I spent a lot of last month decluttering my life: physically and emotionally. I’ll be honest, it took work but my goodness, it was worth it.
My cupboards and drawers were the first to take the decluttering hit. Within 3-days of full-on work, I had cleared & reorganised 3 storage cupboards, 9 drawers, my entire kitchen & two storage trunks ( just for good measure).
The funny thing was, although I did feel tired afterwards, I actually really enjoyed the process. To say I loved the end result, would be a big understatement. I was so proud. Sad though it may seem, I would stand and stare at my completed handiwork for a long time – the good feelings just kept on coming.
This encouraged (and freed) me to work on the emotional, rather cluttered-looking cupboard, that is my brain. Certainly, a far easier task when the environment surrounding me felt calmer. I’ll explain how I went about it in a moment, but I’m positive all the clarity I gained will help me to live happier.
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Now, I know the thought of a declutter can induce panic, and who has the time, right? However, if you invest the time needed and do it in a way that works for you, your well-being will be paid dividends.
Here are just some of the benefits you could realise when you declutter your life…
- Creates a cleaner environment and a calmer mind
- Reduces stress
- Makes your life more organised & streamlined
- Frees you up to focus on what matters to you and brings you joy (as well as helping you to realise what matters and brings you joy)
- Boosts your mental health
- Saves you time (whether that’s looking for something, tidying up, or time spent making decisions)
- Saves you money (you know what you have and what you have space for)
- Helps the environment – when you know what you have you’re more likely to use it and less likely to make unnecessary duplicate purchases generating less waste (I’m ashamed to say I found 4 boxes of laundry powder in my cupboard when I honestly thought I had none. I also owned enough cake candles to decorate the birthday cakes of 100-year-old twins.)
- Increases self-esteem
- Cathartic process – encourages you to reflect and let go.
That’s a lot of great benefits! The question now is how do you declutter your life to realise those benefits? Let me share with you some key pieces of advice…
How to declutter your life: physically
Personally, for my own life declutter, I started with my physical environment. I know if I’m surrounded by mess, my energy won’t allow me to focus. However, this might be the opposite for you. You may need to work through the emotional stuff before you feel calm & confident to work on your environment. Either way, it works.
Good to know: There isn’t a set time limit for how long this will take. It will vary due to the size of your space, how much you want to work your way through, and how organised it was to start with. How decisive you are will factor too. I was quite full-on with my decluttering due to having a limited window of opportunity. However, you really can start with just one area or even, just one drawer. You don’t need to overwhelm yourself in the process. Becomingminimalist.com shares some tips on how to declutter far more gradually.
I used The Home Edit method to declutter. You can watch them for yourself on Netflix. Don’t panic when you see the beautiful aesthetic lengths they go to. I certainly didn’t go to these lengths. I did what worked for me and left out what didn’t. I encourage you to take the same approach.
That being said, their decluttering ‘principles’ are sound and thoroughly recommended:
Work out your goals
Before you even start to declutter, work out your goal for each space. For example, mine was to organise in a way that was functional for the whole family. I wanted to create a craft cupboard for my daughter and I wanted to reorganise the kitchen to reflect the growing independence of my children, e.g placing items such as breakfast bowls and cereals etc. at a level they could safely access for themselves.
Knowing what the goals were upfront made it much easier to make decisions throughout the process.
This was the cathartic part of the process. Also known as purging or cleansing, you’re basically going through everything and deciding what to keep, donate, bin or recycle.
For each item, question: do I really need this? Do I use it? If the answer is no or even, not really and if it’s not very sentimental, you should donate it or if it’s worse for wear – bin or recycle it. It does help to be decisive here. Remember the more you clear, the less you have to find a home for!
This involves taking everything out (yes I really did this) and sorting it all into categories. For example, categories I created for my hallway cupboard included: Kid’s winter hats & gloves, kid’s summer hats, floor cleaners, batteries, shoe care, lightbulbs, canvas tote bags etc. For my daughter’s craft cupboard I included: paints, glitters, glues, chalks, crayons, brushes, stickers, fabrics etc. I hope you get the drift.
Having everything laid out (although chaotic at first) makes it far easier to work out the categories and the next step much quicker.
