Thursday, 30 July 2009

How to Start Decluttering

by Eilleen
Consumption Rebellion

Out of all the things I have done in my quest for a simpler life, I think one of the hardest things that I've had to do was to declutter.

This was my pile of tops (yes tops only!) before my declutter of my wardrobe.

When you've lived most of your adult life accumulating STUFF, as I have, letting it go is hard. Its hard for a number of reasons.

Sometimes its hard because there's so much just the thought of doing it is overwhelming.

Sometimes its hard because there's a lot of emotional baggage attached to the stuff - memories or unfulfilled expectations associated with that stuff.

See, I have learned that when I bought stuff, I was often buying for several reasons - there's the actual "use" for it but sometimes I bought it because I wanted it to help me "be the person I wanted to be".

Therefore, getting rid of it is letting go of that fictional person I made up in my head.

Sometimes its hard to let it go because then one is truly confronted with the amount of waste and excess that one has. There's nothing more daunting than facing up to the fact that this "landfill in one's home" is still LANDFILL. I have often felt guilt when decluttering because I'm confronted by evidence of how much I am contributing to landfill.

Still, in my journey, I have realised that too much stuff and living a simple life just didn't work for me. Too much stuff meant a lot of work - a lot of work in finding storage for it, maintaining it, constantly re-organising then trying to keep track of it.

Too much stuff also meant that when it came time to actually use something I often couldn't find it amongst the pile of stuff!! Which then resorted to me going out and buying the item all over again... it was an awful cycle really.

I've found that the hardest thing about decluttering is starting to do it. I wonder if its the same for people out there?

So here are my tips for how to start decluttering:

1. Make a commitment to STOP procrastinating and just DO IT!!

This is the hardest step for all the reasons I've stated above. Procrastinating takes a lot of energy. Stop using up your energy procrastinating because you'll need that energy for the actual job.

Commit yourself to STOP procrastinating first. For me, usually it means just stop finding excuses why you can't declutter....then a few days later actually *do it*.

2. Set a date.

Make sure that everyone knows you'll be busy on that date. Eat well and have plenty of sleep the night before. Decluttering (at least for me) is physical AND emotional work. You need as much rest and nutrition beforehand.

Make sure that your decluttering day is on a day when the tip/dump is open. That way you can take all the rubbish to the tip that day without it just hanging around.

If available in your area, make sure that your decluttering day is on a day near "hard rubbish pick-up" or on a day when you can access the large Charity bins. You can even make a set appointment with some charities to pick up your excess stuff so you then HAVE to declutter by that date. (Note: make sure it truly is worth donating and not just rubbish!)

3. Set a goal.

Sometimes, that goal for me meant tackling one room on that date. Sometimes that goal meant that I had decided to only have so much number of items. Then I stick to that goal.

And that's it. Just do it.

After decluttering my wardrobe - all my tops in one drawer only! Full post here.

Of course, once you've decluttered, its another story to make sure it doesn't happen again. But perhaps that's something we can talk about another time.

In the meantime, what are your tips for starting the decluttering process?


linda said...

I like the "15 minutes a day" to decluttering way of doing it. It is overwhelming to me otherwise. In those 15 minutes, you will be surprised at how much you get done.
My second tip is to teach your kids to stop adding to the clutter. Everything has it place, even if its in the recycling or donation bins. Have those bins around obviously.

A rambling rose said...

Thank you for the useful and well timed advice - I have just sold my house and am going into rented accomodation for a bit while I explore the new area down in the South West of the UK - I am determined to reduce the clutter in my life and live as simply as possible as it feels like I have been given the opportunity for (another) new start - NO excuses as the kids have grown up and left home and taken their clutter with them thank goodness so only mine remains (husband gone too!!)That's simple then!!! Oh and I really like your blog!

Greentwinsmummy said...

I love the bit where you said how much energy it takes to keep on top of,rearrranging it,moving it,trying to home it etc.Too much stuff is counterproductive to a simple life.

Of course things like jars for preserving,cooking pots etc can be numerous but you can still keep some kind of lid on it(no pun intended ahah!)

I have a something in the house,something out rule,if you keep to that it helps keep it down.
GTM :o)

Amy said...

We have eleven children, so clutter is often simply the necessities of life. I find that for me with all of the interruptions in my life, the "15 minutes a day" leaves me very frustrated. I seem to do better if I set small goals of areas, such as one drawer, one shelf, etc. Thank you, from a confirmed procrastinator, for the encouragement.

Pat aka Posh said...

One closet or one dresser a day.. that way I don't breeze through it feeling overwhelmed and can spent time actually looking at the item and deciding if it'll be used again or not and can spent time folding and putting away as it should be.
6 months ago I worked on my closet that has one long shelf across the top and can only be reached with a step stool.. boy was I shocked when I found that I had 14 sets of sheets for my bed.. just my bed.. no one else.. I was so shocked!! I donated them all but two sets.. and haven't ever missed them.

Kathryn said...

Moving helped us a lot. I'd been in the same place since college when we got married (almost 15 years) & it wasn't horrible, but it wasn't good.

