In Need of Decluttering Your Life? Here’s Some Help
From Ask The Scientists
Take a deep breath and get ready to turn the page. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the start of a new year or just time for a change. Whatever the last period of your life represented, now is the time to plan ahead and shift your energy in a new, better direction. Forget what’s bogging you down and focus on simplifying so you get down to the important things in life. That starts with decluttering. Rid yourself of unnecessary worries mentally, while also decluttering your physical spaces.
Decluttering can go deeper than just cleaning or organizing, too. It’s a chance to focus on choosing what’s really needed and what’s not. Making these decisions is paramount. That’s because it’s never a bad time to hit the reset button. You just have to be willing to take the required steps to do so. Whether that’s throwing away clothes that have sat in your closet for too many years, or even taking a break from continuously scrolling social media. Everybody needs a little push when searching for ways to declutter physically and mentally.
If you’re overwhelmed with everyday life, or have a hard time taking a break for yourself, you’ve come to the right place. With a little help from the list below, you can find what’s most important and methodically trim everything else. And whittling your life down to the essentials can help you focus and feel less overwhelmed.
Follow this rundown to identify issues, digesting what’s wrong, and find different decluttering methods and set yourself up for future success.
Item 1. Identifying the Clutter in Your Life
Clutter is everywhere. In your house. In your head. On your phone.
It’s nearly impossible to escape from your busy life these days. And the more you take on, the more clutter creeps in. Disorder takes you away from everything else on your to-do list. It preoccupies you with routine tasks rather than focusing on truly experiencing your life and planning for a better future.
To tackle the clutter, first you need to identify what truly has sentimental value, what you cannot live without. So, you have to be honest with yourself. Sometimes brutally so. Look closely at that old gift on your desk. Forget about what it might’ve cost a friend five years ago and ask what it means to you now. Think about the decorations you’ve been keeping in the closet just in case. Will you ever use them?
List what’s really important in your life and make those your categories to label items. Identify what fits in each category. And as for everything else? If it doesn’t fit in a category, serves no proper function, or has no emotional importance, chuck it. If you have too many of the same sort of item, get rid of the extras. Decluttering your life can help you take control.
Item 2: Focus on Decluttering One Spot at a Time
It’s easier to target a certain spot in your house when starting a serious clutter detox. Otherwise, the task can feel too big to tackle. Remember, little bites will still get the task done. So, make a game plan—breaking the task into parts will help you—and follow it as closely as possible.
Start with an easy spot. Getting that first decluttering win will give you momentum. The desk in your home might be the easiest spot to target. That’s where work and life clutter seems to collide most often. But it’s also small, contained, and can count as impacting two aspects of life. First, find defined areas for work and home. One side of your desk could be business-specific: notes, files, projects, etc. The other can be where you store day-to-day items like headphones, checkbooks, and more. (Don’t forget to weigh what’s important and what’s just clutter.)
Next, open the fridge and toss out anything that looks bad or smells worse. If you haven’t used something but need to, plan a meal around the foods or condiments in your fridge that are nearing their end. You’ll feel better than just dunking it in the trash. Same goes with the freezer. If you get a little angry with yourself every time you open it up, commit to making the best possible meal with what’s packing the freezer.
Now you have momentum and can start tackling the bigger areas of your house. Work your way up to what is likely the most arduous task—tackling your sleeping quarters head-on.
Luckily, there’s a four-container method you can use. Make four piles: trash, give away/sell, storage, and put away. By containing the clutter in specific categories, you’re better able to distance yourself from what is an absolute must and what no longer qualifies. Anything you don’t need or want, toss it in the trash or give-away pile. If something is broken and doesn’t need fixing, toss it. For necessary, important items, place them in storage or just put them in their proper place.
And the four-container method isn’t just for the bedroom. It can be applied to any room in your house.
One more tip: If you’re having a hard time parting with some things, think of the decluttering like this: you’re making room for the things that matter.
Item 3. Decluttering Your Digital Spaces
If you can’t find that photo of an old vacation you want to share on social media, consider this: Compartmentalizing and decluttering your life digitally might be just as important as in real life.
Now that everyone is glued to screens nearly every day, your digital life should be as comfortable and clutter-free as your physical one. Start with your phone.
Better organize your apps. Putting them in folders or creating some kind of order helps a lot. That way, the next time you really need your travel app you can scroll right to it.
If you’re on your desktop or laptop, trash files that aren’t useful anymore. And organize those that remain. Accessing your own vital information should be easy—instead of a chore. Just like you can do on your phone, organize everything into folders on your desktop to avoid searching for documents with names you can’t exactly remember.
And if you’re really looking to trim down the digital clutter, consider the amount of devices you have. Do you really need a laptop, smartphone, and a tablet? You can also put respective time blocks on each, making sure that when your allotted time on each is reached, you put it down.
Item 4. Be Screen Savvy for Some Mental Decluttering
There is more clutter in life than too many clothes or cramped desk space. One of the most important of all detoxes could be one from the world you live through your smartphone. All the stimuli from social media and other screen-based time drains.
New operating systems now update you weekly about how much screen time you’re averaging a day. If you need another reminder that your life is dominated by screens, take a look. The reports might help shape your behaviors. Depending on what you see, you might want to declutter your mental state by cutting out some screen time.
Studies show social media detoxes might be worth it because they can help improve your overall mood. It might also help you feel less competitive with strangers that always seem to be living their best life. You can also conquer your FOMO (fear of missing out). This type of detox (even if it’s brief) can slow the digital stimuli to help you live more in the present and realize that life before social media was just as rewarding.
Cutting yourself off from social media altogether might not work for you. There are plenty of good things about social media (like the Ask the Scientists Facebook page!). But placing limits can help you declutter your mind and your life. And the free time and mental energy you obtain can be put to good use in different ways that you might’ve forgotten about since the apps have taken over.
Item No. 5 Decluttering Your Schedule
Finding room for yourself in the midst of your to-do list is another key decluttering task. The good thing is, you have some control to prioritize your schedule the way you want.
But sometimes that means skipping events—especially those you know will be disappointing or underwhelming. Saying no isn’t bad. So, rid yourself of that stigma.
And remember, it’s OK to put yourself first, too. There’s nothing wrong with rolling with an urge to see a movie, take a walk, or sit in a coffee shop reading a book. You don’t always have to be making others happy. Declutter your schedule so you have time to enjoy yourself.
Item No. 6 Exhausted? Remember Why You’re Decluttering
Mental clutter so often generates stress, which has ties to several negative effects on your mind and body. But physical clutter can also be stressful.
Researchers discovered a direct correlation between clutter and stress. They explored the relationship between 32 families and objects in their homes. Turns out, clutter has a serious effect on mood and overall self-esteem. So, more stuff, more dishes, and more clutter equals rising anxiety.
Physical clutter has damaging potential, too. It can be a serious fire and tripping hazard in your home. Physical clutter might also be a resting place for dust, mold, and animal dander. All of these can be harmful to those who suffer from allergies and asthma.
There’s No Better Time Than Now to Declutter
You have so many different ways to declutter. Embrace the diverse options for ridding yourself of things you don’t need or harmful habits. There is nothing like a fresh start. So, instead of putting things off, instead of ignoring it all over again, get to work.
Do your best to simplify and rid yourself of the trinkets you don’t use. Give away the clothes you don’t wear. Cut down your digital stimuli by limiting screen time.
The clutter doesn’t have to stress you out. So, take a breather. Get to work and see just how much you can accomplish when you take a step back and realize how freeing decluttering your life can be.