If you look around your home, do you feel like a minimalist with a complete sense of zen?
If not, don’t worry – you’re definitely not alone.
Most people don’t have a home with compartments that look like they’re straight out of a Container Store magazine.
(Especially if you dig behind those closet doors, am I right?)
In fact, 54% of people are overwhelmed by the amount of clutter they’ve accumulated, and, sadly, a whopping 78% have no idea what to do with it.
Which means clutter builds up even more and then becomes extra complicated to get rid of. That’s the story in the US, anyway (where materialism tends to run rampant).
The good news is there’s a solution. In fact, there are three solid ones.
To help you overcome the hurdle of parting with all your extraneous possessions, I’ve got three tips for you on how to declutter your home.
But first, let’s quickly walk through the benefits of decluttering your home.
What are the benefits of decluttering?
There are several benefits of decluttering your home. Among the top reasons to declutter is it reduces stress and anxiety.
Believe it or not, clutter isn’t just a physical issue. It’s also an issue of disorganization in your brain.
So, if your house is out of order, it makes sense that it adds to your stress and anxiety level.
Which is exactly what a study out of UCLA found. The amount of stress you experience at home is directly proportionate to the amount of stuff you and your family accumulate over time. More specifically, stress hormones spike when dealing with your belongings, particularly in women.
On top of that, another study out of Cornell University revealed that stress triggered from clutter can lead to a host of other issues, like poor eating choices and oversleeping.
The correlation is straightforward: The more physical order you have in your environment, the more order you have mentally, too.
According to psychotherapist and professional organizer Cindy Glovinsky:
“Order feels good, in part, because it’s easier for our brains to deal with and not have to work so hard.”
Not to mention, there are additional benefits to decluttering your home, like:
- Better sleep – A study by Pamela Thacher, assistant professor of psychology at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., found that people who sleep in cluttered rooms are more likely to experience sleeping problems.
- A healthier diet – Researchers at Florida State University revealed a link between hoarding and obesity, where “people with extremely cluttered homes are 77% more likely to be overweight.”
- Improved physical health – Research from out of Indiana University found that people with clean houses are healthier than those with messy houses, and tidy homes are a predictor for physical health more so than neighborhood walkability.
Plus, when you declutter you feel accomplished and you’ll have an easier time cleaning and maintaining the tidiness in your home.
So, now that you’re (hopefully) convinced it’s time to declutter, here’s how to do it.
3 Surefire Ways to Declutter Your Home
#1. Set start and stop boundaries
An effective way to declutter your home is to do it in small bite-sized commitments, with a set limitation for starting and stopping, and to commit to it daily and consistently until you’re whole home is decluttered.
If you’re familiar with my content, one of my all-time favorite themes in life is based on the magical formula:
Micro-steps + mini-goals
Which is key for overcoming procrastination.
And this formula is so relevant when it comes to paring down your possessions.
How it works: Basically, break down the decluttering of your home into mini-goals backed by even smaller micro-steps and tackle them one at a time consistently, with start and stop boundaries based on either time or space, until your goals are met.
For example, pick a room, say your bathroom, and set either a time-based boundary (i.e. 10 am to 12 noon) or a space-based boundary (i.e. three drawers).
Consider this well-defined space, that’s dedicated to your task of decluttering, your micro-step for the day.
And that’s it. Don’t go beyond your micro-step until the next day.
The reason why this method works so well is it saves you from overloading yourself with yet another unfinished project that you’ll start and simply not complete. And the last thing you want to do is overwhelm yourself.
Which can certainly happen if you make plans to tackle the decluttering of your entire home in a weekend. (By the way, doesn’t that remind you of the icky feeling you get when you have to move residences? Eek, let’s definitely steer clear of overwhelm.)
The main takeaway here is to be as consistent as possible with conquering your micro-steps and mini-goals and to not stop your regular cadence until your goal is complete and your decluttering project is all wrapped up (or at least simmered down to a manageable state).
#2. Use the Four-Box Method
While there are a few renditions of this one, the Four-Box Method is a straightforward way to declutter your home by categorizing your items. (I’ve seen the Three-Box and Five-Box Methods floating out there, so I’m recommending the place in the middle.)
As the name suggests, get your hands on four boxes, and then simply label them:
- Trash – for dumping items
- Recycle – for recycling, instead of trashing, items
- Donate – for giving away items
- Keep or relocate – for putting items back where they belong
Just like the first method, the key with this one is to start off in one room of your home. Hone in on one area of that room and start going through your possessions one by one.
As in, literally, put everything you touch into one of the four boxes. And while it may be tempting to do something with some of your belongings as you go through them, don’t. Save that for later.
For instance, if you’re decluttering your bedroom and find a coffee cup that’s crept onto your nightstand, don’t put it away in the kitchen just yet. Instead, put it in the “keep or relocate” box and try to save the relocating for later.
This will keep you focused on paring down and away from any distractions that might slow you down or derail you from your task at hand.
#3. Practice making keen keep-or-toss decisions
Another powerful method for decluttering your home is to hone your skill of making decisions about what to keep and what to toss.
Training yourself to make quicker decisions on what to leave in and out of your home will help you maintain the tidiness of your home over the long run, too.
To do this, I’ve got two ways to recommend, the first of which is tapping into your emotional attachment to your possessions.
Marie Kondo, the author of the popular book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, is known for her signature “KonMari Method” of decluttering, where you systematically work through five categories of your belongings, from clothing all the way to sentimental items.
The key insight to glean from Marie’s work is in her process of working through sentimental possessions.
Marie’s motto for deciding whether or not you should keep something is:
“Keep only items that spark joy.”
To use her famous philosophy, simply hold up an item to see if it sparks joy inside of you.
If it doesn’t, then literally thank the item for serving you and pass it on to someone else who can use it.
Another effective way to make keep-or-toss choices is to base your decision on usage.
Ask yourself if you’ve used an item in the last 12 months. If the answer is no, it’s time to purge.
Although, if the decision isn’t as black-and-white as that, you can ask yourself more follow-up questions, like:
- Will I use it again?
- Is it worth the space it takes up in my home to keep it?
And if you still find yourself resisting letting go of items, try using a temporary holding space before committing to parting with certain items.
For example, if you’re on the fence about some items and aren’t sure if you’ll need to use them again, temporarily put them in a separate holding box.
After a set period of time, your decision will be swayed in one of two directions:
- If something sits in the box for another four or so months without getting used, then you know you don’t need it.
- If you find yourself digging into the box to grab and use it, that’s a telltale sign it’s worth keeping.
Chances are, though, there are plenty of unused excess items in your home.
After all, a staggering 80% of the items people keep around are never used – yikes.
In a nutshell: Use two ways to help guide your keep-or-toss decisions, which are to gauge whether items spark joy and to follow the usage test.
Are you ready to clear out space for more zen?
Clearing out your home doesn’t have to be a process that you dread. You can access the major benefits of decluttering using three surefire methods.
To recap the benefits of decluttering and three proven ways to accomplish it:
- There are numerous benefits to decluttering, including reducing stress and anxiety, better sleep, healthier eating habits and improved health.
- #1. Try decluttering your home by committing to a daily micro-step within a mini-goal and setting hard boundaries for starting and stopping, whether a time or space limit.
- #2. Use the Four-Box Method to organize your belongings into categories: trash, recycle, donate, and keep or relocate.
- #3. Practice using two methods for making keep-or-toss decisions, which are recognizing the emotions evoked and the level of usage.
Once you’ve cleared out the much-needed space, you can fill it with intentional opportunities. I’m rooting for you.