Decluttering For Dummies
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Decluttering should become a continual practice that you incorporate into your daily life forever. After it becomes a habit, it will seamlessly fit into your lifestyle. Soon, you won’t even think you are decluttering; it will simply be part of your routine!

Decluttering is not going to solve every problem, but the practice of changing your habits and mindset can help you achieve your goals and live better.

Smaller and more expensive dwellings

Even in Canada, where I am from — which is also one of the largest countries in the world — the houses are getting smaller. This is partly due to the fact that Canada is so cold that most of the population lives sprawled close to the U.S. border. Regardless, there is still lots and lots of space! However, the hottest markets are the big cities, which have less space and expensive real estate. Therefore, dwellings are getting smaller to be more affordable.

In a census conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2007, it was noted that Canada has the third largest dwellings in the world after Australia and the United States. This means many countries have smaller dwellings already!

In addition, increases in immigration in countries continue to put high demands on housing, and those arriving to countries such as Canada and the U.S. may not have such high demands for space because they’re likely used to smaller dwellings. The shrinking sizes of houses and condos in most major cities in North America will likely continue to be the trend. It’s imperative that you adopt your decluttering habits now, as smaller spaces leave even less room for error when it comes to deciding what to keep and what to discard.

Smaller dwellings mean you naturally have to declutter more, but I always say the size of your space should not determine how much stuff you have. Everything you own should be based on your lifestyle.

Freelance work lifestyle

The rising “gig economy,” as it is often called, is representing a shift in traditional ways of working. Instead of going to an office every day and working for the same employer, people work remotely and can work for various employers on a variety of tasks suited to their skills. The gig economy is more flexible and allows more time for freedom and personal fulfillment while also giving businesses more options to hire people for a variety of tasks. The two largest websites currently promoting freelance workers are Upwork and Fiverr, and I have used both of them extensively with exceptional results:

So, what does this new way of working have to do with clutter? You no longer need a big office with massive filing cabinets; you likely only need a computer, Wi-Fi, and a comfortable place to work. You also have to be clear of mental clutter so you can freely focus on several tasks with perhaps several employers versus the traditional role of only working for the same employer doing the same tasks day after day.

Freedom of life

Freedom is becoming a goal for most people. In my business, I ask people what they want more of in life. The answers are usually more money, more time, and more freedom, in no particular order. And all of those can be achieved by decluttering! Seriously — not joking on this one.

Freedom comes from a variety of things, some as small as removing physical clutter from your home daily. This helps give you more time versus wasting hours cleaning and trying to find your items.

Mental clutter can also keep you awake at night, causing you to always be tired, unprepared, and never really feeling like you can maximize your days.

Freedom in life also can be having more time to spend on the things you love doing versus always cleaning or working so many hours. Trust me: Removing unnecessary clutter both physically and mentally can grant you the freedom you desire.

Gain more hours in the day

Decluttering helps you save time. And again, when I ask what people want more of, time is usually mentioned.

It makes sense that the more stuff you have, the more time you need to clean it, move it, and keep it organized.

The less physical and mental clutter you have, the less time you spend thinking about it. The less you think about it, the better you’re able to focus on the important things in your life, increasing your productivity ten-fold.

Pause from consumerism

Disclaimer: I love shopping. I probably always will, and I still do lots of shopping. The difference today is that I do my shopping on a conscious level, often scheduling trips and knowing what I need before I go out and shop aimlessly. Don’t get me wrong: Sometimes I am still enticed by the latest marketers’ schemes, need a little retail therapy, or simply end up with excess trendy items that I didn’t need to buy. However, these useless shopping trips are always a reminder that unnecessary items quickly become clutter, and I try my best to be aware of these habits and not let them happen again.

I have also spent time living in other continents where shopping is much less of a national pastime than it is in North America. Some countries in Europe still close their shops on Sundays and have early closing hours, whereas in the United States you can literally shop 24 hours a day in most cities that have a Walmart.

The reasons that people are tempted to buy stuff are different for each person. Most people are aware that happiness is not directly related to things we have and that keeping up with the Jones’s is not a goal we should be striving for. If anyone’s last name is Jones, I feel very sorry for you as it has been used for years to describe keeping up with our neighbors’ and friends’ stuff.

In the early 2000s, there were more shopping malls than schools. The ratio was around 2:1 in 2000. Reading this statistic triggered me to do more research on the topic, specifically on the rise of consumerism. Without getting into a history lesson, shopping really began to increase in the United States after World War II. It was the first time that men and women could go into stores and buy exactly what they wanted. The rise of suburbs promoted people to buy homes and then fill those homes with stuff — often trying to find better and more items than their neighbors had. This trend has continued to this day.

Many articles referred to various countries’ political systems and leaders to promote spending versus saving to help the economy. Whatever the reason for the rise of consumerism, there is no denying that shopping has become part of our culture. Think about how much we spend on mainstream holidays that have increased across various countries. The need to buy more gifts at Christmas, decorate scarier at Halloween, and purchase more Easter bunny stuffed animals continues to increase.

Here are some simple strategies that I used to help curtail my shopping habits:

  • Have a spending plan and track it. This may be more relevant to an article on budgeting, but it makes sense to have a simple budget to help curb poor spending habits and excess shopping.
  • Get support. Shopping is more fun with friends anyways, so why not grab a friend and tell her what you need so that you don’t buy more?
  • Leave it for a day. If you are not sure about a purchase, leave it and see if you even remember it the next day. I use this method a lot, and it had saved me a ton of money (and clutter!).
  • Don’t shop when you’re emotional. Often, you’ll buy more than what you need when you shop for emotional reasons. Save it for when you have a clear mind and stick to practical purchases.
  • Remove temptations. You likely know what clutter you have too much of and what you’re in the habit of purchasing in excess. Don’t go to the stores, read the magazines, or follow the social media accounts that lead to temptation. Minimize these distractions and focus only on what you need.

