What’s the big deal about decluttering your life, anyway? Is it really necessary?

We may not realize it, but clutter looms over our heads as much as we try to look beyond it. In the end, it really has a negative effect on our lives whether we want to admit it or not. And it’s a real embarrassment when guests pop in unexpectedly.

Have you ever thought, “Who has time to organize?” Do you always place tidying-up last on your list because it gives you more time to make a bigger dent in everything else you have to do? Do your piles keep piling up?

If so, you need some quick motivation to declutter your life! You’ll be more likely to succeed if you can visualize the freedom you’ll get when you clear the decks.

Clutter weighs down everyone in the house

  • It’s a habit that creates serious feng shui energy blocks.
  • It leads to wasted time searching for lost items (you know this from experience).
  • Clutter is disheartening and stressful to look at (it can lead to depression and low self-worth).
  • Tolerating clutter teaches your kids bad habits.

Decluttering means

  • You’ll get a lot more done once you get your clutter under control and simplify your life.
  • Your mood and your kids’ moods will rise to a higher level.
  • You’ll feel so much freer when you release your family from the weight of all that stuff.
  • Your kids will form better habits for life.

WebMD has weighed in on how draining clutter can be. They interviewed five organization experts for advice on how to control clutter. The article advises that starting with a vision of the life we want will help us decide what to keep.

10 Simple steps to decluttering your life

Here are 10 simple steps to decluttering your life that you can do this week. This really works if you’re serious! The list includes some short-term to do’s plus some longer-term strategies to help you establish new habits.

  1. Set the stage: get buy-in from your family or other housemates.
    • Explain why clutter is creepy and clean is cool. Motivate them with the above ideas. Tell them what’s bad about clutter and how great it can be to be free from it.
    • Ask each person what would change for them if the house were tidy and organized. Would they feel better about having friends over? Would they feel more relaxed and better about your home and themselves?
    • If they agree, you’ve got it made. If not, perhaps your efforts to declutter will help motivate them. Some things take time.
  2. Make a game out of decluttering.

If you have kids, get them to pitch in by cleaning their rooms. The neatest room earns the owner his or her choice of a special activity with mom or dad—or anything else they’d enjoy that’s not material (stay with the decluttering theme).

Let the winner choose the prize they like best. You can all make a list of possibilities if that helps. Buy-in is the key.

Here are a few ideas to help structure the clean-up game and make it fair:

  • Rule #1: Everyone must gather their stray personal clutter into their own room before beginning.
  • Create a checklist of items that can be ranked from 1 to 5 and added up for a total score to make judging fair. Highest score wins.
  • The parents will judge by individual secret ballots at the end of the week.
  1. Here’s the real key to clutter—why do you collect it in the first place?

If you consider the cause, you can stop your endless clutter/cleaning/clutter/cleaning cycle—You’re right! Who has the time for that?

There are all kinds of reasons we let clutter accumulate. Understanding your clutter bug cues can help you kick the habit.

Check out personal organizing expert, Elizabeth Larkin’s top 8 reasons people have clutter, from not knowing what clutter is to not knowing how long to keep things or where to store them, to buying too much stuff that you don’t need.

I found her observation interesting that families tend to hoard the same types of clutter. Getting a handle on the common collected items as well as why you tend to let things pile up, both go a long way toward solving your problem.

  1. Here’s another major key most of us are guilty of.

We all need to rein this one in:

If you’re cluttering because every second of your life is jam packed with must do’s on a treadmill you created, that’s the first thing you need to address.

Our society has led us astray—have you noticed? No one has time to really live any more. I know I’ve succumbed to this during most of my life. I only began to recover when a mentor told me “You’re not a machine!”

That is one of the best gems of advice I have ever received. He was right! And I’ll pass the same advice along to you—“You’re not a machine!!”

This week, do yourself a favor and pare down your list of things to do. I suggest you do it for yourself first; then clue in kids and dad when you can show them how well it works.

Step 1: Get realistic. Think back a few days and notice what major tasks you’ve been able to accomplish in one day. Then start a simple list today to keep tabs on your actual daily productivity. Keep the list every day this week. This will help you see the pattern of how much you can realistically do in a day.

