Are you feeling a little overwhelmed by the post-holiday excess all around you? Have the past several years of your family’s success with Santa left your closets, garage, attic and office filled to the rafters? If so, it may be time for some creative clutter-busting strategies.
Here are eight ways to kick the new year off right by kicking the clutter habit now:
1. Start with three questions
Let three questions cut through your material clutter by cutting through the mental clutter that often makes it difficult to part with things. With each item you consider, ask yourself:
- Do I love it?
- Do I use it?
- Will I ever need it?
If your response to each of these questions is “no,” then it’s much easier to rationalize passing the item along and letting it find a new home. But be ruthlessly honest as you answer each query. Responses that begin with “No, but … ” usually mean that your de-cluttering is sputtering.
2. Target one area at a time
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of stuff that most of us live with. Deciding to de-clutter and live happily with less is an achievement in its own right. Instead of diving right in and burning out quickly, focus on one area of your home or office at a time.
Since a little positive reinforcement never hurts, start with the easiest areas first. De-clutter a chest of drawers, a hall closet, one kitchen cupboard, or a single drawer in your desk. Then, use that momentum to move on to the next spot.
If it helps, make a list of all the clutter hot spots that need attention and check each one off as you calm the chaos.
3. Get rid of one item per day
If taming the clutter in your environment seems like an impossible task, start slowly. Decide to rid yourself of just a single item per day, but be determined and relentless.
As the weeks and months pass, you’ll begin to notice and enjoy the extra elbow room your efforts have created. Build on your success by accelerating the clutter-busting schedule and letting go of two or three items each day.
4. Adopt a one-in-one-out rule
To achieve and maintain a clutter-free home or office, adopt a zero accumulation habit. For every new item that comes into your space, make sure one item goes. Donate or sell usable items and toss what’s left.
For a more aggressive take on the same idea, try a one-in-two-out rule and watch those prodigious piles and cramped closets slowly disappear.
5. Think inside the box
The four-box method is a tried-and-true way to quickly get a handle on large amounts of clutter while still ensuring that each item is consciously considered. To begin, get four large boxes and assign each box one of these labels:
- Keep and relocate.
As you process the stuff all around you, each item must land in a box. The boxes become a macro filing system that prevents you from just moving piles around and helps you sort what’s needed and what’s not. When you finish organizing one area, empty the boxes according to their label and start over.
6. Do the dozen
Organize strictly by the numbers and watch the piles shrink fast. Choose a regular time each week or month for a 12-12-12 de-cluttering project. Find a dozen items in your home or office to donate, a dozen to toss or recycle, and a dozen to return to their proper place. In short order, you’ve gone through at least 36 items and rid yourself of 24.
7. Impose a space limit
As if by magic, the volume of our possessions expands to fit the available space. Before we know it, that larger house we scrimped and saved for is just as cramped as the smaller one we left behind.
To help combat the slow creep of clutter, impose an artificial space limit for problem areas. For example, decide to accumulate no more kitchen utensils than will fit into a single drawer, or only enough makeup for one travel-sized cosmetics bag. Using a finite physical space to limit the seemingly infinite potential of clutter is relatively painless and helps keep those mole hills from becoming mountains.
8. Go digital
Ah … if only everything we owned could be digitized and stored in the cloud for easy retrieval when we needed it. It sounds like a minimalist’s dream. Thankfully, at least some of the stuff around us qualifies for easy digital or cloud-based storage.
Clear your desk by scanning documents and photos and storing them digitally through a service like Google Drive, Evernote or Dropbox. If you don’t have access to a scanner, try minimizing some of the paper clutter by photographing documents.
Few things are more refreshing and re-energizing than starting out the new year with less stuff and a sharper focus. And it’s relatively simple to do. Cutting the clutter just takes a bit of smart strategy and good old-fashioned perseverance. No matter what method you choose to begin, the biggest step is the first step.
How do you keep clutter in check in your home or office? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.