Inspire friends and family

My goal for writing this was to inspire everyone to read it and adopt some tips to start and continue decluttering in all facets of their lives. It truly is my hope that that you will also pass along your tips and encourage others to adopt similar strategies. I believe that a decluttered world will lead all of us to be less stressed, happier, and have more time to focus on our valuable contributions to society.

This last statement sounds like decluttering could help bring world peace, and on some level, I think that it could!

Understand your motivation for decluttering; likely, your friends and family have similar motivations, and this can offer a nice place to start the conversation. Once you feel more in control of your decluttering habits and what you are bringing into your space, you can extend this advice to others. When you can come together to work toward a common goal, you can achieve anything you set your mind to.

Find a better home for your clutter

What to do with your clutter? The obvious answers are donating, selling, repurposing, and, if all else fails, recycling.

Check out my top ten destinations for your clutter. Five of those spots are related to donating. The remainder are ideas for selling, giving to friends, and repurposing. Again, my goal is to make decluttering a lifelong practice. Don’t only declutter once, but rather make it a daily habit that helps keep you organized and grounded.

Skip ahead if you’d like to find the exact declutter locations, but following is my general advice for most physical items:

  • Donate: Donating should be at the heart of your decluttering mindset. Being able to donate your items to benefit others not only helps your closet but also helps you improve other people’s lives. In our consumerist society, you need to be aware of not only the amounts you are buying, but how you can further your belongings’ sustainability. Donating does not just mean giving away items to your local thrift shop; it can also mean giving items to neighbors, friends, or family.
  • Repurpose: An often-forgotten part of decluttering, a multitude of items can be repurposed.
  • Sell: This advice may sound contradictory to my first point about giving clothing to others who could benefit, but it’s still very valid. There are many apps, online consignment stores, and retail stores that sell lightly used items. I normally sell items I’ve bought brand-new that have little wear and tear, and donate items that are more worn.
  • Toss: At some point, items become no longer usable. But as usual, see if you can repurpose these items first.

Pay it forward

The more things you give away, the lighter you will feel. Plus, you may feel like your heart is getting bigger due to your newfound generosity in donating items that someone else can use and appreciate.

Help others not to accumulate clutter in the first place. With regards to gift giving, birthday presents, and simply showing up with stuff for friends and family, a solution could be to check what they need or give them experiences versus stuff. It is up to all of us to solve even small clutter issues and not add to someone else’s clutter collection.

Be cognizant of your own clutter rules and use the same principles when giving gifts or hosting parties. I mean, how many swag bags of stuff do you really want to be getting and/or giving? Pay it forward and don’t clutter someone else’s life.

Better the planet

Today, you can’t use a plastic straw without thinking of the impact that it has on the environment. From giving up plastic items to save our oceans to not printing paper to save trees, we know the impact that our stuff has on the environment.

Think of it this way: What ends up in a landfill is clutter, so don’t accumulate it in the first place. Today, the lesser quality of items seems to call for constant replacing. From our furniture to our electronics, a ton of cheaply made items are on the market that don’t stand the test of time. Most of us look for the best deal instead of the best quality, but this mindset causes us to often accumulate poor-quality items that constantly need replacing, producing more waste.

Before you buy an item, think about how long you want it to last and whether the quality of this item reflects this desire. I always suggest quality over quantity for most items, from clothes to furniture to office supplies. Often technology moves so fast that some suggest this may not be the best option, but use this motto where you can.

Doing more of what makes you happy can better the planet. Focusing on experiences that bring you joy, such as getting outside, hanging out with good friends, or expressing your creativity, helps you to worry less about the possessions you do or don’t have. Create intentions to consume less and enjoy the simple pleasures of life to mitigate your ecological footprint.

Read and learn from Decluttering For Dummies

If you bought Decluttering For Dummies for yourself, thank you — I really hope that at least one tip can help make your life easier and clutter-free for the long run.

You want to make a change in your decluttering habits. You may be on the verge of applying for the Hoarders show, or you may actually not have any extra stuff lying around, but you want to clear you mental or digital space, which can cause just as much stress.

If Decluttering For Dummies was a gift, please don’t be offended. The person bought it as a nice gesture, and everyone on the planet can use some decluttering inspiration. Don’t think that the person who gifted you Decluttering For Dummies thinks you are messy, disorganized, or super cluttered. They may have bought it simply for inspiration or because they needed it themselves and wanted to see you implement the tips first!

If you found Decluttering For Dummies in a donation bin, even better! This is a sure sign that its previous owner implemented a decluttering strategy.

Whichever way this book landed in your hands, I hope that it will truly make a difference and be one of the reasons that you start decluttering today and for the rest of time.

Lastly, remember your Clutter Danger Card. Go back and take a photo and keep it on your phone when you need some extra decluttering motivation.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Jane Stoller is a compulsive organizer who turned her passion into a profitable business, Organized Jane. She travels the world helping individual clients revamp a single space or guiding corporations in overhauling entire businesses. A speaker as well as an author, she also lectures on management skills at Canada's Vancouver Island University.

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