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8 Ways To Declutter Your Home

8 Ways To Declutter Your Home

Looking to declutter your life this year? Why not start with your home? Here are 8 simple ways to declutter your home.

1. Determine why you want to declutter

Before you start, think about why you want to declutter. Do you want to live a more simple lifestyle? Are you hoping to sell some items for extra cash? Is your goal to have less items to make your home life more efficient?

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Having a meaningful reason for your decluttering efforts will help you stay motivated when it gets tough. Decluttering is a lot of work, so decide exactly why you’re doing it, and remember this reason when it gets tough.

2. If you’re not sure where to start, try your bedroom closet

I started with my bedroom closet and have gradually been streamlining my wardrobe. It feels great to get rid of clothes that are outdated, poor-fitting, or just taking up space in your closet. Now I have less clothes, but I’ve found that having a small amount of items I love is much more enjoyable than a closet packed full of items I only somewhat like. Starting with your closet can help you build momentum to declutter the rest of your home. Since your closet is a place you use every day, decluttering your closet will allow you to immediately see the results of your efforts. Plus, having only clothes that you feel great in can build your confidence, and you’ll spend less time searching for what to wear each day.

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3. Think of the habits involved in cluttered areas

Think about where you tend to accumulate clutter. For me, this is my kitchen counter. The biggest source of clutter on my counter is incoming and outgoing mail. Therefore, I’ve been streamlining this process. Instead of letting mail sit on my counter in a big messy pile, I’ve sorted it immediately into a small bin for the appropriate recipient, and junk mail is immediately thrown away. That way, I don’t end up looking through the mail multiple times. I have gradually automated most bills, which helps decrease the mail pile and streamlines my finances. Outgoing mail now has a designated spot. This is still a work in progress, but it has become much more efficient and less cluttered with these changes.

4. When you purchase a new item, get rid of 2 items

One way to gradually declutter your home is to get rid of more than one item every time you purchase something. This has worked great for me to declutter the kids’ items they’ve outgrown. When they get new clothes or new toys, I give what they’ve outgrown to friends with younger children. When you get rid of 2 items per every item purchased, you will slowly declutter your home and the process doesn’t feel nearly as overwhelming as a giant overhaul all at once.

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5. Turn your hangers around in your closet

Turn all your hangers backward in your closet. If you wear the item on the backward-facing hanger, turn it back around so it is forward-facing. After a predetermined amount of time (6 months, 1 year, or another amount of time you choose), get rid of any clothing items on the backward-facing hangers, because you haven’t worn them in a while.

6. Get your whole family involved

As you work on decluttering, involve the entire family. Even young kids can put shoes away, match socks, and help pick up toys. Work on developing designated places for certain items, and make sure everyone in your family understands where these items go.

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7. Consider rotating toys

I have 3 very young kids, and the playroom looks like a disaster some days. One thing that is helping (although it’s still mass chaos here at times) is to rotate the kids’ toys. We put some items in a bin and rotate the toys every couple of weeks. That way, the kids are really excited to play with their toys and there is less clutter.

8. Think about why you have your belongings

Getting rid of certain items can be so freeing. As you work on decluttering, think about an item you’re struggling to get rid of. Is it useful? If so, have you used it in the recent past? Do you love it, or would you not even miss it if you got rid of it?  Getting rid of certain items can be tough when you have an emotional attachment to them. Certain things were hard for me to get rid of, as I’m pretty sentimental, but I can’t even explain how freeing it felt to get rid of things.

Decluttering is an ongoing process. It takes a lot of time and effort, but it feels great to have a less-cluttered home.

Featured photo credit: Steve Larkin/https://flickr.com via flickr.com

More by this author

Dr. Kerry Petsinger

Entrepreneur, Mindset & Performance Coach, & Doctor of Physical Therapy

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Last Updated on September 18, 2019

How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes.

I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

What to Write Down

Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

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Dates of Events

Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

Names of People

Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

Theories or Frameworks

Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

Definitions

Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

Arguments and Debates

Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

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Images

Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

Other Stuff

Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

Your Own Questions

Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

1. Outlining

Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

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For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

2. Mind-Mapping

For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

Here’s the idea:

In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

3. The Cornell System

The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

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About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

The Bottom Line

I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

More About Note-Taking

Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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