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6 Steps to Decluttering 2017: A Modest Guide

Clutter: my worst enemy, and closest companion.

For years, I’ve been known for my Piles. And yes, Piles because they develop their own characters and sentience.


Piles grow. They take on different forms and scents depending on the time of the year. I suspect each fabric blend and paper pile develops its own dander like a calling card.

Read more: There’s More to Balance than Tree Pose and Apples

However, as affectionately as I characterize my Piles, they encroach on my ability to breathe.

I’ll stare at a foot-long spread of mail and papers, become overcome with anxiety and disappointment in myself, and will walk away. A week later I’ll repeat this process with the Pile now at two feet in size. The same happens with clothing, books, DIY ingredients, paint, laundry, until I’m being drowned from all sides by my own hand.

It’s a sickness.

And according to a list provided by stress psychologist Sherrie Bourg Carter, clutter…

  1. overcomes our sight, smell, and touch, making it harder for us to focus beyond the mess.
  2. makes it more difficult for our minds and bodies to relax.
  3. constantly signals to our brains that our work is never done”. (Woah)
  4. makes us anxious because we cannot tell what it will take to clean it.
  5. engenders guilt and embarrassment, especially when others interact with your space. (This one is totally me)
  6. dampens “creativity and productivity by invading the open spaces that allow most people to think, brain storm, and problem solve“.
  7. frustrates us because we cannot find what we need.

Read more: A Healthy Lifestyle for 2017: the Planning, Balance, and Basics

Now, it’s 2017. A lot of people are now looking around their homes, their lifestyles, and wondering how they can make positive changes.

If you or anyone that you know are looking for ways to tidy up, and even purge, your homes, keep reading. The strategies below will help you start off on the right foot this 2017 and keep you on a clear path.

  1. Start off simple: Don’t tackle the largest project. Don’t start off with the most nostalgic materials (Like your boxes of old pictures and letters). You will be in danger of being overwhelmed, and you’ll get rid of less than you need to. You’re already scared of the clutter, so don’t make it worse. Instead, begin with a low-pressure task like throwing away old underwear, or moving all of your magazines to one pile in the corner.
  2. Be brutal: You’ve heard this a million times (or at least I have)– if you haven’t used an item within the last year, TOSS IT. Don’t think twice. Chuck the crusty makeup. Be honest. How many shoes do you actually need? Be brutal. You won’t regret it.
  3. Be true: take it a step further and ask yourself if an item actually makes you happy in your soul when you look at it. Evaluate everything!
  4. Take your time: If you are already overwhelmed by your mess, step back for a moment. Do you have to finish it all today? Tomorrow? This week? The answer is no. Forgive yourself, and be okay with going low and slow.
    • Example: I’m staring at a mutating pile of dishes blinking at me with yellow eyes. I’m wondering how to take it down. Do I go in with a broadsword, a torch, or a silver-tipped dagger? I ask myself what the heroes of Middle Earth would do, and then I decide: ten. I can wash ten pieces. Ten pieces, and I walk away. The mutation hisses. An hour later I wash ten more, then put the clean ones away. I wipe one side of the sink. Then, when I’m feeling strong, I come back and tackle sixteen. A battlecry emits from my war-hungry lungs. The yellow eyes are bleeding Palmolive. I can do this. I will win this war.
  5. By category: Avoid the “room-by-room” strategy; clutter tends to spill over where it can. Instead, organize by category. Collect your books and go through them. Process your socks, then shirts, then pants, etc. You’ll have a better understanding of what you have as a whole, what you need, and what you want to get rid of.
  6. Guilt: I grew up with a dad firm on keeping everything he could, whether he would use it or not. The result is suffocating. So, just because it’s in “good shape” does not mean you will use or appreciate it. If you feel guilty about “wasting”, donate. Someone out there will make better use of that still-packaged strainer set your grandma gave you four Christmases ago. It’s a win-win.


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