5 Steps to Declutter in 2021
It’s the time of year when people around the world make promises to themselves about how they’re going to make life better in 2021. Whether it’s working out more often, taking that road trip with the family, or going for that job promotion, you probably have something in mind that you want to accomplish next year. Unfortunately, all too often, these promises are forgotten or abandoned within the first few weeks of the year.
Decluttering and organizing at home is a popular resolution for a good reason. An organized home creates a foundation for an organized life. It’s been shown that clutter significantly impacts mental health.
Think about it. Does it put you at ease to wake up to a messy house with crowded countertops, bursting cabinets, and a cluttered floor? Of course it doesn’t. A disorganized house creates stress, which leads to stress in other facets of your life.
Not being able to find key items can make you late for appointments. Thinking about coming home to (or working from home!) in a messy house can put you in a bad mood that you take out on family or co-workers. Clutter also collects dust and germs that can make you and your family sick - something everyone wants to avoid this flu season & beyond.
But decluttering your home is a huge undertaking. Where do you even start? Here are five steps for getting through the process successfully and maintaining an organized lifestyle for the long haul.
Step 1. Prepare
It sounds silly to prepare to clean your space. Your instinct is to just roll up your sleeves and dig in, right? Many people underestimate the physical, mental, and emotional work that decluttering involves. If you are taking on a big organization project, the toll may be greater as you move large pieces of furniture or discover long lost objects.
Start by creating a list of the areas in your home that you want to organize. Try sorting them in order of difficulty and designate how much time you think it will take to go through each one.
Whatever your availability is, make sure to set goals for when you’ll have each room done. Leaving it open-ended could cause the project to drag on forever. If you need additional accountability, make your deadline an event. Invite friends and family over for a dinner party, so you have a set amount of time to get things done. Plus, you’ll feel great about entertaining in your new clean space.
If you are clearing out a long-neglected space or going through a loved one’s home, preparing emotionally should also be part of this step. You may encounter beloved objects, photographs, or mementos along the way.
The KonMari Method is a popular way of sorting through these items and anything in your house you’re trying to declutter. Pick up an item and ask yourself, “Does this item spark joy?” If it doesn’t, get rid of it. KonMari teaches that you should only keep personal possessions that bring you joy. Some of these items might not make sense, but this way of thinking really helps when you’re stuck deciding what to do with certain items.
Step 2. Schedule the time
Next, be honest with yourself about your commitment to the project. How much room in your schedule do you have to clean up, and how much of that free time are you willing to spend doing so? If it’s only 15 minutes a day or two hours over the weekend, that’s OK!
Cleaning out the fridge will probably only take 15 – 30 minutes. Organizing the papers and bills on the countertop may take up to an hour, depending on your system. Cleaning out your closet for items to donate will probably take a couple of hours. Sorting through the kids’ toy bin may also take an hour or two (or longer if the kids are present).
Do not try to clean your entire house in one day. You will burn out and resent organizing when that’s the last thing you want to do. You’re trying to build a long-term habit, so start in small increments and take frequent breaks to keep yourself fresh.
Take a look at your list you created in Step 1 and start with the easiest spaces. This will build some momentum and get a system in place. Once you see the difference decluttering makes on a small scale, you’ll be motivated to tackle bigger projects.
Step 3. Organize the process: recycle, sell, donate, throw away, keep
Before you start decluttering a room, set up five bins or piles; recycle, sell, donate, throw away, and keep. Everything needs to be disposed of properly, and many items have the potential for someone else. If the item doesn’t have use or sentimental value, put it in one of these categories.
Papers are a large part of most clutter. They can be recycled or shredded. Before you insist that all those bills and reminders need to be saved, remember that any important document like that most likely has a digital backup somewhere. Locate it for your own peace of mind and then get rid of the physical copy.
More valuable items, such as furniture and electronics, can either be sold or donated.
At the end of the day, make sure you finish the process completely. Don’t leave donation bags by the door or bags of garbage on the floor. Bring it out to the trash, drive to the donation center, or post it for sale right away. Think about this part of the process when you’re preparing in Step 1. Make sure you have time to fully see things through.
Places like Goodwill and Salvation Army are always accepting donations of clothing, furniture, and appliances. If you’re throwing out large items, you can drive them to a dump yourself or call your local municipality for a bulk pick up. Take a look at these charitable organizations for guidance on what to do with your items:
The items that you chose to keep should now all have a place of their own, whether in a container, bin, or cabinet. It’s at this point in the process that you can purchase storage containers to put any leftover items. Nothing should be left out in the open unless it has a specific purpose.
Step 4. Reward yourself
You will be surprised at how tiring it is to clear out a small space. Take breaks frequently and reward yourself as you go. This will build momentum and motivate you to keep going. Enlist family and kids to help you along the way so everyone is involved in the process and can take ownership of their own items.
If ice cream is your thing, promise yourself that you’ll buy a pint once you finish. If it’s wine and a bubble bath you’re after, set a bottle opener and a bath bomb out in the open to keep your eye on the prize as you clean. Maybe consider a massage to soothe all those moving and sorting aches.
An organized home is proven to alleviate stress and anxiety. You will feel so much better once you tackle your space, like a weight is lifted off your shoulders. For continued motivation, turn to Pinterest for organization ideas and inspiration. When all is said and done, you may need to buy some bins and containers to maintain your clutter-free zone.
Step 5. Make it a habit
You did it! You organized your space, and it looks amazing! Remember this feeling and use it to make decluttering a lifelong habit.
Do small things every day like recycle unnecessary paperwork or put things back in their proper place. Do more involved things once a quarter like clean out the fridge or tidy up the junk drawer. Save larger tasks like cleaning out your closet or organizing the garage for the annual spring cleaning (or whenever you decide to do it). Set yourself up for success by putting containers in the right place and adding recycling bins strategically around the house to encourage you.
Expect that leading an organized life will require regular maintenance. This mindset will set you up for success. Now that you’ve decluttered your space and established a system that works for you, you can repeat that in the future to make it less painful.
Use this Action Plan printable to establish a declutter schedule and hold yourself accountable. You can really use it for any project in your life that could benefit from structured timelines and progress updates.
If you’re looking for additional help in organizing your daily life, consider a 1THRIVE Center. Our version of the command center is designed to be a customizable one-stop-shop for everything you have on your plate.
It’s easy to install and compact, so it doesn’t take up any unnecessary space. Interchangeable components help you manage all those papers, bills, and invitations that are cluttering your countertops.
Organize your life for good by writing down your goals and storing them in plain sight. 1THRIVE Command Centers are designed to be simple and beautiful, so your life can be too. Just find a flat wall in your home and choose your configuration to get started!