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Clutter has a way of creeping into our lives. Decluttering is part of the normal ebb and flow of life. While challenging, it can be a gratifying way to organize and rejuvenate your space.

In this ongoing series, we’ll draw from a variety of knowledgeable sources to help you find decluttering strategies that will work for you long-term. One of our key sources is world-class organizer Jane Stoller. This Swiss-Canadian author and organization expert travels around the world speaking about organization and managing spaces effectively.

Let’s get started!

Determine Your Cluttering Pattern

Clutter doesn’t just happen; there’s usually an underlying cause. Rather than tackling the surface-level issue of the clutter itself, first, consider why your spaces accumulate clutter. Here are the major types:

The emotional clutterbug: You hold onto things out of emotional or sentimental attachment.

The “just-in-case” or “I can use it someday” clutterbug: You keep items you don’t need around for fear of needing them someday and regretting throwing them away.

The “I’ll do it later” clutterbug: You feel overwhelmed or burnt out by decluttering, so you avoid it.

The “I can’t decide” clutterbug: Whenever you try to declutter, you find yourself stifled by indecision.

The collector clutterbug: Rather than keeping collections organized and cherished, they overtake your life.

Think about how your cluttering style relates to your goals and lifestyle. What assumptions do you carry in your life that perpetuate your cluttering style? Analyze those thought patterns and try to reframe them. Are they realistic? Are they accurate? Shift your mindset from beating yourself up to taking action.

Staying Motivated

One of the hardest parts of decluttering is sticking to it. It’s so tempting to end a decluttering project halfway through. To keep yourself motivated, before you start, consider the cost of keeping your clutter. Factor in your time, mental energy, and physical energy.

Cluttering weighs on you subconsciously. Reducing unwanted items from your life lifts that burden from your mind. It can also save you time and money. When everything in your home has a place, it’s much easier to find things instead of wasting hours looking for them or purchasing them again.

Make a Decluttering Game Plan

  • First, decide to declutter your space. If you’re reading this, you’ve already made that decision. Way to go!
  • Give yourself plenty of time for your decluttering process. Rushing through it is stressful and often ineffective.
  • Be specific about what space you’re going to tackle. If it’s physical, is it your work area? Kitchen? A specific closet?
  • Give yourself permission to get help or support from a family member or a friend or a professional.

Physical Space Steps

  • Specifically, name the area you’re going to declutter.
  • Start by throwing away any unused, broken, or unusable items.
  • Look for ways to redesign the space so it’s more functional and less likely to accumulate mess again. Take steps to eliminate clutter traps.

Digital Space Steps

  • Be aware of your online footprint and when a digital spruce-up is in order.
  • Clear out and organize your accounts/folders/data/files.
  • Create a sustainable system to keep your digital spaces functional and secure long-term.

The most important thing is to not be hard on yourself; life can be hectic, especially while we’re all living through a pandemic. Remember your goal.  Take small steps.  And when you’re done, reward yourself for a job well done!