4. My 3 Key Principles for successful decluttering - Conny Graf

I have no rules on how to declutter or in what order to declutter but I have 3 key principles on how to start your successful decluttering journey. 

Once your decluttering muscle is trained a bit, you might not need these principles anymore but in the beginning they can help you succeed. 

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Episode Transcript

This is From Chaos to Peace with Conny, Episode number 4 - My 3 key principles for successful decluttering


Welcome everyone how is it going, this is episode number 4 of the From Chaos to Peace podcast where you learn how a few minutes a day keeps the chaos away, thank you so much for being here with me. 

As I said this is episode 4, we started our journey with me introducing myself and my philosophy around decluttering, then in episode 2 I introduced you to the different kinds of clutter and in episode 3 I explained why I call decluttering an act of self-love. If you've missed any of these episodes, and this one is your first one, you might want to go back to the other ones and have a listen - but wait, not until you listened to this episode. 


Because today I want to talk about my 3 key principles for decluttering, and I want to say right of the bat, these are not rules, I don't have rules on how to declutter, but I share with you these three principles to make decluttering easier for you. Especially when you are new to decluttering these principles help you succeed from the beginning. 

So my 3 key principles are:
  • Principle 1: Divide your area you are decluttering into small, manageable chunks
  • Principle 2: Start with the least personal area
  • Principle 3: A few minutes a day keeps the chaos away, taking 5 minutes to declutter daily is more powerful than a three-hour purge on the weekend

Think of these principles holistically - they work together. By starting with small, manageable chunks in the least personal areas, you will actually get traction spending only a few minutes a day. 

Gradually you will transform your space, build your decluttering muscles and increase the resilience needed to tackle more difficult areas. 


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

If you don't change your daily habits you will have a chaos again in a few days, weeks or months and because this cycle is so exhausting you most likely have a bigger chaos than before. (just like jo-jo dieting)

So let's look at these principles a little closer

Principle 1: Divide your area into small, manageable chunks

Many people get overwhelmed just thinking about the decluttering they need to do. But even if they do start on a decluttering project, they often take on too much, don’t manage their energy and then crash and burn . 

By this I mean that they leave the task unfinished, and it often looks more chaotic and cluttered than before. Also, if you try to declutter this way you will feel emotionally and physically depleted, and the little gremlin in your ear will start telling you "see you can't do it, you are just not an organized person" and all kinds of other negative talk 


Accomplishment and  a feeling of lightness follow a successful decluttering session, but you are feeling disappointed and even more overwhelmed instead. And because the experience was not a positive one, you are less likely to finish the started project or to start a new one, you give up, but that's giving up on yourself, please don't do that. 

If you don’t bite off more than you can chew and can feel good about what you did, you can experience the positive feelings that decluttering gives us-- a feeling of space, lightness and peace. So, divide the area into small, manageable chunks.
Examples of small areas are: 
  • a small drawer
  • a shelf in a closet, or maybe even half a shelf
  • a small corner in a room
  • under the sink
  • your handbag or your wallet
  • the trunk of your car

Principle 2: Start with the least personal area

Decluttering can be difficult, as nearly all our objects carry some form of attachment. There is a very practical side to decluttering, in the tools and how-to techniques, but there is also an emotional component. 

Many people do not get started because they already know they will have a hard time letting go, especially of items with a strong sentimental attachment. It is important to remember that you do not have to declutter anything you truly want to keep. I would never tell you to let go of anything, the decision is entirely yours.


My approach is about finding the balance between what you keep and what you declutter that is ideal for you. By starting with the least personal areas of your home, you will get to practice your decluttering skills, and experience success which will inspire and motivate you to do more. In that way, you will be more emotionally prepared to deal with letting go of your more personal items.

So which areas are the least personal? This is of course very individual, I once helped a client declutter her laundry room and it turned out to be a very personal and emotional area. So only you can answer this question, but typically less personal areas are bathroom, kitchen, broom closet, under the sink, the sock drawer


Principle 3: A few minutes a day keeps the chaos away

This principle is especially important and I have already talked about this in my very first episode. 

Most people think they need several hours, a whole day or even a whole weekend to make a dent in their clutter. But that’s like doing a crash diet: it’s not sustainable and only provides you with short-term success. The easiest way to declutter is to create daily routines that become automatic, like habits you don’t even think about. Decluttering becomes a way of life.


As leadership guru and author John Maxwell says, “The secret to success is found in your daily routine.” 

So now lets put it all together, because only action will get you decluttered, not just listening to me. If you are not driving right now or on the go in another way, take a piece of paper and a pen and quickly write down 3-5 small areas in your home or office that are cluttered. Go ahead, I wait 🙂  Got it? Ok now look at these 3-5 areas and decide, which one is the least personal to you... if you are not sure, just pick the one that you think it is. Then lets go over there and do some decluttering for 5 minutes right now - you can do it, I am with you.


Ok so here we are at your small not very personal area. If you are listening to this podcast on your phone, open the clock app and set the alarm for 5 minutes. Now lets start, without pulling everything out, just cherry pick out what you can see right away either doesn't belong in there or is garbage/recycling and needs to be thrown away. Make separate piles for the things that don't belong here but you want to keep and the garbage/recycling items. Let's just do this for 3 minutes while we have some uplifting music, you can make decluttering fun and enjoyable, it's taking care of yourself, remember I said in episode 3 that decluttering is self-love, so right now you are doing something for you, something that will have a long-term benefit for you and your wellbeing. 


How are you doing so far, could you identify and cherry pick some items that don't belong there or need to be thrown away or recycled? Keep going, you are doing good, don't forget to hum along with the music, make sure the task feels easy and light, don't pick anything out of there just yet that needs thinking or considering what to do with, only take things that definitely don't belong in this area or are definitely garbage/recycling. You are doing good, keep going.... light and easy. 


Ok now lets take the items you have on the pile for garbage/recycling and toss them into the right bin. Then take the other items that didn't belong into this area and put them where they belong. And voila, we are done and you just did your first decluttering session, you softly trained your decluttering muscle a bit without overextending it.
Keep your list and do another area from this list tomorrow or the next day. If you want guidance you can simply relisten to this episode and let me be part of your decluttering session.


Here a quick summary of my 3 key principles for declutteringPrinciple 1: Divide your area you are decluttering into small, manageable chunksPrinciple 2: Start with the least personal areaPrinciple 3: A few minutes a day keeps the chaos away


Ok my friends, that's what I have for you today. So lets put into action what you just discovered, identify some more small less personal areas in your home and office and address them 5 minutes at a time. My hope and idea is that you will listen to my podcast while you declutter a small area in your home or office. Remember "a few minutes a day keep the chaos away. 


You find all the links of the things I was taking about in the show notes, and the show notes you'll find at www.connygraf.com/podcast/4


Thank you for joining me on the podcast and listening all the way to the end. Have a beautiful and amazing week and please subscribe so you never miss an episode. See you next time, take good care. 

What you'll discover in this episode

  • Our journey so far and why I have no rules but principles
  • My 3 key principles for successful decluttering and how they work together
  • We do a 5-minute decluttering session together!

Resources

If you have any questions

If you have a question about decluttering, organizing or something you heard me talk about on the podcast I'd like to invite you to a free public call "ask Conny". You can ask me a question anonymously or just listen in what others ask.

Register here, I look forward to seeing you there. 

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