So you know you need to get organized, but don’t know where to start. You may lose things, purchase a new thing, and find that thing (you thought) you lost one week later. You’ve read something about Minimalism, but aren’t sure how it applies to you. You know you’re not ready to get down to 100 possessions, ditch your car, or work only from remote locations.
If you are looking to live a life free of the stress and (physical) weight of your clutter, but you don’t know where to begin, here’s how to start. Consider these manageable steps a process, one that may not happen overnight. But take it one step at a time, and you’ll find that less is really more.
Step 1: Start Now
Assess what you have. Admit to how many pairs of shoes you own, how much storage space you have, or the fact that you haven’t seen your garage floor in years. Don’t make yourself wrong for getting there, or feel bad about being there. Just admit how it is now so you can accept it and move forward.
Step 2: Clear the Clutter and Clean the Slate
After you’ve taken stock of the areas in your home that need decluttering, prioritize which area is most important. You may want to start with what seem easiest, to gain confidence and momentum. This will catapult you toward cleaning out the other areas that take more time and energy.
Don’t get overwhelmed by thinking you’ll do everything at once. Put out a bag or a box for items that need repair, one for items to donate, one for items to sell at your garage sale or through ebay. (Might as well make some money off of all that stuff!) Take breaks, play some great music, and enlist the help of a family member, friend, or professional organizer.
Don’t save things for “someday.” If you don’t need them, just let them go. It is just stuff.
Step 3: Let Go of “Shoulds”
The “shoulds” create clutter, both physically and mentally. There may be a list of things you should do, but that you’ve been avoiding. Put those things on your calendar and get them done.
If they take follow-up action, put those actions on your calendar. Set yourself up to win by making commitments to fulfill these tasks. If you are challenged by self-discipline, there are great reminder apps out there for your mobile phone, or you can enlist the help of a Life Coach to hold you accountable.
Also, let go of what other people think you should be doing with your life. Those are their shoulds, not yours. Don’t let them clutter your brain.
Step 4: Start a “Don’t Do” List
Admitting what you have been “meaning” to do and “just letting go” is a powerful step. You may never go back to college to finish that degree. You may never hike that 100 mile trail that you have on your bucket list. That’s okay. In fact, let the bucket list go.
If it happens, it happens. If not, don’t sweat it. These are not your non-negotiable items, but things that hold you back from feeling great about all you have already accomplished.
Step 5: Go Paperless
Reduce paper clutter as much as possible.
Unsubscribe from catalogs or magazines that you don’t need. (There are even websites to help you avoid receiving junk mail so it can’t accumulate in the first place.) Get your bills online, and don’t print anything out you absolutely have to.
Of course, be aware that certain documents (e.g., tax statements and other important files) may need to be kept in paper form for a specific amount of time, but do as much as you can to streamline the rest.
Step 6: Get Organized
Now that you’ve gotten rid of the clutter and all of the things you don’t need, it’s time to organize what you have. You may find that you don’t even need those file cabinets or storage bins you thought you needed (when you had more stuff). The great part about getting rid of things is that it leaves you with less to organize.
Put everything in its place according to how and where you use it. By keeping like items in one place, you’ll find you don’t have to go searching the entire house for them.
Step 7: Automate
Since you’ve now gotten your bills online and out of your mailbox, you can take the next step and automate your bill payment. Set this up through your bank, through payment sites that auto-deduct directly from your bank account, or through your credit card of choice.
Step 8: Clear Out the Digital Clutter
When it comes to digital clutter (such as emails, files, photos, etc.), create a system for backing things up and for storing them. There are online file storage sites that you can use so your data stays secure and backed up. Only keep emails that you think you will need to refer to later. Start unsubscribing to emails you do not want to receive, or use an email filter to make them simpler to view.
Step 9: Maintain
Now that things are looking good, be determined to keep clutter from accumulating again. Create daily, weekly, and monthly strategies to keep things clean and clear. Bad habits start small – resist the urge to leave things laying around or let dishes sit in the sink overnight. Make it your firm determination to put those dishes away and clean up before going to bed. Keep your desk clean and clear, rather than letting things pile up.
Another tip: When you are going on a trip, clean up the house before you leave so that it is clean when you return. You’ll be amazed at what a difference this makes in giving you time to decompress from your travel.
Step 10: Enjoy the Simplicity
With less stuff and less need for storage space, you can take the time to enjoy the fruits of your decluttering. Who knows? You may be able to downsize and get a smaller place. That will leave you with more money. And more time.
Time you can use to enjoy your new, simplified life.
Featured photo credit: Ed Gregory via stokpic.com