One of our family best practices is that for every item that enters the house, we donate / recycle / toss a comparable item. This is the only way to maintain an uncluttered, serene living environment.
In anticipation of gifts entering our home, I enthusiastically informed my tween daughter, Rebecka, that we would be decluttering her room, closet, and bathroom the day after Christmas. As expected, she didn’t express the same level of enthusiasm, but, nevertheless, agreed to participate in the “fun.” (I get totally excited about the prospect of spending several hours cleaning out closets and drawers – the messier the better!)
In fact, on Saturday morning, I bounced out of bed knowing that I would be tackling an especially challenging decluttering task. I left the apartment to exercise and returned to find that Rebecka had already taken care of her dresser and side table drawer. She had dutifully taken out all of her clothes, created a pile for Goodwill, and neatly put the remaining clothes back in the appropriate drawers. She has real decluttering talent!
We continued with the bookshelves, but that was more straightening out than decluttering. (We really love books.) Next we tackled the scary cabinet under the side table. (I’m not sure that we’ve ever cleaned it out.) This task definitely generated some trash and a few items for Goodwill as well. We put the remaining items back neatly and closed the door. We then moved on to the closet.
This poor closet has become the “if-it-doesn’t-fit-anywhere-else” space in our apartment. I actually dreaded going into the closet to retrieve the vacuum cleaner every week. So, I was determined to make this a pleasant closet. We took everything that wasn’t already in its proper place out of the closet and started going through it. The Goodwill pile grew, the trash bag got fuller, and we even managed to moved some things to our on-site storage area. The rest was carefully returned to a designated place in the now-pleasant closet.
At this point, Rebecka decided that she’d had enough, so I moved on to the final task on my own: The bathroom. This was almost scarier than the side table cabinet. I threw out a massive amount of orthodontic rubber bands (braces came off two weeks ago!) and “little girl” hair clips. I put the remaining items back neatly and breathed a contented sigh, “Ahhhhh… My work is done.”
When decluttering, I always ask the following questions:
- Have I used this in the last 6 months? (If no, get rid of it, unless it’s a seasonal item.)
- Is this something I really need or could somebody else get better use out of it?
- Is this something I love? (If yes, keep it!)
Simplicity and decluttering go together like bread and jam. As you move toward a simple life, you will have less need to declutter as you acquire less things. However, the more you think simple, the more things you realize you can live without (and actually want to live without). So, even if you don’t buy anything, a bi-yearly decluttering event may still be meaningful.
One more fun thing about decluttering: You always find something that was lost! We had at least two “I’ve been looking for that!” moments yesterday. It’s like a treasure hunt.
Note: I’ve gotten a lot of good ideas on decluttering from zenhabits.net. Here is a good blog post on How to Declutter an Entire Room in One Go. You’ll find other related posts at the bottom of the page.