How to Start De-Clutterring

by Nyamka Bayanmunkh in


When I realised I had too much stuff that I didn't need or love I decided to get rid of it. In the beginning I started a without a plan and de-clutterred my way through a lot of stuff. I was overwhelmed most of the time. I was tired, both physically and mentally. Through trial and error I have a system that works better now. If you have decided to and simplify, here is a simple and mindful way to start.

1. Start slow. Don't rush the process

Section off a small area like a tabletop, or a single drawer and start there. While it may seem small compared to the mountains of stuff you may need to get through, don't worry. It's better to start small. if you start big it is easy to get overwhelmed halfway though and never finish. By starting slow it makes it easier to start, and finish.

When I started to de-clutter, I started like a maniac. I would spend hours and hours sorting things out. I did this because I wanted to get rid of all the junk as soon as possible, because looking at the stuff made me sick and if I got rid of it quick enough I wouldn't have to deal with the reasons behind the accumulation of stuff. It is better to go through it mindfully and asking yourself through the process what are the reasons for hanging on these things. Knowing why the things accumulated in the first place helps us understand the reasons behind our actions. This way it's easier formulate a strategy to reduce clutter coming in so we don't end up in the same situation. Helpful questions to ask yourself during this step are 'Why did I buy this?' and 'Why am I keeping this?'.

2. Sort your stuff into three categories; yes, no, and maybe

Sort out everything into categories of yes, no, and maybe. The items you definitely want to keep goes to the yes pile. These are the things that add value to your life. The no items are the stuff that have no use anymore. If you haven't used an item for a year, it should go into the no pile. Decide what to do with the no items before you start. Mine either got binned or donated, depending on the qualities of the items.

I noticed I had lots of 'just in case' items that haven't been used for years. For example, a big puffy coat was kept just in case if I went skiing. I had to remind myself this is not the depression era. If I did go skiing I could rent a coat. Plus, that coat was doing no good in the closet by not being used, when there are homeless people with no coats. 

The stuff in the maybe pile are things that are not used or appreciated, but are difficult to part with. Most of the maybe items were items I once loved, or things that brought good memories.  But why were they neglected and stored away if I like them so much? There was no point in having things if they are hidden away. So I took photos of the items I wanted to look at, and scanned the cards and letters that I wanted to read.  They are now seen and  appreciated  as a slideshow when my computer goes to sleep. Some items I placed in prime viewing areas, where they got the appreciation they deserved. The rest of it, eventually, went to the no pile.

If that seems a bit drastic, not to worry. Some people box and tape up their maybe stuff for six months, and if they need anything from it within the six months they can keep those items. If at the end of the six months you can't remember what is in it, then you can get rid of it. This way you don't have to deal with getting rid of things immediately.

P.S. Don't throw away those financial statements and other important documents, you need to keep those. 

3. Congratulate  yourself

Take pride in how clean and neat the area looks. Take a deep breath or two. Note how it makes you feel. Celebrate your accomplishment, of sticking to your word. You said you would do something, and you did it!  When I de-cluttered an area I couldn't help myself from looking at the clean shelf or that clutter free table and smile. Having only things you love and use feels good, so enjoy that feeling a little longer. Have a little dance party. It's important to acknowledge your accomplishments, before you move on to the next task.

4. Rinse and repeat

Schedule a different area to de-clutter on a different day, and repeat the steps above. Slowly but surely you will have conquered the overwhelming mountain of stuff in small and manageable steps. Celebrate again.

The next phase is maintaining those newly clutter free areas.  Maintenance is important to keep your life from becoming cluttered again, so you enjoy a clutter free lifestyle most of the time, rather than a brief period after a spring clean. I'll address maintenance in another blogpost, so stay tuned.

Now you know how to start de-cluttering, what is one area that you would like to tackle today? 

With love, and simplicity,