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less stuff, less stress: 6 steps to declutter + destress



Summer might be just around the corner, but that doesn't mean we couldn't all benefit from a little (late) spring cleaning. For some reason, during the colder months of the year, clutter seems to build up and suddenly the warmer months arrive and stuff has piled up all over the house. You've probably heard it before, but let me tell it to you again: the way the outside looks is often a reflection of what's going on inside. If your place is full of clutter, your mind's going to have a hard time staying clear. It's so important to get rid of clutter and organize your life if you want to live positively in the present. Clutter—mental or physical—will hold you back from being positive and it will make you want to escape the present (because who wants to stay in a cluttered place or mindset!). 

Unfortunately, decluttering isn't always easy. If it were, we'd all have perfectly pristine homes in which nothing is ever out of place. But that's not quite the case, is it? Even the most organized people have a bit of clutter they can do without—and clearing it will help make room for the things that are really important, as well as provide your home and mind with a nice clean state. Clutter causes stress and stress is something we definitely don't need more of in our lives. To destress, it helps to declutter. Here are tips to help you get started:  


Get rid of what you don't need. It can be really difficult to let go of the things you think you need, but take a look at the stuff around you and ask yourself, "Do I really, truly need this right now?" Don't think about how someday, down-the-road, maybe, possibly you could use it. Think about right now. Most of us have things around us that we could get rid of right this moment and never think about again once they are out of sight. Donate or trash these things immediately. Don't wait to see if you "might need it someday" and don't allow yourself any excuses. If you don't use it or absolutely love it (and by love, I mean love, adore, cherish, not "kinda like it"), chuck it.  


Put everything in its place. Often we have a lot of clutter because we don't have a place for things. Designate a home for every single thing you own, a place that makes sense to you (even if it doesn't to anyone else!). Every single thing—from loose coins to miscellaneous memorabilia—should have a place it calls home. Can't find a home for something? Then ask yourself why you have it. If it's not deserving of a home, it's not something you need. Once you find a place for everything, make sure you always return it to that place. It'll make it so much easier to find what you need (saving time!) and so much less likely that you'll buy something you already own (saving money!). It might take some time to find a place for everything, but the effort is well worth it. 


Take an inventory of your stuff. Once everything's in its place, take inventory of what you own. If you're like me, you'll probably want to write it down (or keep a list in your phone so you always have it with you!). Taking inventory is important because it'll help you to see all that you have. You'll be surprised by the things you'd forgotten about (a fly swatter? really?) and the things you have more than enough of (59 pairs of shoes?!). By keeping an inventory you'll be less likely to double up on purchases. And you'll be less likely to purchase things you don't need if you know you have to add them to your list, which will cut down on future clutter. (Remember: less is more!)


Make use of decluttering tools. Assess, then invest. As tempting as it is to run out and buy organizational supplies, don't bring in anything new until you really know what you need. Once you put everything in a specific place and get rid of all the things you don't need (which may take a while to do!), then you can go out and explore the world of organizing tools. For your closet, try a Closet Doubler to give you some more space. To keep track of the clothes you own, I highly recommend the Closet app. For the office (and everywhere!), consider picking up a Epson Label Maker to keep track of what's inside boxes, files, etc. You don't have to spend a lot to stay organized: check out sites like DollarTree for good deals on bins and baskets. 


Look out for tips and tricks. Great organizing ideas are everywhere—you just have to know where to find them! A great place to start is Pinterest, where people are posting daily about new and innovative ways to organize everything. You can start by checking out my Essential Organization board. Another great resource is Real Simple, one of my favorite magazines. If you don't subscribe to it, you can still check out their great ideas online, like on their Smart Organizing Ideas Pinterest board or their New Uses for Old Things page. There are also some great tips on Martha Stewart's organizing page. The more you read about organizing, the more ideas you'll find that work specifically for you, making it much easier to create a decluttered space that works with your unique lifestyle. 


Don't wait or hesitate. Although the act of decluttering can seem incredibly overwhelming, don't put it off. The longer you wait, the less likely it is that you'll actually do it. Block off some time on your calendar as soon as you can and get to it. And once you get started, don't hesitate. If your gut instinct says to get rid of something, do it. If, deep down, you know there's more you could be letting go of, put that stuff in the trash or the donation bin. Decluttering—simple as it might seem in theory—can be a really difficult thing, both emotionally and physically. You have to just dive into it and don't stop until it's done. 

Clutter can be lethal to your sanity. Even though it's just stuff, an excess of it seems to take up space in your mind, preventing you from feeling relaxed and at peace, even if everything else in your life is perfectly in place. Unfortunately, decluttering can be a difficult task—and one that so many of us want to put off until "someday"—but don't let the challenge of it scare you. Once you've done it, you'll feel amazing. If you don't believe me, try decluttering just one small area and see how it makes you feel. The more progress you make, the more you'll realize how true this is: less stuff equals less stress. 


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I'm currently going through my bedroom on a de-cluttering mission, so this post was a good motivator to keep going. I think the key for me is going to be finding a place for everything, something I've never really fully done in the past. With a place for everything, and everything in its place, hopefully I will be able to keep the clutter away for good. Thanks for the inspiration, as always!

Kayla - So glad this post came at a good time for you! The trick really is to find a place for everything. That's the hardest part, but once you do that part, it gets so much easier! Best of luck with the decluttering!

It's amazing how much having clutter can wear on your subconscious! I remember one day I was feeling anxious and upset for what I thought was no reason, so I channeled the energy into making myself do some organizing and cleaning, And like magic I felt better. Just being in a cluttered area had been enough to change my state for the worse. Nice list of tips to keep clutter away for good!

David Goettsch (Personal Growth Project)

David - I totally know what you mean! Sometimes just clearing out one area can make you feel so much better and help you to get back on track. And it's a great way to channel your energy when you feel upset or overwhelmed.

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