How Often to Declutter?
Clutter… Oh, this can absolutely drive me crazy. While I am all about having things just in case, for different situations, holding onto sentimental pieces, etc., nothing makes me happier than getting rid of things, organizing, and making sure I do not buy or collect things just because.
With Marie Kondo’s technique inspiring many, and an increasing number of people’s approach to living a less wasteful life and one that falls in line with reorganizing life for a clear space, and therefore a clear mind, I interviewed Millie of Bella Organizers, a professional organizer, to get her detailed take on decluttering (definition, frequency, and method).
The below has been adapted from a conversation with Millie but holds the integrity of her responses and message.
Having too many things that you don’t really need or want and that it is affecting your day to day life negatively.
Everyone has a different definition of clutter.
Some people are very aware … There are other people who have a lot of things and are not really affected by it.
The generic definition of clutter (having too many things, untidy, disorganized) would probably fall into the center (in between being a minimalist and someone who is chronically disorganized).
As for hoarding situations, I strongly suggest that one hires a professional organizer that specializes with hoarders and in parallel have the support of a therapist or counselor.
How do you know when?
Decluttering is an issue when you –
Do not feel good in your space
Feel like you have too much
Are spending too much time looking for things or buying double of things that you didn’t know you have
Times/reasons that might encourage the process
You’re curious and want to give this decluttering thing you’ve been reading about a try.
You’re moving homes soon and want to “start fresh”.
You’re downsizing to a smaller space.
You’re moving in with your significant other/getting married.
Your family member is moving in or you are moving back home.
You’re expecting a new baby.
The most important and significant reason is:
You feel like you have too many things and it is affecting your day to day life (too much time looking for things, don’t know what you have, and you do not feel calm in your space).
Generally, how often to declutter depending on each space
Each space might require different time between decluttering or organizing sessions. However, Millie’s advice -
The whole house at one time - the best way to do this is, not by room, rather by category. I agree with Marie Kondo to start with larger items such as clothing, shoes, kitchen, books, and work your way down to paperwork, pictures, nostalgic items, and miscellaneous items (think junk drawer)
One can easily get discouraged if they start with the latter
Why not declutter by room (the exception is the kitchen)?
If you declutter by category you understand what you have, and you do not repeat the decluttering process
For example, let’s say you are decluttering your books and you have books in your living room, in your bedroom, and in the garage – instead of decluttering the books 3 times, you do it once and more importantly you see ALL the books you have in one area
It is important that we see the volume of the things that we have, and this makes us understand that we may not actually need everything
In terms of time gap – I would try to declutter the whole home at one time (even if this takes a couple of months). People who declutter their whole home find that they will not purchase/bring in items that they don’t absolutely love and need nor buy things for the sake of buying things.
This mindset will allow it to be easier to maintain your home.
When the seasons are changing – clothing.
Maintain order throughout the year for the whole house.
2-3 months check up of each category - if constant maintenance is challenging.
Cleaning vs Decluttering
Millie highlights that cleaning and decluttering are not the same.
Full on decluttering is going through everything in your home, putting things into categories (like items go with like items), deciding what you love and need, letting go of things you don’t love and need, and then coming up with an organizing system that works best for your daily routine.
Cleaning is something that is done on a regular basis and does not involve decluttering. Once your home is decluttered and organized it is a lot easier to clean.
Why declutter? Are there benefits?
Yes, there are both mental and physical benefits, both of which are connected (are we surprised?).
Life is easier when things are in order and you know where everything is.
Think of how many hours throughout the year are lost looking for your things, or that important document you misplaced, or that piece of clothing you really wanted to wear, etc.
When we live in clutter and don’t have a good organizing system implemented, we don’t only waste time but we feel frustrated and in a sense lost in our own space.
You feel better. There is a shift that happens with the energy in your home – once you start letting things go you literally feel lighter, calmer, and your home feels more open and inviting.
Tips on how to get started
Just start and don’t let fear or an overwhelming feeling take over!
Although the process can be overwhelming it is liberating.
You are taking control back of your things and your life.
Start with picking a category like clothing or shoes first.
For example, with clothing, I would suggest gathering all of your clothes and putting them in one room. Break them up by category – pants, shirts, skirts, dresses, etc. (remember like items go with like items).
From there start going through your piles and decide what to keep/throw/donate. I always tell my clients to only keep what they really love and need. As a benchmark, think of that favorite piece of clothing that you feel the most confident in and compare that feeling to the way you feel about the other clothes you are going through.
I would also suggest hiring a professional organizer to help you. This is a huge motivating factor and it also speeds up the process. I love this article that was published recently by the NY Times. My fellow NAPO colleagues were featured, and it is a true depiction of what professional organizers do.
What to do with the items you are getting rid of
Try your best not put too many things in storage.
Aside from seasonal clothing, sporting equipment, and some sentimental items.
Storage should be the last option – so many times one forgets what they have in storage and often things are left untouched for years.
There is a great article from the NY Times that lists a lot of different option for dealing with the items you’d like to let go of (selling, donating, etc).
I prefer to gift new items or donate other items – it is usually quick and easy to do. You can pick your favorite charities, local shelters, schools, or programs.
Cover photo: Stocksy