We made a move 100 miles away to a smaller place & got rid of more than 50% of the stuff.

Then, a year later we bought a bigger place & moved in. It felt so spacious with more room but less stuff. I work very hard to keep it less cluttered.

I used to have the goal of one box a month to Goodwill/Salvation Army. Now i have a garage & the boxes stack in a corner as our church has a once a year fund raiser yard sale. I've room to hang on to it until then, but every month it is my goal to put stuff toward that & get it out of the house. I also don't have any collections.

LynnS said...

I love to take my extras or no-longer needed items to our local Goodwill. When I have the time and a nice sized box presents itself, I begin. With a good frame of mind, too!

In gathering up my extras, I know that someone, somewhere will want my unnecessaries or cast-offs. Sounds crazy, but I'm actually excited to give things up and give things away. Look at this like it's a "gift" for someone and your energy level will rise.

ms lottie said...

I work on the 'small area every day'. Just a drawer, a shelf, or a 'hotspot' (a place where junk accumulates - slowly at first and then faster and faster until it's a forest fire out of control!).

I also have a box near my front door so that when I come across an item to give to a charity shop it goes straight in the box. When the box is full it goes in the car and I drop it off next time I'm passing.



Eilleen said...

What great ideas everyone! THANK YOU!

You know I like the 15 min a day to declutter too. I don't think it was possible when my children were babies but nowthat they're both a bit older I think its actually do-able. :)

I think all of you raised a good point. Your decluttering goal has to be realistic for you - whether that's to think of it as 15 mins a day or to think of it as 1 drawer.

Having a box at the front door to give to charity once its full is a great idea!

Lynn - you know I really really love the idea of thinking of decluttering as a gift for someone else. I can see how the whole thing becomes fun then rather than a chore. Thank you for sharing your attitude to decluttering! I need to adopt that more I think.

Anonymous said...

I'm coming in very late to this, but WOW did the comment about clutter to help me "be the person I wanted to be" strike ME!!!! I realized I bought all this "pretty stuff" to help me fulfill a life that I thought I wanted, needed, deserved, etc., but didn't really fit with the life I had. When after a major move I realized about 90% of that stuff had been left behind, I cried and cried. Not now. WOW....and I also realized I have begun reaccumulating for the same reason, and I can stop it...thank you for a great post! Kathleen in IL (USA)

Joanne said...

I have a growing pile of stuff in the corner of my bedroom. I'm waiting for a free Saturday with a fine long-range forecast to hold a garage sale. I also have some stuff listed online to sell. Two problems- stopping it coming in one door while it goes out the other and convincing the other three household members to part with theirs. When I do a declutter, most of what goes is mine. And I have to avoid thrift shops, markets and garage sales so that I don't bring home more.

Eilleen said...

Thank you Kathleen and Joanne for taking the time to comment.

Kathleen - you know I believe that the messages that resonate with us the most are those messages that we are ready to hear (or hear again). I am glad that my post has helped and I wish you all the best in your journey.

Joanne - I agree, its often hardest to convince others to let go of stuff and at times it can be depressing to feel like you're the only one doing your bit. When I feel like that, I try to take heart that my bit is just as important. It is *my* journey and every little bit counts. All the best with your garage sale!

Lily Girl said...

This really hit home. We just bought our first home which (obviously) means we moved all of our stuff. And what a lot of STUFF we have! It is overwhelming and depressing all at once. I've already given several boxes to the Goodwill and plan to cull much more as I unpack everything.
It is especially frustrating when your loved one(s) is a "just in case" kind of person, as in I'm keeping this "just in case...". I just don't see the practicality of that mentality when it pertains to t-shirts and empty boxes, for example.
As far as clothes go, I gave away a bunch of stuff that didn't even fit well but that I still had around. I do have some clothes in smaller sizes; I'm giving myself to the end of the year to fit in to them or they have to go...

JustJess said...

Great post, and great comments too. I have found in the past that accumulating and waiting to 'sell' stuff online or at markets is just procrastinating. Much more freeing to take the stuff to a charity shop. As we embark on moving again and decluttering, I am looking at all our possessions differently.

Eilleen said...

Thanks Lilygirl and Jess! Yes, I find that it is hard to declutter because there are so many opportunities to procrastinate! I like the idea of having set dates for things that have been set aside. I used to have a rule "I haven't used it or sold it in one year, then it has to go to the charity bin." But now I'm finding a year too vague. I might have to set an actual date! to pick a date.....

cumbrian said...

Just read this post and it made me think.
Looking round at all the stuff we've got and knowing that we're never gonna use most of it again, so why do we hang on to so much?
You're right, it's just procrastination and excuses.
There's boxes of stuff we haven't unpacked from the last move, not to our present address, but the one before.
It's the "if I throw it today, I might need it tomorrow" syndrome, wondering if thr stuff you cull is the stuff you might need. Like clothes that's now 3 sizes too small, but "I might lose a lot of weight and they'll be OK"
And we're guilty of buying even more stuff.
I think I'll set myself a date to start on one room first. Let's make it the garage, God only knows what's lurking in there.