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Last Updated on May 28, 2019

How to Declutter Your Life and Reduce Stress (The Ultimate Guide)

How to Declutter Your Life and Reduce Stress (The Ultimate Guide)

Excessive clutter is often a symptom and a cause of stress and can affect every facet of your life: from the time it takes you to do things to your finances and your overall enjoyment of life. Clutter can distract you, weigh you down and in general it invites chaos into your life.

Tackling the clutter can seem an insurmountable task if you don’t know where or how to start. By devoting a little of your time to getting rid of the clutter in your life and maintaining things relatively clutter-free, you’ll reap the rewards of pleasing living areas, reduced stress, and a more organized and productive existence.

The best way to declutter your home, your work space and your life is to take things one small step at a time. Combined, small steps will lead to big improvements that will be easier to maintain over the long-run.

Here is a blueprint of how to declutter your life and enjoy a less stressful life:

How to Declutter Your Life

Decluttering your life is essential to mental peace and calmness, so it’s important not to neglect this area.

1. Reduce your commitments

Often times, our lives are too clutterd with all of the things that we need to do at home, work, school, in our religious or civic lives, with friends and family, with hobbies, and so on.

Take a look at each area of your life and write down all of your commitments. Seeing it all written down can be quite an eye-opening experience as well as overwhelming. From here, look at each one and decide whether it really brings you joy and value, and if it is worth the amount of time that you invest in it.

Another way to reduce your commitments is to identify a few that you truly love and get rid of the rest.

Learn how to say no and decline offers. If you eliminate the things that don’t bring you joy or value, you’ll have more time for the things that you love.

2. Reconsider your routines

Many of us do not have any set routines in our daily lives and simply tackle our obligations, chores and daily tasks haphazardly. Without structure, it can lead to chaotic days and a drop in productivity.

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Batch tasks together. Instead of doing your laundry several times throughout the week, do it all on one day.

It’s helpful to write down all of your weekly and daily obligations, chores, and tasks, and then plan out daily and weekly routines. Hang it up where you can see it and try to follow it. You might find that having a routine brings a new sense of calm and order to your life.

Here’re some routines you can learn from:

3. Declutter your friendships

It may sound cruel but as you grow up, you’d realize some people are meant to stay in your life longer while others are not. While you should spend more time with positive people, people who help you grow and make you feel happy; you should get rid of toxic people who only drain your energy.

Take a look at this guide on how to declutter friends: The Harsh but Honest Truth About Friendship Decluttering

How to Declutter Your Work Area

If you want to be more productive and focused in your work, getting the clutter out of your work area is essential.

4. Start with your desk

Clear everything off the top of it and take everything out of the drawers.

Assemble the items in piles on the floor. Clean and wipe down your desk and marvel at how pretty and clean it looks.

Sort through all of the “stuff” that was both in and on your desk. Toss out as much as possible a relatively small amount.

Once you’ve weeded things out, it’s time to sort through the remains:

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Set up a basic alphabetical filing system with a folder for each project or client. Keep your office supplies and other items in designated drawers.

If you need to, label things, but the main thing you should do is designate a spot for every item you decided to keep and make sure that it stays there, or goes back there when you’re done using it.

Keep flat surfaces clear, and have an inbox for all incoming papers. When the papers come in, sort them each day – toss, delegate, do immediately, or file simply file all documents, but whatever you do, DO NOT KEEP THEM ON TOP OF YOUR DESK.

All you want on the surface of your desk is your phone, computer, inbox, and maybe a special photo in addition to the documents you are working with at the moment.

5. Declutter your computer

Get rid of files and programs

on your computer that you don’t need.

Get rid of most or all of the icons on your desktop. They not only slow down your computer, but also create visual clutter. There are better ways of accessing your information.

Regularly purge old, unused files. If organization is not your thing, utilize a program such as Google Desktop to search for your files when you need them.

6. Then move on to information

In the digital world of today, there are so many different ways that information creeps into our lives.

Information in itself can become overwhelming when you have too much of it, and this is called information clutter. Instead of letting information take over your life, set limits.

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Reduce the number of things that you read each day and get rid of things from your RSS feed. Chuck those magazine subscriptions and reduce your consumption of news and television.

I’m not suggesting that you cut yourself off from the world, just that setting some boundaries will help.

Instead of letting information, even the kind that friends share on Facebook, take over your life, control how and when you receive it by limiting what you read.

How to Declutter Your Home

Outside of work, home is where many of a bulk of our time. So it’s no wonder that a messy house can add to daily stress.

7. Simplify your rooms

If your rooms are too cluttered, you’ll want to simplify them.

Start by clearing off anything that is on the floors. Throw out or donate unused things.

After clearing the floor, move to flat surfaces such as countertops, shelves, tops of dressers, etc.  Clear them as much as possible, and then move onto furniture.

Consider if you need everything. Sort things in piles – toss, donate, or keep.

Organize everything that you’ve decided to keep into drawers, cabinets, and closets, keeping them out of sight, but still neatly organized and uncluttered. Do this one room at a time.

8. Tackle the closets

Closets are a great place to store things that you don’t want out in the open, and can easily become a place where you shove things just to keep them out of view.

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Go through your closets – take everything out, clean it, and toss, donate as much as you can. Decide a specific place to store anything you decide to keep. Keep only the things that you love and use frequently. As for your clothes, get rid of anything that you haven’t worn in six months.

9. Clean out your drawers

Drawers are prime place for things to get shoved into.

Empty out your drawers, and sorting them by whether you’re keeping, tossing, or donating them.

If you have difficulty deciding what to toss and what to keep, this One Question Can Help You Successfully Declutter Anything.

How to Maintain Order over the Long-Term

Once you’ve successfully decluttered, whether it be one area or all the areas mentioned above, clutter will inevitably begin to creep back into your life. You must be vigilant in weeding it out on a regular basis, or it will just take over your life again:

10. Set up a system to keep clutter in check.

Examine the way that you do things and how things make their way into your life, and consider whether you can put together a simple system for everything, from your laundry to work projects and email.

Write down your systems step-by-step and try to follow them as best as you can. Follow your systems and you’ll keep the clutter minimized.

11. Don’t slack off.

It’s easy to put things off for another day, but it’ll save you headaches in the long-run if you deal with things immediately.

Throw it out, donate it, or keep it and put it in a designated area.

The Bottom Line

When you stay consistent and stick to these decluttering tips closely, you will find yourself less stressful and a lot happier as you’re surrounded by a lot less clutter.

Start today and start small. Begin with cleaning up stuff on your work area and then move on to different aspects of your life and get organized!

Featured photo credit: Jeff Sheldon via unsplash.com

More by this author

Julie McCormick

Julie McCormick is a writer, and co-owner of The Cleveland Leader, a Technorati Top 1000 site.

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Last Updated on September 16, 2019

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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  • (1) Research
  • (2) Deciding the topic
  • (3) Creating the outline
  • (4) Drafting the content
  • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
  • (6) Revision
  • (7) etc.

Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

2. Change Your Environment

Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

6. Get a Buddy

Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

7. Tell Others About Your Goals

This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

Reality check:

I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

More About Procrastination

Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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