How to Declutter Your Home for a Less Stressful Life

Within the last year I have discovered the beauty of decluttering my house of things that I do not need/want in my life. This is the type of project that, for most, will not be completed over night. Or even in a week or month. This is a project that takes time and patience and begs the question, “Do I really need this?” For me, this is a project that I am focusing on to live a more minimalistic life. However, I believe this is something that almost everyone can benefit from. There are many different methods out there for decluttering your space from tidying up the house to living a truly minimalistic life and living off only the items you truly need in your current environment.

My transition has been very slow but pretty steady. Every declutter I do gets me closer to the minimalist lifestyle I aspire to have. I make my way from room to room and get rid of (and recycle when I’m able) anything that does not give purpose or happiness for that matter. In the book “The Paradox of Choice” by psychologist Barry Schwartz, he explains that often times when people are provided with several different choices they can make it leads to stress and anxiety. This really speaks to the consumer side of life but the items we own are from the choices we made when originally purchasing them.

Two of my favorite movies actually involve getting away from this type of thinking: Fight Club and Into the Wild. In Fight Club we see the main character befriend Tyler Durden who completely defies the status quo. While, yes, he does work several different jobs to make money he is adamant on steering clear of material possessions. During one of the main character’s and Tyler Durden’s first interactions Tyler says, “The things you own end up owning you.” While this may not be true for everyone I think it is something that has resonated with me for well over 13 years since I had first watched the movie.

I digress. Let’s jump into some of the steps to get your life decluttered and a little less stressed!

Go Through Each Room Separately

Now this may seem totally obvious but I know that the prospect of getting rid of things unneeded can sometimes cause excitement and have you jumping from room to room with no plan. The first room I usually like to start with is the bedroom closet. It’s very easy to accumulate clothing from fast fashion because it’s “on sale” or it kinda looked good in the fitting room. What I like to do is take out all my clothes and lay them on the bed and go through the clothes one item at a time. Here are a few questions I ask myself during this process:

  1. “Have I worn this item more than two or three times this year?”
  2. “Do I feel confident when I wear this?”
  3. “Does this still fit?” (A more obvious question but I think we all have those items we hold onto for years that don’t fit and probably wont because you’re not 16 anymore.)
  4. “Does this item make me happy?”

If the answer is “no” to one or more of these questions, my rule of thumb is to put it in the donation or recycle bin. After you’ve completed the clothing portion of this you can move on to the next room. I like to work my way from inside out – closet, bedroom, hall closets (if you have one), bathroom, living room, kitchen, etc.

Clothes, glass, plastic and paper all separated out for recycling.

Trinkets and Other Decorations

As humans I think one of the other things we tend to horde are small decorations and other trinkets. I believe it’s pretty rare for the decorations and other small trinkets we have to actually mean anything to us.

For instance, as I’m writing this at my desk I have a pig shaped stress-ball sitting in front of me that, for days now, I have been trying to decide whether I should get rid of it or not. To put things into perspective, this small, cute squeeze toy is something I got for free at a work event. I don’t use it for it’s purpose but I have it sitting on my desk because it’s cute.

Now, I’m not saying you should get rid of all your decorations or even that I’m going to get rid of my pig stress-ball. What I am saying is that sometimes it’s necessary to evaluate the amount of decorations you have and whether they are adding to your happiness or just taking up space.

Duplicate Items

If you’re like me you probably have several bath towels, rags, sheets, and dishes. Currently my Fiancé and I have 22 plates. Of the same size. Not because we purchased them but because previous roommates left them and parents have provided hand-me down china. It’s just the two of us and I don’t foresee us having a dinner party with 20 plus people in our 900 square foot, one bedroom apartment.

So, we got rid of all the mismatching plates, a few towels, and kept one extra set of sheets that we can switch out for our bed or use when a guest stays over. This freed up space in our cabinets and our linen closet and made it feel like we could breathe a little better.

Books and Movies

This is a tough one for the both of us, actually. I love hard copies of books and my Fiancé is a cinephile so as you can imagine we have a lot of books and a lot of DVDs and Blu-Rays. To us there’s something sentimental about owning these items. For the more minimalist approach getting rid of the physical copies and having digital copies is a great option. For now, this is something we’re not particularly ready to part with.

So, what we have done instead is decluttered our collections. We went through all the books and movies we had and really decided what we loved from each. We didn’t keep any filler items. For instance, I still had a book that I had read in middle school which is read at a middle school level. It was not a book that I was ever going to read again so it was time to say goodbye.

However, if you are able to make the transition to digitally owning these items without too much thought I definitely recommend it!

Paperwork

In life, we collect many things and one of those things is paperwork. Paper from doctor’s offices, bills, tax information, coupons, school projects, financial information, amongst other things. I had these types of papers scattered everywhere. I had a plastic box with some of the papers. Random folders stuffed in the closet with some papers. Papers stacked up on my desk and the kitchen table.

We recently went to Target and purchased a large folder where I organized and labeled every section so I can accurately and properly store my paperwork. This forced me to go through absolutely every paper that I have held onto for the past 5 years and keep what’s really important and shred the items that are not.

My large portfolio folder I am currently using.

Makeup and Grooming Products

It’s 2019 and we have a plethora of skincare, makeup, haircare, and body care items to choose from and buy. At one point I feel like I could have opened up a small boutique with all the products I had in my bathroom like this. And if you purchase makeup you know it’s not cheap, whether you get it from Sephora or the drug store. I didn’t calculate it but I wouldn’t be surprised if I had around $3,000 worth of makeup alone in my collection. And I didn’t even wear half of it.

It was time to re-evaluate my routine. Just because the packaging and colors look so pretty or so aesthetically pleasing it’s really not worth spending the money on it if it’s not going to be something I use on a regular basis. So, I chose to keep only what I use. Foundation, mascara, eyebrow gel and bronzer are the only real things I go for in my day-to-day routine. So now that’s all I have and I only purchase more makeup when I run out of one item. The same goes for haircare and skincare. I have eczema so skincare was an easy one for me. I only have a clay mask and unscented lotion that I can use on my body and my face. The only real care I have for my hair is shampoo and conditioner so getting rid of other products was easy for me.

A good rule to go by is if you don’t use it or if it is not good for you (based on the chemicals) then get rid of it!

Conclusion

As stated before, this may be a process that takes weeks if not months to complete if you are dedicated to really getting rid of the things that are unnecessary and do not bring you joy in your day to day life. If you take everything step-by-step this will become almost a meditative practice.

Remember, recycle as much as you can or donate. In the process of creating a space you can be happy in we must always think of how we can create a better environment for all even if it’s just a few of us doing it.

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