Take the sting out of decluttering with these tips for letting go.

clutterMy favourite thing to do is to clean out a closet. Reducing my belongings to the essentials – the things I really love and really use – is so satisfying. There are countless studies that have proven that we are less stressed and more productive when our spaces are clear of things we do not use. And, as a person who owns a steamer trunk full of yarn, I’m not talking about not having things – I’m referring to not keeping things you do not use.

When you eliminate the excess and have space in your life (physical or emotional), you create a place where new experiences and things can enter. You’ll never take up cycling if the camping gear you haven’t used in years is taking up real estate your storage room.

It’s also good for you mentally and emotionally. Staying engaged in life means opening up to new experiences and not holding onto the past, be it memories or things. So, if you cannot throw out anything or give anything away, you might want  to take a deeper look at this. There could be some bigger reason why you hold onto things in your life.

At any rate, for most people the chore of tossing unworn clothing and out-dated textbooks into a cardboard box destined for Goodwill or the trash bin. Here are some ways you can make it easier:

1. Do it in stages. It’s helped me a lot to do several purges. The first one are the obvious things you haven’t worn in a year or more. Books that you didn’t finish or gifts still in their packaging. After that you can do several other purges until you get to the final stage where you are really considering if you are ever going to learn French or knit that scarf. This is the stage that most people start with and it terrifies them, but once you’ve swept through your home about three times there are two things that will happen. First of all, you will be braver and ready to let go of more. Second, you’ll be so sick of de-cluttering that you just want it over with.

2. Put deadlines on things. If you are really having a tough time letting go of your unused roller blades, put a date on a post-it note and attach it to the roller blades. If you haven’t used them by that date then it’s time to say goodbye. The same for magazines or books that you intend to read.

3. Use your storage space strategically. Storage space should be an extension of your closet space, not a place to put things indefinitely. It can also be used as a pre-purging spot. I will put things in my storage locker for a period of time and if a year or two has passed and I haven’t touched it, I can assume that I can live without it.

4. Buy good quality items. The dollar store has great, cheap items but the challenge is that if it’s not used anymore what do you do with it? Giving it to a thrift store isn’t a great idea because they need good quality items, not cheap dollar store items that they can only sell for 50 cents. So it either sits on your counter or ends up in a landfill. My reasoning is that if you aren’t willing to pay for a quality item, you can usually find a workaround so that you don’t have to purchase it.

5. Always have a donation bag in progress. In my closet I always have a bag with items I plan on donating. That pair of shoes that are a little too narrow for my feet…in the bag it goes. That sweater that looked good on me in the store, I don’t need it hanging in my closet. It makes it easier to keep your closets and drawers neat if declutter as you go. This is especially true if you have children.

Hire a professional. This can be handy if you are overwhelmed or want to preserve your marriage. There are a ton of professional organizers who can help you declutter and manage your stuff.

Throw a clothing swap party. If you have some nice pieces that you want to see going to a good home, you can get a group of girlfriends together and exchange clothes.

Find a recipient. A lot of my friends who have children have had a benefactor of second hand children’s clothes. This can help you keep your closets neat as well as make a good friend really happy!

Put your things up for sale. Consignment stores take designer bags and clothing and you can sell other items on Craigslist or Kijiji. The only downside is that it takes a bit of work and that can deter you from decluttering.

A final note – once you have decluttered, start thinking twice about things you buy. That novelty item will be interesting for a while but eventually it’ll start taking up space in your home and your life.

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