How to Declutter When You Don’t Know Where to Start!

It’s only the second week of the new year. Are you overwhelmed yet?

I feel your pain, believe me.  We’ve been working on simplifying our home for the last year.

That feeling of an uncluttered, organized space. We all love it. But how is it accomplished? Is it only achieved by Superhumans or those that have an entire staff, Downton Abbey style?

Maybe you just don’t know where to start? Looking at it all makes you want to breathe into a paper bag. It’s less painful to ignore the mess and hope it goes away. But that doesn’t make you happy either.

Possibly you’re a person that spends countless hours putting things away and cleaning. But you’re longing for more simplicity, so you can spend that time doing other things.

I’m not an organizing expert, but I’ve been in the same place you are now.

Over many years of trying different ways to go about decluttering, I’ve learned some hacks on how to “get it done” and actually enjoy the process. I’m excited to share them with you.

13 Tips to Declutter Today

1. Schedule it

Just like other important appointments, scheduling time will help you focus and get the most done in the time that you have. This can be a 15 minute appointment or a 1 hour appointment. Just get it on the calendar.

2. Give yourself some quick wins

In the beginning, It’s probably not the best plan to take an entire weekend for the task of cleaning out the garage or basement.  Most of us dread it and you could end up overwhelmed.

Sunday night rolls around and you’ve got stuff laying around everywhere that still needs to be sorted!

Instead, focus on a 30 minute appointment, put on some music or a podcast, and go through one shelf of books, or two drawers, or one third of your hanging clothes.

You’ll get your task completed, have some things sorted, and most importantly, it was a pleasant experience.

This will reinforce the behavior and you’re more likely to do it again!

3. Take time to experience the results

We’re all in such a rush that a lot of experiences go unnoticed. Instead, take time to enjoy the space that you’ve decluttered. Spend time there and soak in the feeling.

Admire you’re simplified cabinet when you open it to grab a mug.

Enjoy the fruits of your labor.

4. Don’t rush

It’s not a race and you don’t have a deadline. Ok maybe you have company coming and you would like it to be done. But don’t set unrealistic timelines for yourself.

Maybe just the guest bedroom and bathroom can be done by then?

Slow down and you’ll enjoy the process more. Which as I said above, will encourage you to continue.

5. Stay out of overwhelm

Know the signs leading up to overwhelm. If you’re starting to get angry, or extra frustrated, walk away for awhile.

Take time for a meal, a walk, or a visit with someone. This isn’t a military operation. It’s the art of homemaking. Enjoy the creative and emotional aspects of it and stay out of overwhelm.

6. Set a timer

This is one of my favorite tips. It’s especially effective if I’m asking for help from my husband or one of my kids.

Set a timer for however long you choose (we usually decide on 30-45 minutes) and see how much you can get done. It feels more like a game and also feels very productive when you’re done.

If you’re a person that likes to check off tasks for the day, this could be a very effective strategy for you!

7. Make a decision about sentimental items

How many will you keep? Where will they be stored or displayed?

Maybe taking a picture is enough so that you don’t keep the item.

After my mom passed away I had several small antiques that had belonged to her. They really weren’t  my style but I had sentimental attachment to them.

After quite some time of shuffling them around my house, I decided to pass them on to people that appreciated them. I kept a couple of small items that I packed away in a labeled box in my attic.

I still have my memories and I’m happy with my decision. That’s the point of this, isn’t it? To be happy with your home and surroundings. To free up time to spend doing the things you love and being with the people you love, instead of caring for “stuff.”

8.Leave the giveaway bag out in the open

We have a bag that we keep in a closet for items to get rid of. Once it starts to fill up, I put it in the kitchen. This motivates us to find a few more items that need to go before we drop it off.

Then after a couple of days, I take it out to my car to get dropped off the following day.

Try it and see if it works for you too.

9. Spark joy?

You may have heard of Marie Kondo and her book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

In her process she asks you to contemplate whether or not an item “Sparks Joy” for you. This is to help you decide what to keep and what to toss.

I can agree with this to an extent. I think we keep far too many belongings simply because someone gave them to us, or because we’ve had an item for a long time.

We need to define what joy means for ourselves. It will be different for everyone.

Joy for me means that I’m using most of my belongings on a regular basis.

As an example, I don’t have a really large wardrobe, since I work from home. I have a few business casual outfits and a couple of dresses. But I got rid of all of the excess in those categories a long time ago.

Pass your unused items on to someone that will enjoy and use them. It’s a lot of fun and much easier for me to get to my jeans and tshirts!

On the other hand, we have a lot in our kitchen compared to some.

Three adults live here and we all love to cook!

I could easily be a dishes hoarder. But I’ve been ruthless with myself (and Rob) about keeping only what we really use.

Which leads me to my next tip…

10. Only keep what fits your lifestyle right now

When we had young children and lived in a different house, we used to entertain, A LOT.

However, when we moved across the country and our kids got older, that changed. Mostly our get togethers now are with our grown children and grandchildren.

Parties tend to be a lot more casual and paper plates have made their appearance more than once.

For longer than I care to admit, we held onto chafing dishes that were only used once. China that was stored away, and way too many tablecloths, cake plates, teacups. Oh my gosh, it’s a little exhausting just thinking about it!

