Long before everyone was asking themselves if their belongings sparked joy in their lives, I discovered a crucial thing about my “stuff.” I found that I lose focus and am more stressed when my environment is cluttered. I would get distracted by things or simply just couldn’t get started on something just because there were so many things laying about or in the way. It would be frustrating and irritating, making me short tempered. In the height of my kids’ baby/toddler-hood, I felt like I was drowning in toys even though we organized and tidied-up on a daily basis.
As my kids were growing out of their “big toy” phase, I decided it was time to declutter. Little-by-little, over months, I decluttered different parts of my home and it was liberating! It started with the baby gear we no longer needed, then to our closets, the bathrooms, the office, excess items in the basement, garage, and guest bedroom. In fact it’s become an annual cycle of decluttering different areas and continually reducing the amount of STUFF in our home. The less stuff we have to manage, the more time we have for the things we value. It culminated when we decided to move a couple years ago and we were making hard decisions of what need to come with us and what we could part with.
Do I regret parting with any of my things? Nope. I don’t miss a single item. And I certainly don’t miss seeing piles of paper on my desk or rows of toys lining my living room floor. And my kids are better off with fewer things as well. The less they have to maintain, the easier their lives are as well. Fewer items also sparks their creativity as they use their imagination to play-out various games with the toys they have.
Here are some of my tricks and tips to reducing the clutter:
I have two hanging file folders in my file cabinet for each of my boys. One is for their completed homework and art projects. The other is for school/classroom announcements and notices. I look through their folders daily, handle anything that needs a response, and file the rest away in one of these two folders. At the end of the school year, all the papers from the notices folder become scrap paper for my kids’ creative outlet. And any of the homework/projects that I want to save go into a box in my basement. This system allows me to keep papers to refer back to if needed without cluttering our office or causing daily angst. Then one day at the beginning of the summer, I spend about an hour going through all of it.
Check your mail daily. All the junk mail will go straight into the recycle bin before it even gets into the house. Then we sort bills from promotional items we want to look at. These promo items (catalogs, coupons, etc) go in a file box on our bookshelf – this allows easy access to what I need, when I need it, while keeping it neatly out of the way. Then my husband goes through the bills and “important” mail on a weekly basis. This works for us because it allows us to keep up on our mail/bills without taking too much time daily.
The most important thing for me here is to have a place for everything. When there is no longer space for something it’s time to make space (AKA declutter). I have my boys do a quick pick-up daily as long as our schedule permits, then do a bigger clean-up over the weekends.
Speaking of permitting schedules, we try very hard not to spread ourselves too thin. We try to have at least 2-3 evenings per week at home with no scheduled activities. This allows us to de-compress, spend time together as a family, ensure we are all getting the sleep we need, and it allows my boys to enjoy free-play.
If you’re not wearing it, get rid of it! Stained, ripped, unflattering…get rid of it!! I have x-number of hangers in my closet. When I have more clothes than hangers, it’s time to go through the old items and see what I’m ready to donate.
With my kids clothes, I clean out their closets twice a year, spring and fall. For my older son that means putting the clothes that he’s outgrown in a large drawer under his bed until my younger son is ready for them, sorted by size of course. Then I shop for the items that need replacing for the season. For my younger son, we donate everything that he’s outgrown and I shop for him in that large drawer under my older son’s bed.
We all have things that we’ve been collecting over the years. That boxful of scrapbooking supplies you bought when you were pregnant with your first because you were going to make beautiful scrapbooks for your babies in your spare time. (Oh how naïve I was!!) Random bits of hardware, fabrics, ribbon, crafting supplies, hangers, expired medicines, old personal care products, old cleaning products, unopened boxes from your move 10 years ago, etc, etc, etc. Slowly, go through these items. Pick one drawer, one shelf, one closet, one box and get rid of the things you don’t need. If you haven’t used it in over a year, most likely you’re not going to. If you do plan to use it, put it in a purposeful place, actualize a plan to move forward with that project.
Do you have old spices, sauces, condiments in your cupboards or refrigerators? Toss them. Still have an small appliance in a box from 5 years ago? Sell it on eBay. Hanging onto that blender with the frayed wire thinking you’ll repair it? Either get it repaired immediately or just let it go.
The Bottom Line
The key to this is letting go. Just because you let go of your old ratty t-shirts from college, doesn’t mean you’re letting go of the memories. Your memories will always be with you. Or you could always take a picture of the things that you do want a visual memory of – take a picture of your child with all his cuddly stuffed animals before you donate them. Emotional detachment from your things is what truly brings peace of mind. This has not only been a great lesson for me as an adult, but something I stress upon my children as much as I can.
Essential Oils for Decluttering
Diffuse and apply Valor to help promote courage to let go.
Release can support emotional release to help with detachment from your belongings.
Peppermint can be diffused to create a stimulating, focused atmosphere for daily tasks.
Citrus Fresh has an uplifting and refreshing scent, which makes it a perfect choice when decluttering.