Decluttering is having a huge moment thanks to consultant and author Marie Kondo’s Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, but the decluttering guru’s methods aren’t for all. Those who love their home libraries balked at her personal preference for keeping only 30 books in her home, while the thought of getting rid of a precious collection of junk generally sparked terror in the minds of many. Nevertheless, minimising clutter has its benefits (financial, environmental, and even health-wise!), and is a wholesome practise in modern life. Here are five decluttering tips that will get your house and life in shape.
1. Give yourself five minutes.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and so too does the process of streamlining your stuff. Five minutes doesn’t feel like a lot of time, but completing a small task each day will give you the sense of satisfaction you’re looking for without the need to pull apart the entire house. Try setting aside excess coffee mugs for donation, throwing out underwear that’s in need of a replacement, or even clearing a bench top of excess junk. A five minute task each day will add up over time, leaving you with a tidier life for little effort. On that note:
2. Anything that can be done now, should be done now.
Raise your hand if you’re guilty of procrastination (emoji). We think of procrastination as impinging on our work, school, or even social lives, but the accumulation of masses of clutter in our homes often begins by simply putting off small tasks. When faced with a task (such as hanging up your clothes or tidying up your bedside table), ask yourself if it can be done at this very minute. If so, take a couple of moment to pause what you’re doing and take care of it. Your clothes chair is much easier to deal with when it’s only a couple of sweaters.
3. Use your imagination.
Psychology Today suggests that using your imagination can help you get rid of clutter. As Jim Davies explains:
“Let’s say you have a digital camera that you are thinking of getting rid of. You can go onto ebay and find out how much similar cameras have sold for. This gives you a good idea of what you could get for yours if you sold it. Now, ask yourself: “If I didn’t already own this camera, would I pay that much for it?” If the answer is no, then sell it immediately. Indeed, if you have remorse you can always buy another one, probably for a cheaper price.”
How does this work? Davies explains that by focusing on the tangible value of an item, you can overcome the endowment effect – that is, the idea that people are more likely to retain an object they own rather than acquiring the same object when they don’t own it. If the endowment effect is stopping you getting rid of your junk, try to imagine yourself going through the process of buying said junk and see if it still has the same value to you.
4. Reverse your hangers.
Oprah popularised the reverse hanger hack, which involves turning all your clothes on hangers in the reverse direction in your closet. As organisational master Peter Walsh explained to fans of the talk show host, ”You wear 20 percent of your clothes 80 percent of the time. For the next six months, whenever you wear an article of clothing and hang it back in the closet, I want you to hang it the correct way. … If you have stuff after six months that’s still hanging back to the front, you have to ask yourself, ‘Are you ever going to wear it again?’”
Once you realise which items of clothing aren’t getting any use, try Davies’ tip and imagine yourself buying those clothes new. If you can’t see yourself repurchasing, you’re unlikely to wear those clothes again.
5. Try the Four-Box method.
The four-box method is a helpful way to force a decluttering decision you might be agonising over. For this hack you’ll need a garbage bag and four boxes, labelled keep, maybe, relocate, and sell/donate. Tackle one room at a time, and place every item you’re sorting in one of these four boxes. Kimberly from The Style Side breaks down each of the boxes:
Keep: For the items that you are keeping and will stay in this room.
Relocate: For the items that you are keeping but need to get moved into another room.
Maybe: For the items that you just can’t get rid of yet. This box will be packed away and anything that hasn’t been taken out of the box in 6 months needs to go. For this box, try using a smaller sized box as you want to try and avoid putting things in this box as much as possible.
Sell/Donate: This should be the largest box (you might even need more than one) and is for everything that you are getting rid of that is in good condition, you can either donate them to a local charity or sell online, a garage sale or markets.