An Effective Way to Declutter

There is no better way to declutter than through purging, and moving provides an excellent opportunity (and excuse) to do just that.  Even if you have never moved and don’t intend to do so anytime in the foreseeable future, it’s a good idea to remove your excess stuff on a regular basis. 

It’s cathartic, therapeutic, cleansing…it’s downright liberating! 

Purging is like getting a haircut.  Things look and feel nice and neat after a good purge, but over time they start to get a little scruffy around the edges.  If you let things go for too long without proper maintenance, they can get downright messy. 

We always go through the purging process twice when we move – once before the movers arrive and once as we’re unpacking.  This is because no matter how carefully I think we've sorted through our stuff, I often find myself wondering as I unpack, “Why in the world did we keep this?” 

To purge is to clear out, get rid of, eliminate, or remove anything unnecessary.  It can be a daunting task when faced with a home full of overflowing closets, cluttered storage spaces and bulging cupboards and drawers.  In a perfect world we’d all be decluttering all the time, never letting things pile up.  But let’s face it – life is busy.  Sorting the cast offs from the keepers takes time.  The best way to purge is systematically. 

It is helpful to establish a set of criteria. 

Here is my most recent purge pile. There is always one in the works at my house. 

Make a Removal Plan

Not every item you decide to part with should be thrown away.  Some items will be perfectly serviceable though no longer of value to you. 

Before you start to purge gather three boxes or bins and a trash bag.  One box will be for items you intend to sell, one for items you want to donate, and one for items you are keeping which belong in another room.  The trash bag is for…trash.  Label each box according to its function. 

Now you’re ready to get started!

Recommended Reading

When it comes to getting rid of unwanted stuff, there are tons of great options available. There is real truth to the maxim "one man's trash is another man's treasure". This can be true whether you are donating stuff to charity or selling stuff. 

For more information on deciding what to do with your unwanted stuff, click on the images below.

Four Key Questions

There are four key questions to ask yourself when considering whether or not keep something.

Do I want it?

Do I need it?

Do I use it?

Do I like it?

If the answer to any one of these questions is no, the item is a good candidate for elimination.  If the answer to all of them is no, don’t think twice.  Get rid of it!

Be honest with yourself.  Evaluate your stuff as realistically as possible.  Give yourself permission to part with what you don’t want, don’t need, don’t like, or don’t use.  You’ll be better off without it. 

Take it Step-by-Step

The best and most effective way to purge your belongings is a little at a time.  Try to keep decluttering sessions to no more than an hour.  If you work for longer than that, you may start to get burned out.  Consequently, you will not be as effective.  Your judgment may become impaired with regard to what things you should and should not keep. 

The ideal sorting session is 30 minutes.   In that time frame, you can work through a dresser, cabinet, or closet. 

If you are faced with a task that will take more than 30 minutes to complete, turn on a movie, play some music, or listen to a pod cast while you work.  I often identify things that need decluttering and set them aside to go through while I’m watching TV, talking on the phone, or supervising homework.  

Tackle One Room at a Time

Another effective method of decluttering is to move systematically through your home, clearing out one room at a time.  Try to move in a logical fashion through your home rather than jumping all around so it’s easier to keep track of what you've done. 

Break the task down further by daily sorting through one dresser, desk, closet, cabinet, bookcase or other area of the room until the room is fully purged.  Then move on to the next room. 

Consistency is the key to successful purging. Avoid distractions. Shun procrastination.  Give yourself plenty of time to work through the process.  It's not a race. Slow and steady progress will lead to long term success. 

Recommended Reading

To read more about how to stop procrastinating and declutter click on the image below. 

Overcoming Obstacles to Purging

We all face obstacles when it comes to eliminating the unnecessary in our lives; these are usually in the form of attitudes.  These obstacles prevent us from parting with things that really have no value in our lives. 

The biggest obstacle to purging is guilt.  Many people feel guilt when it comes to getting rid of things.  Some people feel guilty because they spent a lot of money on something they don’t use.  Others feel guilty because the item in question was a gift.  For some, their guilt is centered on an item’s usefulness; they have a hard time parting with things that still have value. 

Another obstacle to purging is fear – specifically the fear that you might need a thing after you have parted with it. 

Sentimentality is also a common reason for holding on to things beyond their usefulness.

The best way to combat these and any other obstacles that may be preventing you from purging is to focus on the benefits that are sure to come from downsizing your stuff.  What are the benefits?  They are many, and they include the following:

  • Increased space – Who among us couldn't do with a little more space?  I know I could!  Decluttering always leads to more space in which to more effectively store and display the things you really care about and use. 
  • Increased time – Clutter takes time.  When things are crowded and disorganized, we often spend valuable time searching for things we need but can’t find.  The more clutter-free the environment, the less likely things will get misplaced.  And if they do go missing temporarily, they’ll be much easier to locate.
  • Discover lost treasures – I have yet to help my son declutter his room without him exclaiming part way through the process, “Hey!  Look what I found!  I forgot I had this.”  During our most recent declutter session, he found an item he’s been diligently seeking for months. 
  • Lighten your load – This is true both physically and spiritually.  Not only will you decrease the amount of stuff you have and thereby the physical ‘weight’ of your possessions, you will decrease the intellectual and emotional load associated with keeping track of all that unwanted stuff.  There is something truly cathartic about standing back and appreciating a newly decluttered space.  It just feels good to be free of unnecessary material things.  What’s more, things often have emotional baggage associated with them.  When you let go of such things, you give yourself permission to dismiss the emotional burden as well. 
  • Less work – the more stuff you have, the more stuff you have to take care of, keep clean, and keep track of.  It’s liberating to let go of some of your stuff and in the process decrease your work load.
  • Enjoy a sense of accomplishment – decluttering your belongings can be a lot of work, but getting it done and doing it well is truly satisfying.  Pat yourself on the back for a job well done and enjoy the sense of success.  

This statuette was a gift from a very dear friend while we were living overseas.  For years we carried it around with us from house to house, never displaying it.  It just wasn't 'us'.  It didn't work in our home.  But we kept it because we love the person who gave it to us.  Finally, I decided to take my own advise and find a new home for it because I don't love it, need it or use it, and neither does anyone else in my home.  Letting go of this item doesn't lessen my love for the person who gave it to me or the memories I have of that person.  I feel better knowing it has a chance to be enjoyed by someone else instead of sitting in a box in my basement or garage.

Recommended Reading

For an in depth look at overcoming the obstacles to decluttering click on the image below.

As you can see, the benefits of removing the excess from your life and home far outweigh any excuses you might have for not doing it.  Start your purge today and welcome in the peace of mind that comes from clearing out, cleaning up, and getting rid of excess stuff.

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