Do you want to declutter your life?
Are you looking for some practical tips on how to let go of items that no longer serve you?
Feeling stifled, squeezed, and uncomfortable in your daily life can really put a damper on things.
Fortunately, you can take active steps to remove stagnant, energy-sucking items, and give yourself a bit of breathing room.
Keep in mind, the act of decluttering doesn’t just apply to removing physical items found around the home and office.
You can declutter lots of things, from physical items, to calendar entries, to thoughts, and more!
All you have to do is take stock of your current situation and/or environment and make some thoughtful changes.
In this post, I offer several tips to help you declutter your life.
Try these tips and you may find yourself feeling a little bit lighter, freer, and more comfortable.
Declutter one area of your life.
If you really want to make headway when it comes to decluttering your life, you should select one main area of your life on which to focus.
Why is this the case? Well, doing so will allow you to put more put more of your mental and physical energies towards actually removing items you no longer need, use, or like.
Instead of flitting about from one area to another and making only minimal changes, this method allows you to dig in deep and make some dramatic changes.
That being said, think carefully for a moment…where in your life could you most benefit from a spot of decluttering?
Which area could use a reset, refresh, clean-scrub, face lift, or however else you want to phrase it?
An easy way to get started is to choose from one of the broad areas in your life as in the following:
Work and school.
This covers anything related to your profession or education. This includes your daily preparations and routines, anything related to your physical environment or tools, such as a cubicle, office, desk, study area, office and school supplies, and related activities such as pro bono work or extracurricular activities like clubs and sports teams.
This covers anything related to your house or apartment. This includes physical items located within the home, such as furniture, home accents, paperwork, clothing, accessories, toiletries, linens, books, kitchenware, cookware, photographs, keepsakes, sports equipment, collections, and so on.
This covers anything that is of a personal nature to you. This includes your health, diet, exercise routine, hobbies, studies, volunteer work, relationships, thoughts, and personal projects.
Now, you may be thinking, “What? Choose just one area? But I want to do a through decluttering! There’s so much I want to get rid of, right now.”
Don’t worry! You can always can go through this decluttering process, again and again. We’re just keeping things simple so you can make the most of your efforts.
So, for the time being, just choose one area to work in. Remember, you’re going to make some practical changes in this area that will help your life for the better overall. And don’t forget, you can always work in another area at a later date.
What area of your life are you going to focus on, right here, right now?
Once you’ve selected an area of your life to declutter, you can move on to the next step…
Identify what is most painful or bothersome in that area.
Okay, so you’ve chosen an area of your life to declutter. What’s the next step?
Well, you’re going to go on a little bit of a hunt to identify what pains or bothers you the most within your selected category.
The thinking behind this exercise is that once you identify and appropriately declutter the items that give you the most grief right now, the better you’ll feel in a short period of time.
You can also think of this exercise as minimizing your pain and maximizing your comfort. And who wouldn’t like to do that?
You can look at it through this simple analogy…if you had to choose between wearing a thick and itchy sweater for thirty minutes or wearing a soft and fluffy sweater for thirty minutes, which one would you choose? Chances are, you’d probably pick the soft and fluffy sweater.
The same thought applies when it comes to dealing with your clutter. You want to remove the pain (the clutter) so you can be more comfortable and at ease in your daily life.
Now, there’s probably at least one thing that is bothering or annoying you, right now, in your selected area of life. It’s been silently sitting there, gnawing at you, and making you feel uncomfortable. You may not have specifically named this pain, but it’s there, nonetheless.
It could be something as simple as a room or collection of items in your home you constantly avoid, a task you absolutely dread working on, or just some nagging, uncomfortable feeling that makes your stomach turn into a knot every time you think about it.
