Marie Kondo, the author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and the Netflix show, teaches a method in which you have to throw all of your clothes in a huge pile and then begin sorting which items “spark joy” in order to keep them and donate the rest.
I think that her method is too overwhelming if you have lots of things, and it would take me forever to go through a huge pile all at once, on top of having a nervous breakdown. That’s something that I wouldn’t be able to handle in an hour, much less in fifteen minutes. Also, seeing that pile would spiral me into despair, and I would do everything to procrastinate and avoid the task at hand.
I teach the opposite, to go the slow route in which you take a section of your room, for example, a dresser or a drawer, and start there. As soon as that piece of furniture is done, you keep on going to the next. This method works if you’re a busy person or if you just hate organizing, but you know that you have to get it done. So if you only have ten minutes to declutter, you’ll be able to get something done.
If you try to do everything in one single day you’ll probably burn out and give up before finishing. On the other hand, if you start with something that feels easy and doable, like organizing for fifteen minutes or decluttering one drawer, you’ll get a quick win that will make you want to keep going.
Here are the steps to follow:
- Starting small is the secret. That’s why more than 80 % of New Year’s resolutions fail by February, because people make these huge, lofty goals that require them to be a different person overnight, and therefore they fail.
- Stop keeping things for “just in case”. It creates a sense of false expectations, that you’ll need or use something in the future, it leads to disappointment and it’s also sending the Universe a message of lack.
Questions to ask yourself when decluttering:
- Do I still use it or need it?
- Do I have several and can streamline?
- Does it belong somewhere else in the house?
Be ready with trash bags and donation boxes when you tackle each space. Create a habit. Attach your new habit of organizing to a habit that you already do. For example: if you decide to organize for fifteen minutes right after you finish your dinner, then give yourself the rest of the evening off, guilt-free, because you’ve moved the needle on your goal. Be ok with imperfections, it’s better to do something than nothing at all.
Seek help. If you’re positive that you’re not going to be able to tackle it on your own, seek help from a friend, a family member or a professional organizer. You can also get creative and barter your services in exchange for someone to help you organize.I go much faster when I’m able to have someone helping me make decisions.
Help others. “One man’s trash, another man’s treasure”, what you donate and give to others can be a blessing in their life if it’s in good condition. Throw away chipped, broken and damaged goods that you wouldn’t like to receive.
Celebrate your success. Seek progress, not perfection. It doesn’t matter how small the task that you accomplish is, taking the time to acknowledge it will give you the boost that you need to keep moving forward. Seeing something organized or crossed off a to-do list gives you a hit of dopamine, just like sugar or a drug, making you want to continue. Take a moment to breathe into the newly organized room a sense of calm, expansiveness, of openness even if it’s only a drawer, take a moment to smile in satisfaction for the job well done.
Cliff notes on the non-Marie Kondo method:
- Declutter each room by getting rid of the items that no longer serve you and that you don’t like or haven’t used in several years.
- You can do this process at your own pace. I recommend that you start small, by limiting the amount of time that you spend organizing, or by focusing on one area only. Don’t move to the next room until you’re done with the first one.
- Only after having decluttered will you know if you’re going to need an organizing item for that room, such as a box, drawer insert, shelves, etc.
- Deep clean the furniture where you’re going to place the items that you’re going to keep.
- Organize them by categories so that you store each category together.
- Maintain. Don’t let your stuff get out of control, everything should have a place to return to.
- Keep decluttering on a regular basis, keep a donation bag in your closet.
- Don’t forget to celebrate your progress.
The biggest payoff for decluttering is that our stuff doesn’t control us anymore, and we’re able to reclaim control of our lives and enjoy the things we choose to keep.