We got rid of all of that stuff and haven’t missed it once. It’s so much more relaxing to not have all of those specialty items to put away after we have company.

We’re all susceptible to slick advertising that sells us on the idea that we’ll achieve a certain lifestyle, if we only have what they’re selling.

Being aware of this can help you to make better buying (or not buying) decisions.

11. Remind yourself that you won’t miss it.

Are you concerned that you’ll get rid of something that you might need in the future? I’ve been there and I understand.

But the reality is that we can buy those items when we need them, or we can borrow them or even rent them. Think about tools, formal clothing, even dishes or tables and chairs.

Let the retail store keep it stored for you, if and when you need to purchase that item.

I haven’t had any regrets about everything that I’ve given away or sold over the years. As a matter of fact, I can’t even remember what most of it was.

The part that I regret is a missed opportunity to save the money, and the time I can never get back, that I spent taking care of all of the stuff.

I finally got to a point that I had to ask myself, “do I own this stuff, or does it own me?”

Spending every weekend of my life on house work, yard work, and more shopping to add to the belongings, became frustrating for me.

We still own a house, and have a yard to care for. But since we’ve been simplifying it doesn’t take us near as much time to take care of. We’re considering downsizing to reduce it even further.

12. Stop clutter before it starts

Was it Ben Franklin who said,  “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” ?

It’s so true when it comes to keeping clutter under control.

Throw away junk mail and magazines that you don’t want as soon as they come into the door.

Unsubscribe from email lists that you don’t have an interest in. A decluttered inbox feels nice too!

Get rid of duplicate items. Do you really need four hammers? What about those thirty bath towels?

Is shopping a favorite past time? I like to window shop at times just for design inspiration. But if you know you’re a person that has to buy, then you need a strategy!

Adopt a 48 or 72 hour rule. If you find something that you want to buy (online or in person), make a rule to wait 72 hours. A lot of the time you’ll find that you don’t want it anymore after the time is up. Better yet, you might forget about it all together!

Instead of  random shopping, I have alternate activities such as gardening, cooking, hiking, or sharing a cup of coffee with a friend. Reading my favorite blogs is another favorite on my list.

13. Buy the thing

Ok, this is going to seem like weird advice at first. But just hang with me and it will make sense.

All of the years that I homeschooled my kids, we kept a very tight budget in order for me to opt out of a full-time job.

I couldn’t spend a lot on home decor and furnishings, so I did a lot of thrifting. I still do. But that’s another story.

Anyway, part of thrifting is “you can’t always get what you want.”

So sometimes it would go like this. I’d see something in a magazine or store catalog such as Pottery Barn or Ballard Designs, etc. I usually couldn’t (or wouldn’t) afford what it was that I wanted.

Many times, especially on larger furniture, I could either find something similar while thrifting, or alter something to get the look.

The smaller items are what usually tripped me up.

So here’s the part that I learned not to repeat. Buying multiple small items, trying to get the look, instead of just buying the one thing.

I would venture to guess that half the time I ended up spending the same amount of money (or maybe more). I wasn’t happy with the imposter items that I had thrifted, so I kept looking and kept buying!

Instead of owning that one item of home decor, I bought a bunch of crap.

Am I the only one that has done this?

I almost fell back into old habits last weekend! We spent the day a couple of hours away in a bigger city. There’s an Anthropologie that I like to browse through whenever we’re there. I rarely buy anything. But I had decided that day, if I saw a mug that I wanted, I was going to get it.

Of course, I found one among all of their gorgeous dishes (refer to the “I could be a dishes hoarder” confession above). It was $16. That might not seem like a lot to you. I’m pretty cheap. Don’t judge. But I’ve never paid that much for a mug, and I cringed to think of doing it.

I thought about it the rest of the time we were in town and decided that I wouldn’t get it.

Fast forward to a few days later and I’m still wanting that mug!

My little brain starts thinking about how I could get a plain, white mug and some china paint markers from Hobby Lobby, to recreate this black and white amazing mug, with the turquoise handle. I could even make several of them with different colored handles, and end up with a whole set of these mugs for $16. plus tax.!

Do you see where I’m going with this?

First, the mug was a unique shape and I don’t know where I could even find anything like it.

Second, it had a Zebra and flowers all over it in black and white. I am not an artist. However, my oldest son could probably do it if I show him a picture.

Third, I probably would never be happy with it if it didn’t look exactly like the Anthro mug.

Anyway, my point is, I don’t need an entire set of these mugs. It would probably cost me $16. to make one of them, and then I have all of this extra paint hanging around that I may or may not use.

Now I have to store it, and deal with it, and ask other people if they have dishes that they want to paint for crying out loud!

I should have just bought the dang mug!

Don’t get me wrong. If you’re a person that would love a project like this and would use that paint on all sorts of creative endeavors, I’m all for it.

Actually, there are thrifting hacks and creative projects here on Free Range Cottage. So many times it works out beautifully.

But I’m here to tell you, sometimes you need to just buy the mug and get on with life!

If you’ve made it this far, I have every confidence that you’ll be decluttered and organized in no time.

I hope you’ve found some practical and motivating tips to get you started here.

My goal is that you and your family feel good in your home and enjoy your time together in it.

What is the one tip that really stood out that you’ll implement right away?

Let me know in the comments. As always, you’re welcome to contact me anytime.

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