Step 2: Now match your new daily to do lists with reality! Automatically, the constant pressure to produce more than humanly possible is off your back!

This is your chance to get really productive—it’s called focus! Focus on one or two major tasks that need to (and can) get done in a day.

Always break larger projects into smaller tasks. You’ll be surprised at how much easier it is to accomplish big things by chunking them into smaller pieces. You’ll learn patience, persistence and best of all your life will have more balance!

A major task or project doesn’t have to be done all at one time in order to get done! You’ll soon see that you can accomplish more by committing to less—because you’re being realistic and you won’t get frozen by a to-do list that’s two miles long!

Having a doable list allows space in the rest of your day for the inevitable interruptions that are just reality for everyone—especially if you have responsibilities outside of the home as well. The result? You’ll be creating time in your life to stay more organized and tidy.

  1. Now back to the clutter at hand. Assess your home, room by room, and make a short list of items in each room that need to be organized.

LivingRoomSMAs you survey, notice any places where things always tend to pile up.

My husband used to come home every day and dump his car keys, phone, glasses, money, and any other stray objects on our entry table.

Shoes pile up in certain areas, too. And until recently we stuffed all our camera equipment in a decorative cabinet. It looked neat from the outside, but the mess inside made me cringe each time I opened it.

I went out and purchased a beautiful little treasure box with a hinged lid where my husband could place all his loose objects. He’s been using this box for years and I always feel good when I see how attractive it looks on our table. He’s happy because he doesn’t have to change his habit. This concept can be applied to any area where things collect.

Shoes look a lot neater lined up on a shoe rack, and we recently bought some decorative baskets to organize the camera equipment inside our cabinet. Things are a lot neater at our house because of these simple organizers. And we can find things a lot easier.

  1. Now review the room list you just made.

Set a goal for what you’d like to accomplish during at least the next day as you work through the week. Remember to break your project down into chunks and be sure your goal is reasonable.

Tackle the easiest room first to get a sense of accomplishment. Declutter larger, messier rooms one section at a time.

Just vow to keep going at a steady pace until your whole house matches the vision you had in the beginning. Don’t let things pile up again behind you. Stay persistent.

  1. The easiest way to declutter a room is to start by gathering all like items together in individual piles.

Then separate each pile into things to:

  1. Keep and store.
  2. Sell, give away or donate.

This process makes it a snap to put things away, file them in organized fashion, or send them off to a home where they’ll be appreciated.

I include one miscellaneous pile, too, where I place things I can’t quickly categorize. This helps me complete the separating task without stopping to figure out where to place difficult items. I go through the miscellaneous pile again at the end and the whole process goes much more quickly.

  1. Assign new regular decluttering tasks to family members.

Rotate some tasks on a daily or weekly basis, especially the ones that aren’t as fun—dad can take out the garbage one week and rotate with other family members. A daily schedule can be arranged for kitchen duty—both cleaning and cooking. Make sure everyone joins in when making the assignments—again, buy-in is your friend.

  1. Gather your family or housemates together at the end of the week to compare notes.

Did you learn new tricks to make things easier in the future? Did you create new empty spaces for storage? Are there any items you need to decide on as a family? It makes the job a lot more fun when you’re all in on it together.

  1. Be sure to celebrate your newly found organization and freedom.

Schedule a movie night or fun outdoor activity. Make rewards an integral part of the plan each week!

What do you have to lose? Try your new decluttering roadmap for a week and see if by week’s end everyone doesn’t feel more calm, balanced, clear-headed—and yes!—more productive. You may have stumbled onto a magic bullet!

Your 2-minute Action Plan

Remember to start with a vision. What will your house look like and how free will you feel when you get the clutter under control? Get everyone’s buy-in by motivating them and encouraging them to express their personal feelings.

Your Long-term Action Plan

Be realistic about your daily goals. Always break down larger projects into workable chunks. Rotate decluttering assignments to avoid boredom and keep things fair. Always include weekly rewards for successful behavior. Enjoy your new-found freedom!


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