I love to organize and declutter and purge. It’s one of my all time favorite pastimes… which is why I frequently offer to reorganize a friend’s bookshelf (color-coded? alphabetized by author? selected by genre?) or purge a relative’s closet with them. I just love taking chaos and creating peace out of it.
Because of this, it’s not uncommon for friends and family to ask me for decluttering advice. I’ve finally decided to share what I call the “10 Commandments of a Clutter-Free Home”! Hopefully it helps some, or all, of you out! 🙂
Commandment the First: Write down why you want to be clutter-free.
It’s so important to have your reasons written down. This is the first act that’s sets the tone for the rest of your attack on clutter. Why write them down? Because seeing feels a lot better than just thinking. I like to have something to look at when I’m considering getting rid of an item.
I’m a practicing minimalist (you can see my reasons why here), so I have narrowed my clutter-decision-making down to one word: simplify. I realize not everyone is as eager to toss items as I am, but it’s important to remind yourself of the simplicity of life when there’s less in it!
Aside from that, there is a serious feeling of elation when you look around a spruced up, clutter-free room.
At least there is for me. 🙂
Commandment the Second: Understand your needs versus wants and limit the latter.
Each need you have can be narrowed down to three categories:
- to live
- to work
- to thrive
Each of those categories have an exponential amount of potential for clutter, so it’s important to understand the why behind each. Let’s break it down.
To live, I need: a home, a bed, utensils, food, clothes & shoes, and hygiene products. Now I’d like that list to include hair products and books and photographs and bookshelves and.. well, there’s exponential opportunity here. But I don’t actually need the items in the second list to live.
To work, I need: a computer, a notebook, a planner, cleaning products and a vehicle.
To thrive, I need: hobby items (for me, it’s books), confidence boosters (for me it’s hair products and stylistic extras) and other miscellaneous items (my sewing kit that goes unused for long periods of time but I would too much if I didn’t have it) that simply bring me joy and that I use frequently or on occasion.
“Wants” are any items that don’t fit in those three categories. These items are generally old clothes you never wear but have fond memories attached to, books you’ve never picked up and never will, expired products, duplicate products, etc. You don’t have to get rid of everything that falls into the “wants” category, but if you don’t limit yourself, you’re bound to have a cluttered home.
Now a lot of people would say the “thrive” category falls under wants, and technically they’d be correct. However, I find that if I’m not keeping things that make me happy (books) or using unnecessary items to make myself look good (hair products, styling tools, etc.) then I’m not really feeling myself. That leads to the danger of not taking care of myself which increases risk of health problems. So you see, I actually do need those things.. even if I technically wanted them first.
Ultimately the rule here is if the item doesn’t make you happy and doesn’t serve a purpose, let it go.
Commandment the Third: If you forgot you had it, you don’t actually need it or want it.
We’ve all had that moment when we’re digging through a drawer looking for, say, a pair of socks and find an old tank top from four years ago that we haven’t worn or thought about it ages. It’s okay to let that item go! If you haven’t thought about it, you don’t really want it and you definitely don’t need it! This rule of thumb is especially helpful during a yearly (for me, monthly) purge-all, which I hope everyone does. 😉
Commandment the Fourth: If you haven’t used the item in a year and it can be replaced for less than $50, you don’t need it.
This goes for kitchen utensils, household equipment, swimwear (I don’t swim anymore, so I recently parted with my swimwear), extra blankets, cake decorating tools, etc. For me, the rule is that if I can replace it for less than $100, I don’t keep it. This figure should be adjusted depending on your income and lifestyle desire. I find that $50 is a good middle ground.
I chose $100 because if I truly want/need the item, I can scrounge $100 up in a paycheck, but I want to live minimally so this lets me get rid of more things. 🙂
Commandment the Fifth: If it’s got holes in it or stains on it, why are you keeping it?
Seriously.. why? I used to have several tops with holes that, yes, I would still wear in their horrid condition and try ever so hard to keep people from seeing the holes.. but why? That’s just silliness- especially if it’s easily replaced.
Commandment the Sixth: Mend the seams this week, or toss it.
I used to have a huge pile of clothes that I wanted to shorten the hem on or attach a button to, and never got around to it. This taught me three things: one, I’m lazy, two, I wasn’t using those items, three, tossing/donating them was a lot less stressful. I now have a rule for myself: if I don’t mend the item within a week of the problem’s occurrence, I part ways with it.
Commandment the Seventh: Don’t hold onto hobbies you no longer enjoy.
For ages I held on to scrap booking supplies because years and years ago, I adored the hobby. I used to take trips out of town with friends so we could devote an entire weekend to just that. Buuuut it’s been a while since I’ve felt the urge to paste photos to paper and decorate. I just don’t enjoy it any longer.
The same went for my knitting needles and yarn.. I haven’t knitted in ages and seeing the yarn just sitting there, waiting to be transformed, made me feel stressed. So I bid it adieu. Should I ever decide to knit again, it will be a fairly cheap hobby to start up again.
Commandment the Eighth: Sell it on Facebook.
Facebook is the best. But seriously. You can use it to connect with long lost friends, to update relatives you see less than once a year and now to get rid of your junk. Selling on Facebook is simple, convenient and easy as all get out. Take a picture, write a short description and assign a price tag, then watch your friends, family and neighbors bid to buy!
Okay, so it may not turn out to be an episode from Auction Hunters, but probably at least one person will want to buy it. This is how I made $140+ off used books that were just sitting on my bookshelf, more than six times what I would have made on them by selling at Half-Priced books or some other used bookstore. All I did was spread the books out on my bed, snap a photo and post it with the caption “A Buck a Book Sale!” If friends from other states wanted to buy, I’d ship them. They just had to send me money via PayPal upfront to cover the cost of the item+shipping.
Facebook is genius. Facebook is bae.
Commandment the Ninth: Give to those in need.
Donating is almost always a good idea. But listen. If you’re getting rid of something because it’s moldy, filthy or smells like cat pee, don’t expect people to want it. I’ve seen people drop some nasty stuff by Goodwill’s door.. it’s just sad.
Not to mention some of the books donated at the library.
BUT, if your item is in nice shape, smells like a delight and is something others are sure to want, donating is a great way to go. You can do this by giving to a charity, food pantry, thrift store benefiting those in need, or by posting a pic on Facebook and captioning it “free to a good home.” They’ll thank ya for it!
Commandment the Tenth: Buy experiences, not things.
This is the most important commandment for a clutter-free home. We need to
understand believe that things won’t make us as happy as living will. And by living I mean taking on adventure! So rather than purchasing three new shirts and two skirts when you have a closet full of perfectly good clothing, consider taking your family to a museum or the zoo.
On your death bed, you won’t be excitedly telling those gathered around you about the perfect chair you purchased ten years ago that now sits, unused, in your basement.. you’ll be telling them about the time you took your daughter to the zoo and she got to ride an elephant because of their special exhibit, or the time you saved up and bought a plane ticket to Rome where you met your spouse.
These experiences are the things that matter.
Not items that just clutter up your house and leave you frenzied and stressed.
So choose to be free.
Choose to focus on living and not gaining, unless your gaining in experience. 🙂