I shall now use my astonishing psychic powers to mystically link our minds through the internet. Yes, yes, I’ve achieved a connection, and I’m exploring your mental projection of your home. I see… Boxes. Piles of unnecessary cardboard boxes, some containing assorted trinkets of unknown origins and others almost empty, kept in case you need to return something. Oh, the hoarding! The calamitous hoarding! It’s enough to make a minimalist weep.
Ludicrous claims of supernatural mental abilities aside, you presumably do have too much clutter in your home, because that goes for most people (and you clicked on this post, which is something of a giveaway).
We like to gather and store things. The more things we have, the more secure we feel — but this can go too far and become a problem. We can surround ourselves with unnecessary things, artificially generating cramped conditions.
If you fight that clutter, though, you can rid yourself of so many unnecessary possessions, freeing you up to downsize to a smaller house (there are notable advantages to this, though some cons as well: you need to decide if it’s right for you). In this piece, we’re going to set out seven simple tips to help you get things done. Let’s get to them.
Start with a small area
Here’s the thing about chores: no matter how strongly you intend to get them done, they’re all vulnerable to the classic “I’ll get started in a minute” tactic.
It bears noting, though, that we usually do this when we’ve bitten off more than we want to chew. There’s too much work, it’s going to take a long time, and we’d rather not get started at all.
The alternative is to identify a much smaller task that you can complete relatively quickly. Once that’s out of the way, you can appreciate what you’ve achieved and feel major motivation to move on to the next small task. So why not pick out a small area in your house to clean up? It could be your spare bedroom, your closet, or even your kitchen table. Just line it up and get it done as swiftly as you can. It’ll really help.
Look for things to sell
The idea of throwing things away can be tough to face, particularly when you’re a frugal person, so get into the right mindset by considering what you could sell.
If you could get a decent sum for something, set it aside. If you’re not sure about something, put it in a box with some other things in that position and throw a yard sale (or your regional equivalent). Once you’re used to the idea of parting ways with things (especially for money), the concept won’t seem so bad.
Wage war on cardboard
When you buy something, you know that you might need to return it. Maybe it won’t work as well as you’re hoping, or maybe it’ll develop a fault within the warranty period. Regardless, you also suspect that sellers can be awkward about original packaging, so you resolve to cling desperately to that packaging for as long as you can.
You’re distantly aware that you barely ever have to return things, and that original packaging probably isn’t a must-have item, but what if you’re wrong?!
You need to move past this fear. You don’t need those boxes. Cut them into pieces and recycle them. If you ever need to ship your TV for repair, you can always get a new box.
Let your friends take items
If you’re struggling to be suitably dispassionate, have a friend (or friends) visit to help you out.
They can force you to be more realistic about what you really need — by reminding you that you haven’t worn that hat for at least a decade, for instance. Pick your most brutal friends to join you in this — it’ll be good for you, we promise.
Friends can also help you by taking some of your old stuff. After all, one (wo)man’s trash is another (wo)man’s treasure. If they can use something you don’t need, that’s an easy win.
Get rid of old electronics
Since we already covered the point of looking for things to sell or give to friends, any old electronics that remain must be fairly useless. Don’t cling to them in the hope that they’ll become hyper-valuable relics down the line. Scarcity drives value, and there are far too many original Game Boys around for a used one to be worth much.
If you’re unlikely to ever use an old gadget away, throw it away. Good riddance.
Move things into storage
Once you’ve trimmed things down to the bare minimum, you need to clear them out so you can start looking to downsize (assuming that’s what you want to do). To save you time later, and leave the place looking as good as possible, you should rent some storage and move everything there (with some exceptions, such as key items of furniture).
This also serves as a final test of your decluttering work. If there’s any chance that you’ve kept things you should have thrown away, the prospect of having to move it not once but twice (into storage, then out of storage once you’ve secured a new place) might get you to reconsider.
Look at practical houses
Lastly, when you come to look at alternative properties, do the sensible thing and be practical.
When you move, you want to be able to store all your possessions without leaving the place cluttered. Why? Because clutter begets more clutter (which soon leads to anxiety). Once you allow your home to get marginally untidy, you’ll become less and less organised until it’s just as cluttered as your old place.
So in addition to your other criteria, make practicality a vital element of every property you consider. And when you ultimately move, make a huge effort to clear everything away logically before you start to relax. Start as you mean to go on.