to be happy and fulfilled. Question that message by reflecting on what TRULY makes you feel blessed and content. Does the answer to that question really lie with having a lot of stuff?

CONCLUSION

Decluttering when you want to keep everything can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. By starting small, setting clear goals, and using practical methods like the four-box technique, you can make the process more manageable.

Remember to focus on the benefits of a clutter-free space, and ask for help if needed. With patience and persistence, you can create an organised, clutter-free and peaceful environment that really supports you and your life.

I’d love to know if you struggle with decluttering because you want to keep everything? If so, have you got any extra tips to share that could help others?

I’d love to hear from you so please leave a comment below!

MORE DECLUTTERING RESOURCES

If you struggle with getting rid of or letting go of things, here are some more articles you might find helpful:

DON’T MISS OUT!

I’m Antonia and on this blog I share practical inspiration to simplify your home, time and life. Follow me on InstagramFacebook and Pinterest! You can also subscribe to Balance Through Simplicity and receive regular simplicity tips straight to your inbox for free. Make sure you never miss an article plus you’ll get a copy of my free Declutter Starter Kit as a welcome gift!

Laura

Sunday 26th of May 2024

Hi Antonia, my sister spent Friday night with me (on her way to help my mother finish decluttering and packing, so she can move into a retirement facility), and we were talking about "aspirational purchases", which I think would fall under category 4b in your article. This ranged from buying ingredients for dishes we subsequently don't cook to buying canning gear, imagining we'd like to be someone who cans her own food. (Okay, I still haven't quite given up on that particular dream! LOL)

I appreciate these compassionate and thoughtful tips. Even if I can't use all of them every time I go to declutter, I always find at least one good takeaway. Thank you for that.

And I hope you have a lovely time on your vacation!

Balance Through Simplicity

Sunday 26th of May 2024

Hi Laura, thank you for sharing that. Yes, aspirational purchases don't just clutter up our spaces, they can also make us feel bad in some way too which isn't always helpful or fair. On the other hand, aspirations can be a good thing for to aim for. I'm glad you can find some takeaways in my tips. Not every tip is right for every person but hopefully they can get us thinking of what might work or we could adapt to work in some way. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts :-)

Joe T.

Sunday 26th of May 2024

I would add a fifth box: Recycle. There is a good chance that we have old papers, magazine/articles or books that your local library won't accept so let's recycle these.

Balance Through Simplicity

Sunday 26th of May 2024

Hi Joe, yes definitely! Thank you for adding that and for reading :-)