For clarity’s sake, let’s review several examples of common clutter-related pain points:
- A giant stack of unnecessary papers sitting on top of your desk
- An overflowing email inbox
- Unnecessary work or study meetings
- An outdated scheduling system that needs to be upgraded
- An ancient smart phone app or desktop program that is obsolete
- A productivity skill that doesn’t fit with your preferred manner of working
- An extracurricular activity you no longer enjoy
- A clothes closet filled with clothes you no longer wear
- Personal grooming and makeup products you no longer use
- Oversized furniture that is too large for your current home
- Numerous kitchen gadgets that you never use
- A collection of books you no longer read
- Broken or damaged electronics that are beyond repair
- Old papers and notes you no longer need
- A workout routine that bores you to no end
- A goal that is no longer relevant to your way of life
- A relationship with a friend or acquaintance that is completely draining
- Volunteer sessions that don’t work with your schedule at the moment
- A hobby you’ve outgrown or have long-since abandoned
- Sports equipment you no longer use
- A diet that is poor or unhealthy for your wellbeing
As you can see from our examples above, there’s no end to the different types of pain points that can exist.
The key is to appropriately identify what bothers you the most, what gets on your nerves, or what exhausts you day in and day out.
What pain points are causing you grief and frustration in your life right now? If you need to, you can make a list of your pain points so they’re easier to keep track of.
Create a decluttering plan.
Okay, so you’ve identified an area of your life you’d like to declutter and have made a list of pain points. The next step is to take the first item on your list and make a solid plan to declutter it from your life.
Get ready, because you’re now going to create a series of small action steps, so you can get rid of the old, and make room for the new.
These steps should be small tasks you can work on every day that will bring you closer towards removing the pain point from your life. Be sure to include any preparation steps you may need to take, as well as any relevant clean-up, or wrap up steps.
Let’s create a sample decluttering plan. Let’s say you chose the personal area to declutter. You’ve outgrown your hobby of dollhouse making and are ready for a change in your life when it comes to your hobbies. Clearly, in this case you want to move all items related to your dollhouse making days.
You could make the following decluttering plan:
- Gather and donate craft magazines and books to local library or recreation center
- Gather and donate wood, paint, and materials to local after-school youth program
- Round up electronic tools and donate to local charity
- Sell craft table and storage units at community yard sale
See how simple that was? It’s all about being intentional with your resources and time. You’re ready to make changes in your life and you’re not afraid to declutter and remove things from your home environment.
And what if you chose the home area to declutter? Maybe you want to get rid of that giant stack of papers sitting on your desk in your living room?
If so, you could make a simple plan that looks something like this:
- Find a box to temporarily store papers
- Review and sort papers into appropriate piles
- Shred confidential items using paper shredder
- Clean out inbox and outbox on desk
- Set up regular sessions in your calendar to file papers in the filing cabinet
Easy peasy, right? And what if you’re ready to cut ties from an unnecessary or redundant extracurricular work or school activity?
You could make a plan that is something like this:
- Gather and return any related extracurricular equipment, materials, and items
- Schedule and hold a private meeting with a group leader or organizer
- Update your colleagues and team members in person about leaving the club/group
- Remove all future related activities from my calendar or schedule
Finally, no decluttering plan is complete unless you actually schedule time to work on it! Take a minute to schedule in your decluttering tasks directly into your calendar, so you’ll be sure to complete them.
Plan on spending no more than thirty minutes a day for each task. You want to have time to comfortably work, and not be rushed or overwhelmed.
Should a task stretch across two or several days, so be it. As long as you’re making a little bit of progress each day, you’re good to go.
Declutter items from your life on a regular basis.
It’s extremely important to remember decluttering is an ongoing process. You’re constantly living, experiencing new experiences, thinking new thoughts, collection information and materials.
And as such, you have to regularly remove things that no longer serve you in your life.
Take a moment to set a recurring reminder in your digital calendar, or pencil in reminders into your paper planner or calendar to go through the decluttering exercise described in this post. You should schedule the exercise it on a day when you’ll be relaxed, at ease, and comfortable…not when you’re heading out the door to a meeting, or working on something on deadline.
Choose one area from your life, work/school, home, or personal, and ask yourself, “What’s bothering or annoying me the most in this area? What could I remove, eliminate, or declutter from my life?”
Again, the size of the item in question really doesn’t matter; one small item can have a huge impact on your daily life if it’s been driving you to the land of pain and discomfort.
The more you practice decluttering, the easier it becomes. It literally becomes like second nature and a natural part of your life; you’re regularly removing that which no longer serves you in your daily routine or goals…and making adequate room for wonderful experiences to come.
How about you? What areas of your life need some decluttering? What specific items are you going to declutter or remove? Join the conversation and leave a comment below!
A version of this post was originally published in 2018.