Clutter happens. It's a by-product of living a life.
But every so often, clutter turns from the benign annoyance in that upstairs bathroom cabinet to a malevolent force threatening to overtake our peace of mind.
Clutter can sometimes feel insurmountable. I avoid the spot under the basement stairs because I know there are decades worth of old t-shirts hiding there. It's normal to avoid the task when it seems like it will take all day, or week, or well, forever! A lot of us have this issue, this too-much-stuff problem.
Decluttering shows have become an offshoot of home décor reality TV. Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is at the top of the declutter food chain. I'm going to go against the popular sentiment and say her method doesn't work for me. Touching all my objects, dumping out entire closets, ruminating over whether a doodad brings me joy leaves me weepy in a pile of things that conjure sweet memories. I require ice cream afterward to deal with all the feelings.
Swedish Death Cleaning is more my style. That mindset has led me to declutter success. The basic idea is simple, do you want your kids to have to deal with this stuff after you go? I want my kids to remember me fondly, not curse my name because I've left fifteen clutch purses in the closet for them to deal with. While an item may bring me joy in life, its existence in my home could bring my kids trauma after I go. So it gets donated or dumped based on that criteria.
I run a decluttering club on Facebook. We share ideas and cheer each other's successes. It is comforting to see I'm not the only one with a dozen useless chargers in a kitchen drawer.
Periodically our decluttering tribe participates in challenges. If you're having trouble starting your spring cleaning, consider some of our most successful methods of cutting the crud in our homes.
The 30-Day Minimalism Game—Invented by The Minimalists, the rules are simple, the day of the month equals the number of items to remove. March 1st, one item. March 15th, fifteen items. By March 31st, you're removing thirty items. In one month, 496 items of clutter are gone. Day one, maybe it's one big thing, like an old chest of drawers. If the higher numbered days seem daunting, try the sock drawers. I bet there are fifteen holey socks you can kick to the curb. The nice thing about this game is that it's open season on the entire house. You don't have to finish any particular room. It sets you up for easy success when you're not standing there faced with "finally cleaning the basement." You're just donating those old cleats. You can do that!
One Space a Day—For one month, you'll pick one space a day, not a room, just a space. We all have spots in our house that seem to collect stuff. Day One, clean the pantry, Day 23, tackle that medicine cabinet. Day 30, the TV stand. Slowly, deal with the spots that you've denied exist. None of the projects take all day. After thirty days, you've handled many small drawers and hiding places that cause anxiety.
Four Box Method for Room Decluttering—You're getting good at this decluttering thing and are ready to tackle an entire room. How do you start? Our group likes the Four Box Method. Grab four large boxes and label each of them. One is for the Trash, one is for Donation, one is labeled Storage, and one is labeled Put Away. Everything in the room goes in one of the boxes. It might take more than a day. Maybe it's a project for the whole month. If you're feeling overwhelmed, you can stop, close the door, and restart later. You know every item is accounted for in that space when you finish.
Once you invest time in paring down, you're less likely to waste money. These days I ask myself the Kondo question before I purchase. Will this bring me joy? Is this destined for Swedish Death Cleaning? That moment of reflection helps save money in the moment and a month of Saturdays in the spring.