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how i decluttered my house...

Oh Joy / Six Tips for Decluttering Your Home

I'm one of those people who is generally clean and organized. But I am also one of those people who has a lot of stuff. I wish I could have one pair of shoes, one simple, classic tee shirt that I could wear 25 ways, and that I could have my kids play with just 3 toys. But when I get things, they accumulate. I get attached, and I have a hard time letting go...especially if it's a thing that I can use to make something (you know..."Oh, I can use that if I'm ever making a Cleopatra costume" sort of thing). Our home has been feeling smaller and smaller everyday after adding a second babe in the mix, so I just needed to declutter and dehoard to feel like I could function and live in a space that was getting filled up with too much stuff.

So, I enlisted my friend Beth from B-Neato Bar to help me. Could I do it myself without help? Yes. But would I have kept putting it off week after week if that was the case? Yes! When there are things I don't really like to do, I need accountability to get those things done (ie. like getting a friend to meet you at the gym otherwise you won't show up and instead you'd sit on your couch eating a bag of chips and watching reality TV instead). Once a week for the past couple months, Beth has been coming over help me go through every room of my house. Sometimes we worked for six hours, sometimes it was only a couple hours. The point was that I learned a lot about how to really get rid of stuff (it's not just about throwing it away), and now I'm much better at decluttering on my own.

Here are a few things I learned...

Oh Joy / Six Tips for Decluttering Your Home

1. Set up the right environment. This is something we don't always think about because usually when you're doing it, you just want to get rid of stuff as soon as possible. Unfortunately, that mindset can actually make the process harder. After thirty minutes of going through things, you might find yourself with piles upon piles. And since they aren’t labeled and aren’t being sorted in any way, you get more frustrated than when you started. So, before you start, make sure you have: 

        - Multiple bins or containers (laundry bins, brown paper grocery bags, collapsable bins, etc.)

        - Label the bins: Recycle, Shred, Donate, Trash

Oh Joy / Six Tips for Decluttering Your Home

2. Pre-sort. This step was mind-blowing to me. Usually, when I try and get rid of stuff, I look at each piece one-by-one and decide what to do with it as I go. But if you pull out everything of its kind, lay them out together, and look at them as a whole, you can get a better grasp of the full picture. For example, if you're sorting through jewelry, lay out all the earrings, all the necklaces, all the bracelets, etc. each in their own group. Then you might be like, "Crap! I have so many necklaces I forgot about and have never worn!" Then you can decide which to keep after seeing every necklace you own all in one place.

And same goes with piles of paper from your desk...sort all of the business cards together, all of the receipts together, all of the cards and correspondence together, bills, unopened mail vs. opened mail, and so on and so forth. Not only does a high-level pre-sort speed up the process, it also makes the choices on what to do with any given category much easier (which is super important since you have lots of decisions to make in what stays and what goes). 

Oh Joy / Six Tips for Decluttering Your Home

3. Treat each article with respect. Even if something seems like trash, treat a receipt the same as you would a piece of jewelry. Look at them both to see what value they have before tossing something simply because it's a scrap of paper (that scrap might be an important receipt you need for your taxes).

Oh Joy / Six Tips for Decluttering Your Home

4. Enlist a friend. Can you do this on your own? Absolutely! Will you save yourself time and major frustration if you enlist the help of a friend, family member or even a professional organizer? Umm, yes! When organizing, it’s hard to let things go because of your own sentimental attachment. By having someone there to help, you have a less attached person either telling you that you really don't need it. Or, they're also there to hear about why you even have that weird cat sculpture from 1992 in the first place. This not only helps release the object but it cements the memory of it which you’ll have forever.

Oh Joy / Six Tips for Decluttering Your Home

5. Let it go! Like Elsa once said, let it go! It’s important that the items that you have decided to let go of leave the house immediately. It will be the icing on the cake and the ultimate reward for you and your space by getting the area clean and clear. It also feels really good to be helping out other folks with your donations which will add to the high of your newly organized space. This is where having a helper really pays off; you will be super tired after all the decision making so getting an extra hand (or two) to help load the car and take trash, recycling and shredding out is quite the treat. (And if you get rid of those things right away, you're less likely to look through them later and reconsider ;)

Oh Joy / Six Tips for Decluttering Your Home

6. Make the time for it. I say this a lot to people when they want to start their own side business or do some side project. Anything you say you'll do in your "spare time" never happens unless you set aside time to do it. Since I work from home on Wednesdays, I made that the day that I could work on going through this stuff. Whether it's for 2 hours or 6 hours, pick a day/time when you know you are generally free (or can be free). And stick to it. Unless you are moving, it doesn't have to happen all overnight. It worked well for me to stick to weekly dates until we got through every room of our house. And each week, I felt so great afterwards seeing the newly decluttered and organized room.

I still have a couple areas left to do (like our kitchen), but we're making progress! I hope these little tricks help you guys out, too!

P.S. Check out B-Neato for more decluttering tips!

{Illustrations by Casey Brodley for Oh Joy}