Inside: How to turn decluttering into a small daily habit that keeps your life clutter-free
Some people think of decluttering as a one-time thing – like it’s a huge deal, and you do it once and never have to do it again. For others, it’s more of a see-saw. They purge, then overbuy, then purge, then overbuy, and on and on it goes.
The best and most sustainable way is somewhere in the middle. And it requires a change in mindset. You do a major declutter once and establish a set of habits that help you keep your home and life clutter-free for good.
Here are five simple habits you can adopt to build decluttering right into your lifestyle:
- Donate extra items as you go
- Do not delay decluttering decisions
- Use a timer
- Have a place for everything
- Don’t organize before decluttering
Donate extra items as you go
Often people hang onto things they don’t want or use simply because they can’t figure out what to do with them. There are two useful approaches here:
Keep a donation box handy
Create a donation box and place it somewhere accessible. I usually use an Amazon box and keep it near the door to the garage.
You could also put yours in the closet or in the mudroom. Wherever you have a bit of space.
As you decide you no longer need something, you place it in the box, and when it’s full, you put it in your car and take it to the nearest donation center.
This is where you skip the donation box and don’t worry about collecting items for any period of time. Instead, you bag up items to donate as you come across them, put them in your car, and take them to the thrift store right away.
I would only recommend this option if you have a Goodwill or a similar store on the way to work or your favorite grocery store or another place you visit frequently.
The last thing you want is to collect unwanted items in your car.
Do not delay decluttering decisions
When you come across an item you no longer need or want, get rid of it right away.
If it can be donated, it goes in your donation box (or in your car for immediate donation). If it’s broken, torn, or otherwise not fit for purpose, toss it in the trash.
Clutter is the result of delayed decisions. So if you know something needs to go, why put off dealing with it? It will only take you a moment to put it where it needs to go.
Use a timer
Decluttering can be a big job, especially in places like the garage or a closet. It’s all too easy to let clutter pile up in there because we don’t spend a whole lot of time there.
If spending a weekend decluttering these spots doesn’t fit into your schedule, set a timer for 15 minutes every day and do as much as you can in that time. In a week or two, you’ll have made good progress on the project, I bet.
And keep that timer habit going once your big clutter spot is done, too. You can use those daily 15 minutes to go around the house, putting things where they belong, and making decisions about what to keep.
That way, you can keep your home clutter-free for good.
Designate a place for everything
Often, clutter collects because there’s no specific place for the items. Maybe you set that folder on your dresser because you couldn’t think of where else to put it right then.
That’s ok, but when you pick it up during your daily decluttering routine, designate a spot for it. Maybe it goes with your important files in the safe. So put it there now and return it there next time after you use it.
If you don’t have a place to put something, think about whether you really need it. If the answer is yes, look for something else you could evict from its current spot.
Sometimes it’s about the 1-in-1-out principle where for every single thing you bring into the house, another one must go. Other times, it may be resolved with a bit of reorganizing.
Don’t organize before decluttering
And while we’re on reorganizing – don’t organize until you’ve finished decluttering. For one, there’s no point organizing clutter.
And two, why would you waste time organizing something before you even know if you’re going to keep it?
This goes back to the mistakes many people make when they organize – they put the cart before the horse. Don’t do that.
Get rid of clutter first – decide what needs to go and donate or trash it. Then spend time organizing only the items you chose to keep.
When you think of decluttering as a small daily habit that you develop on purpose, you get a clutter-free life as a result. It doesn’t even take much time or energy.
Certainly far less time or energy than a big emotional decluttering would.
Simply declutter as you go, don’t delay decisions about what to keep and what needs to go, have a designated spot for everything, stick with 15 minutes of decluttering and tidying daily, and remember to declutter first before organizing.