Although I’ve organised before, it’s not until I adopted this step that the decluttering went to a far more useful level. Contain basically means storing your categories together in an appropriate container.
Putting them into stackable boxes maximises the use of space, keeps everything a lot tidier and more easily accessible. Aside from stackable boxes, you can use baskets, shelf dividers, storage drawers; I even have a Lazy Susan in my kitchen cupboard that helps me store my oils & vinegars etc.
Now, this is the step that can make the declutter quite expensive. I did burn a reasonable hole in my credit card with mine. I thought, invest now, save later, but that really doesn’t need to be the case.
You can repurpose packing boxes, cleaned out ice cream tubs, jam jars and Christmas sweet tins etc. It helps to have a variety of shapes and sizes to work with. I also scoured my house for spare storage boxes and found more than I realised I had (a slight theme going on here!)
Put your items by category into the storage containers and begin to place them back into the storage space. You’ll probably need to move them around a bit until it all fits.
Lastly, and this is optional but recommended, label your storage containers. This makes it easier for you to quickly identify what’s where and also helps anyone you live with to maintain the system too. You can buy fancy pre-printed labels or you can handwrite onto sticky address labels, it’s up to you.
Top tip: Place frequently used items in easier to access spaces. Consider seasonality too – at present, our winter accessories are within easier reach than our summer ones. Additionally, to allow children to access items independently, place them at an accessible height. The more you fit it to your lifestyle, the more you’re likely to maintain it.
And you’re done…
Now you’ll be able to see what you have, find items quicker, tidy away faster, save yourself time & money and generate less waste. Not bad, hey? And hopefully, you’ll experience a nice mental health boost too.
How to declutter your life: emotionally
The aim of an emotional declutter is to clear out what no longer serves you. Maybe that’s toxic relationships or not owning your boundaries or unhelpful (and untrue) negative beliefs you hold about yourself.
There are a few ways to go through an emotional declutter…
Spending time writing down your thoughts and feeling can help you process. Try writing freely, or use journaling prompts. Google: journal prompts for [insert what you’d like to gain answers to here], there are a wealth of prompts out there.
Additionally, if you sign up to my newsletter, you’ll receive my free 5 Reflective Thinking Prompts to Help you Gain Clarity workbook. This is something I completed when working through my own declutter.
Here’s a helpful article on how to journal: 10 Journalling tips to help you heal, grow & thrive
Top Tip: Use the current global pandemic to your journalling advantage. Ask yourself, what have you missed doing, who have you missed seeing? What or who were you pleased to be separated from?
Nothing quite buys you headspace like meditation. It’s a fantastic tool for calming any overactive mind monkeys. Quite often answers reveal themselves to you in the process of just being still and breathing.
You can find out more about mindfulness and meditation here: An Introduction to Mindfulness
Related Reading: A Technique to Calm Your Worrying Thoughts
Talk to a professional
This won’t be necessary for everyone but for deep-rooted issues seeking counselling or therapy can help. I myself went through EMDR therapy a few years ago, which was very helpful in realising what to let go of. It certainly helped me move on from a few relationships that weren’t doing anything for my well-being! The coaching services of a life coach can also help you emotionally declutter your life.
Personally, I completed a self-awareness course and I also spent time working out my values. I’ll write more about this in the near future, but for now, acknowledging my key values helped me to understand myself more and made my life direction clearer for me.
Good to know: There are plenty of books available to help you gain a greater understanding of your emotional well-being. I’ve recommended 5 of my favourites here.
As you can see there are a number of options available to you to declutter your life on an emotional level…
You could undertake just one or try all, or cherry pick – it really depends on you and what you need to declutter.
Since completing a lot of the above, I’ve found it easier to make decisions, to know what I need to do more of and ultimately what I need to do less of! This has helped me feel clearer, more assured and calmer even amongst the chaos.
Which is why I advocate you undertake a life declutter too…
Yes, it takes work, but the benefits are worth it. I’m already working out what’s next on my hit list. Honestly, give it a go, I think you’ll be happier for it.
How do you feel about decluttering? Is it something you can see yourself completing? Is it something you enjoy or hope to do more of? Whatever you’d like to say or ask, please get in touch via the comments below. I’m happy to help and I always love to hear from you!