There are a lot of “shoulds” in our world. We should declutter, we should try to have a more minimal lifestyle, we should build a cloffice and we should have a home gym. Next month, we will have more shoulds. If you’re not in a position to dump a lot of your possessions, or if you actually like your stuff but need it to make a bit more sense, the slow road to decluttering may be best for you.
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Start in each space with three containers. You’ll need a white trash bag for donations, a black trash bag for garbage, and a box for things to sell. Things you want to keep can go back in the closet.
Block out two hours of time to work through any closet. If you push too hard, decision fatigue will set in and you’ll make poor choices. At the end of your session, your final actions can include a trip to the dumpster with the black bag, a trip to the thrift shop with the white bag, and photos of the items you want to sell on apps like Poshmark or Mercari before you box them up.
Try on everything as you take it out of the closet, one garment at a time. If it doesn’t fit, get it out of the house. No judgment, no recriminations, and nothing in your closet that doesn’t fit. If you need to, keep a list of items to replace.
After two hours, you will have more closet space and a good idea of what you need for a functional wardrobe. You can shop for these items slowly as sales come up. Shut down the decluttering project for the day and take a well-earned break.
In the Kitchen
Like your closet project, minimizing the kitchen will be more effective if things are more convenient after you’re done. You will need a roll of rubber drawer matting, a pair of scissors, and a box for donations.
Open the drawer that’s always a mess. Pull everything out and wipe it down. Cut rubber mat to fit and carefully lay down your favorite kitchen tools. Duplications can go in the box to be donated to someone who won’t curse them because they’re in the way.
Keep your go-to things and get rid of everything else, one drawer or cupboard at a time. Many of us hang onto things that we’ve inherited and gotten as gifts. If you can’t get rid of Grandma’s cast iron skillet but don’t use it because it’s huge and heavy, remember there’s a pretty good chance that your granny would rather it be used than in the way.
Books and Magazines
Pretend you’re moving. What’s worth carrying with you? If you’re not willing to lug a box of books to your new home, don’t keep them in your current home. If you absolutely love a particular magazine, use a photo album and create a scrapbook of your favorite photos and bits of prose. Recycle the rest.
Movies and Games
You may be tempted to hang onto some items because they may be worth money some day, but some day could have you digging through mounds of stuff trying to find your Luke Skywalker Action Figure still in the box. The opportunity will float right on by. Additionally, access to streaming services means that DVD’s and cartridge games are becoming more obsolete than valuable.
Getting the Family in the Loop
For those trying to declutter around children, it’s time to create the helper box. You may promote this idea by keeping your kitchen donation box visible for a few days as you work through the space. Mark it as your “helper” box, which you’re loading with kitchen tools to help folks who don’t have what they need to prepare a meal.
Show your children what’s in the box. You can do this with baby clothes and gear, your own clothing, and other items that could be a true blessing to someone doing without. If they are interested, get them a helper box that they can fill with usable items to donate.
Don’t try to declutter anyone against their will. It will just create resentment. The exception to this rule is clothing that’s been outgrown. If possible, try to treat this decluttering as a celebration; another birthday means that clothing that no longer fits can be given to a child who could put it to good use.
Get Some Help
If you have physical limitations or know someone who’s looking to raise some money, hire them to help you. Pay them a flat rate for your whole decluttering project and let them keep the sale proceeds. It can be tempting to do your own selling, but with the exception of organizations like ThredUp, which provides shipping labels for bags and boxes, you will need to maintain the stock of any items you’re buying. Unless you’ve got space and time, hiring a helper can be the difference between getting started and getting finished.
What to Buy
In the beginning of the process, buy as little as possible. Boxes can be free and trash bags are likely already in the cupboard. You can get rubber mats at your local Dollar Store or something similar.
One simple addition that will free up brain space as well as closet space is a set of five suit hangers. Even if you wear jeans, try to get in the habit of putting together your clothing when you do laundry. Check the weather for the coming week and build five outfits for the next five days.
Morning brain is powerful and creative. Burning that power on clothing choices is simply not an effective way to use your cognitive mojo. Instead, consider splitting your closet into “washed last week” and “washed previously” so you can enjoy a lot of variety in your wardrobe choices, wear out your garments evenly, and not feel limited.
Once you go through the bins of seasonal garments under the bed, you may find that you have a lot more space than you thought. Get flexible with this space. For example, one plastic tub under the bed could hold extra body wash, lotion, deodorant and shampoo, so you could put your trash can under the bathroom sink and enjoy a bit more square footage.
You can also turn the bin under the bed into a pantry if you don’t have one. Canned goods, dried beans and that extra stash of peanut butter doesn’t have to be stored in the kitchen
If you don’t have large clumps of time to declutter, do it in two hour chunks. Put on your workout clothes, turn up your favorite dance music and grab a cold bottle of water.