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Have you ever walked into a home and you think, how do they keep this so clean? Don’t they have any stuff? I personally don’t like an all white house (white walls, white furniture, white light streaming in the windows) but I’ve often thought…if I had a white house would I magically be able to keep a clean house? The answer for me is, of course not. Even if I did have a white house, I would still have the other stuff that clutters up the house. So I started doing some research about how to declutter your house.
I wanted to give some practical tips to those of us (including myself) that have tried and tried to declutter, but never really get it accomplished. I’ve read tons of books and they make it seem so simple. Get 3 boxes, label 1 keep, label 1 toss and label the last store. Ha! I’ve done this a million times and even if I swear that “this time it will work” the same thing happens. My keep box is heaped full of items, the toss has barely anything in it and store has become the over flow box for things I intend to keep. You can see where this is going.
Now I have 2 boxes of stuff, I’m mad at myself because I didn’t make any headway, and now I still don’t know where to “go” with the stuff but I have 2 boxes sitting there, mocking me. I walk away and the problem continues.
The 12-12-12 challenge
I know WHY the box idea SHOULD work. So when I read about the 12-12-12 challenge I got pretty excited. The challenge is for you to locate 12 items to throw away, 12 items to donate and 12 items to get to a proper place in your home. Hey, that’s 36 items that are getting action taken against them, in 1 cleaning session. I saw some hope in this challenge idea.
- I’m a competitor, so it’s me against the stuff. I’m choosing 36 items to deal with and there is a definitive plan for all 36 items.
- It’s a set number of items and a set number of actions. I know that after 36 items I have accomplished my goal and I can stop. Otherwise I would go on and on until I became too frustrated and left a pile (or box) in a huff. I’m finding that I can do the 36 items in about 15 – 30 minutes. That’s a time commitment I can deal with on a regular basis.
- Donate – I feel good about donating things because it’s going to help someone else, and my guilty feeling of getting it out of my home is so much less when I know it can still be used.
- Big Tip – choose 1 location to donate to in order to keep yourself sane. I tried to start a series of donation options; give to a family member, give to a friend, donate to Goodwill, donate to homeless shelter and I found that I was spending so much time trying to determine if things were a good fit that it became useless in trying to declutter your home. If you donate to 1 place you can group everything together until you have enough to make a delivery, and you will have a framework for deciding if they will accept the donation or if you should indeed throw it away.
Psychology to Declutter Your Home
I’ll admit that the other thing that makes decluttering hard for me is the stuff in my head. So here are a few for tips for you if you feel like you are never going to be able to declutter your home.
So many things that had landed in my “keep” boxes were due to how much money I had spent on them. “I can’t throw that away, it cost me XX dollars”. The reality is that the cost incurred cannot be recovered, and are therefore referred to at sunk costs. So take your previous investment out of the equation. Consider only the value that this item can add to your life in the future.
When was the last time you used it?
Sometimes I’m working on decluttering and I “find” something that I haven’t seen for a long, long time. It sparks a memory. I think, how how cool is this, and before long I can mentally justify keeping it. If you haven’t used it in a long time, really be honest with yourself about how much value this item can add to your life in the future.
Memories and Keepsakes
Whatever you want to call it, these are the things that you can’t let go of because of a sentimental reason. There are no easy solutions for these decisions, but think about whether you want/need to keep the full item, or if you can keep it in a different manner. Can you take a picture or a scan of it? Perhaps you have boxes of art projects that your kids have made over the years. Could you make those into a photobook so all the memories would be in one place?
Is it worth it?
Decluttering your home is hard work! If you find yourself putting it off, or trying to decide if you will just live with it, give yourself a real example of what it could be like. On one of your 12-12-12- challenges, make is a goal to clear and organize 1 small area. Something that is manageable and where you can see actual results. A Princeton University Neuroscience Institute study found that people in cluttered homes feel permanently tired from living in that environment. The same study found that clutter negatively impacts your decision-making skills. So declutter an area and see how it makes you feel. Can you breathe easier (mentally and physically)? Do you feel proud of the accomplishment? Can you envision further areas if they were free of clutter?
If you have lived with clutter for years, and think that you are never going to be able to declutter your home, start small. Work on those 36 items a couple of times a week. See what works for you, and what keeps you motivated. Remember to build in rewards to celebrate your success in decluttering. http://designingforplenty.com/reward-yourself-when-you-accomplish-that-goal/
Let us know in the comments below what helps you to declutter and what keeps you motivated to keep going.