January 19, 2018

Three key principles for successful decluttering


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Today I'd like to introduce you to my three key principles for successful decluttering. There is a lot of advice out there on how to declutter, and some of it is contradictory and confusing. 

You might have heard of or even read Marie Kondo’s bestselling book “The life-changing magic of tidying up”. You , along millions of others, might love her approach of going around the house gathering all items of a certain category, pile it up in your living room and then go through it one by one to see what sparks joy and what doesn’t.

Sometimes though that doesn’t work that well.

or let’s say this approach doesn’t work that well for everybody.

I used to do it Marie Kondo’s way, long before Marie Kondo wrote her book (Shush: probably before she was even born). Yes, it seems I was a ‘weird’ teenager. I loved decluttering and rearranging my room and I did it on a regular basis. I would pull out all my stuff, sort through it, purge a lot and put the things I kept back in a newly organized way.

Back then, of course, I had no idea that what I was doing was called decluttering. I also didn’t know why I was doing it and I didn’t use the key principles of successful decluttering that I apply now. I simply did it because I felt a need to do it. I felt the need to let go of the stuff that wasn’t serving me anymore.

It took me sometimes hours to get my room back together and this would drive my mother nuts. She would come at the worst possible moment to check on me and lose it over the mess (sorry mom). Sometimes I would get overwhelmed or tired in the middle of it and had to push myself to finish the task.

Later in life, I learned that there is a better, less overwhelming way and I came up with my key principles for successful decluttering:

This is also the approach that I now suggest to my clients. The chance that you get overwhelmed before you even start and/or that you burn out in the middle of it are kept to a minimum.

Let look at them a little closer: 

Principle 1: Divide your area into small, manageable chunks

Rather than trying to declutter your whole house in one weekend and burn out completely, walk through your house with a piece of paper, note what areas need to be decluttered, if necessary divide each area in even smaller areas and then declutter one area at a time (see principle 3)

So instead of taking everything out of the cupboards or the closet, go shelf by shelf, or drawer by drawer. If that is too big of an area for the time you have available, do the left side only and the right side when you next declutter.

Principle 2: Start with the least personal area

If you have not decluttered much before or not for a long time, it’s like sports, you need to build up your decluttering muscle slowly. Start with an area that doesn’t hold any or many personal and emotional items. The kitchen is often a good place or the bathroom.

When you got into a routine and rhythm of decluttering it will be easier to tackle the more emotional areas also because you experienced already the positive effects of successful decluttering sessions.

Principle 3: A few minutes a day keep chaos away

Rather than decluttering one whole weekend and burn out completely, declutter on a regular basis for 5, 10, or 20 minutes at a time. Taking five minutes to declutter daily is more powerful and often more effective over the long run than a three-hour purge on the weekend.

The easiest way to declutter is, to create daily routines that become automatic. These routines become habits you don’t even think about.

The secret to success is found in your daily routine. ~John C. Maxwell

There is a time and place for decluttering a whole day or weekend. 

For example, if you hire a clutter clearing practitioner that helps you jump start a big decluttering project and helps you stay motivated and on track.

Also, it can work if you know you are the kind of person that can stay focused on the task for a whole day.

These are my three decluttering principles, of course, there are more ideas and strategies on how to declutter, but if you implement these three principles into your decluttering efforts you are off to a good start and your decluttering muscle will grow strong.

What do you think, will you try my key principles out? Let me know in the comments below. 

If you are stuck and like help with your decluttering efforts book a free 20-minute phone or Skype consultation with me here.

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  • I love how you make your tips so manageable, Conny, such as taking small, manageable amounts of time daily, rather than over-doing it in one day, and not getting back to it, as you say, for sometimes months! Thank you very much for the reminder that it is what we do consistently that makes the difference!

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