The art of decluttering pt. 1

Renata Black, EBY Co-Founder & CEO

Simplify Your Life

Take a moment, and look around you. The furniture, the clothes, all the colorful “accents” you thought you needed to spruce up your space. The stacks of books, papers, toys, miscellaneous nostalgic remnants of a past you. How much of it brings you joy? I’m not talking about the spark you feel the first week you get a new iPhone. I’m talking about the way you might look at that old photo of your family that you keep besides your bed. The thing that you could never part with because it’s become such an intrinsic part of you. How many of those things do you have? And what’s the rest? Why is it there? 

Let’s start asking questions about the things that take up space in our lives. Being mindful and organizing your belongings has a way of affecting your mind, body and soul. Marie Kondo shot to superstardom as a household name just with this simple mindset, if you’re putting your hands on something you own and it doesn’t spark joy, then you should thank it for serving its purpose and let it go. Do this with your toxic ex boyfriend while you’re at it. Second, once only your most joy-giving belongings remain, put every item in a place where it’s visible, accessible, and easy to grab and then put back. Create an effortless, almost intuitive flow to the way your home is set up so that you don’t have to spend any time overwhelmed by messiness. Open up the room so that your active priority isn’t housekeeping, it’s enjoying the home you’ve created with heart and maintained with self love.

How can we start simplifying our lives and putting this habit on repeat just by decluttering? Which questions do we need to start asking ourselves?

Power Tip 1: What part of you needs clutter?

Molly Graves and Ashley Murphy, founders of the NEAT Method, found that there are dysfunctional roots of our personality that crave clutter. When you’re too busy, you aren’t making the time to have a system in place in your home so you end up buying things you already own or don’t need more often. If your daily schedule is off balance in this way, you won’t be searching all your storage spots for the things you need. It’s a vicious cycle of overspending and under-organizing and it demands that you start making time for housekeeping in your life. When you’re a constant worrier and let your anxiety get the best of you, you end up saving everything. You’re concerned that you “might” need something in the future, so you save everything, “just in case.” If you feel overwhelmed in life, you will inevitably feel overwhelmed at home: You don’t know where to begin, so you just live in the chaos and pretend it doesn’t bother you, meanwhile the chaos is probably one of the reasons you feel overwhelmed to begin with.

“By identifying which category you fit into, you can avoid your weak spots. If you think you don’t have time, start by carving out just 15 minutes a day to complete a small task like going through the mail (try using this coffee mug for inspiration). If you’re a constant worrier, take inventory of your stuff to remind yourself that you have everything you need—for right now. And if you’re overwhelmed in life, empty just one drawer, clean just one shelf; when a small task is completed successfully, that will inspire you to do more.”

Power Tip 2: What can some space bring you?

Everyone can use empty space. Clutter has a way of creating these impossible situations where the mess seems insurmountable but then if we don’t deal with it, it makes other parts of our life impossible too. With empty space comes peace. With empty space comes freedom. Free to think about other things. Free to explore the beauty of your home. Free to enjoy the calm of having a specific spot for a specific thing and always knowing it will be there when you need it. You deserve all of these things in the comfort of your life and more. Martha Beck, life coach and author of Finding Your North Star, suggests this activity to start this journey towards peace and freedom: walk into any room of your home and focus on 10 random objects. As you consider each, ask yourself (1) Do I truly need it?; (2) Do I truly adore it?; and, (3) Would I trade inner peace for this? The answers can help curb your pack-rat impulses, allowing you to clear out and move on. 

Power Tip 3: What habits will put decluttering on repeat?

The key to decluttering is in the routine and your commitment to it. Whether it’s 10 min a day or two hours a week, find a time that works for you and stick to it. Then, think of your daily actions as part of this larger process. When you eat from a plate, don’t just leave it in the sink, wash it or place it in the dishwasher. When you get dressed to go out, don’t just throw your clothes around, hang them up so that when you come home, you don’t have to deal with that mess. Decluttering truly exists in this one minute action we can take all the time so that our space, and our lives, have room to breathe.

Joshua Becker, best selling author on 4 books dealing with intentional living, details some creative ways you can start being a bit more minimal with your things.

    1. Give one item away each day. This would remove 365 items every single year from your home.
    2. Fill an entire trash bag. Get a trash bag and fill it as fast as you can with things you can donate.
    3. To identify clothes you should donate, hang all your clothes with hangers in the reverse direction. After wearing an item, face the hanger in the correct direction. Discard the clothes you never touched after a few months.
    4. Try to see your home as a stranger visiting. Write down your first impression on how clean and organized the home is and make changes.
    5. Take before and after photos of a small area. Choose one part of your home, like your kitchen counter, and take a photo of a small area. Quickly clean off the items in the photo and take an after photo. Once you see how your home could look, it becomes easier to start decluttering more of your home.
    6. Get help from a friend. If you defend the item and want to keep it, your friend has to agree with your reason. If they don’t agree, it’s time to get rid of it.
    7. Use the Four-Box Method. Get four boxes and label them: trash, give away, keep, or re-locate. Enter any room in your home and place each item into one of the following boxes. Don’t skip a single item, no matter how insignificant you may think it is.

Real talk: What is decluttering but a way to remind yourself who you are and what you want. It’s the exercise of cultivating empathy for the things that surround us, rather than encouraging materialism and in turn, having empathy for ourselves. So let’s start making our lives a little less messy.

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