Decluttering is an endless journey that gets a whole lot easier through time. At first, the sheer number of clutters awaiting to be moved and thrown away may overwhelm you. You may even find yourself energized and motivated for a day of clean-up and organization until you actually grasp and start on what needs to be done. This is normal. Trust us, this will get better. You will soon master the art of decluttering. Here are some tips to make decluttering and organization a coping mechanism, rather of a cradle of burden:
1. Claw your way to decluttering.
Decluttering, depending on the size of your home and the amount of the clutter, is not a simple task. It inevitably consumes a lot of time and energy and so it is important to keep in mind that there is no need to rush.
Take some time to breathe and rest while organizing. Remember that small progress is still progress. When you are in no hurry of completing the work, and when no pressure suffocates you, even a humble folding of a set of newly-laundered clothes can be considered as today’s success story. All you have to do is start somewhere.
2. Find an organization method that works for you best.
The world of cleaning and organization isn’t colored black and white. There’s no right or wrong way of storing things; but there are methods that are proven effective that may just work out for you, too.
You might be familiar with Marie Kondo’s KonMari decluttering method. She and her “ask yourself whether it sparks joy” mantra has helped a bunch of households to live a life of simplicity and minimalism. According to the tiding guru, once an object no longer sparks joy in you, it’s time to toss it away – this is the best way to keep your home free from clutter!
Another method that might be effective for you is the 90/90 Minimalism Rule. Here, you start by asking yourself if you have used the item in the span of 90 days, or if you will want to use it in the next 90 days to come. If not, then this is your sign to let it go.
If you cannot visualize the 90/90 minimalism rule, perhaps try the 30-Day Rule. Your lineage of questioning in this method is plain and simple: have I thought about this in the last 30 days? Have I touched it? This may be applicable to the food in your pantry, medication stocks, paper trails, clothing, etc. If the answer is no, then it is not worth storing. Of course, sentimental belongings are an exception. We’ll get there later.
3. Write a declutter to-do list.
Again, we are not in a rush. By listing all the things that need to be done, you will not miss a spot even if you do not complete the task right away. It will also make you feel a whole lot accomplished and galvanized after ticking a box at the end of the day.
When listing, try to start with the easiest corners to organize first—those that can be seen at plain eye view—before proceeding on larger spaces or to the more intimate areas of your home. This will help you see quick progress and thus, make you feel more productive. It will keep the energy and motivation at flow.
4. Remember that you are your own best friend.
No one knows your aesthetic and the soppy value of each piece sitting atop of your home more than you do. Asking for help from a friend won’t hurt but you have to ensure that you pilot the entire decluttering process. This is because when organizing, you ask yourself subjective questions like: Is this worth keeping? Is this necessary? When will I use this again? Why is this stored here, in the first place? Is this visually appealing? How can I make this even more appealing? Where can I place this for better reach?
Note that when organizing, your ultimate goal is to provide yourself convenience, manageable space, and the comfort of knowing where your belongings are at a rest. Only you can decide on this.
5. Let go of the past (or at least, the worst parts of it).
Take a walk down memory lane and decide on what no longer contributes to your growth and personhood today. A lot of times, we tend to keep bits of our past in storage containers and unopened boxes because they remind us of the feelings once shared with a person, an era, a place, or an experience. May this be an old, worn-out shirt, faded postcards and poorly-handwritten letters, dusky books, photographs, etc. All these hold powerful associations and so it lingers, even after you have moved on with your life.
Letting go of sentimental belongings doesn’t mean forgetting. Remind yourself that getting rid of that timeworn 5-ft sized teddy bear your childhood crush gave doesn’t take away the fact that he did, indeed, give you a gift. A key to decluttering is drawing a fine line between what sentimental association comforts you; and thus, serves you today, and what memory is best kept in the mind alone.
When it comes to tangible reminders of negative past experiences, especially with items that you no longer use as it triggers unpleasant emotions, don’t think twice: get rid of it. Allow yourself to break free from the chains of the past and welcome the future in complete openness.
6. Find your clutter a new home.
Loss aversion is a cognitive bias commonly experienced when decluttering as it highlights the psychological pain of losing more than the pleasure of gaining. For example, throwing away your favorite childhood sneakers affects you more than the moment you bought the same thing. Loss aversion makes you believe that it is better to keep a pair of shoes that no longer fit you than buy a new one.
To combat this, find your clutter a new home. Donate these as you won’t have to dwell on them because they now have new owners that can utilize them more than you can. This way, you will be reassured by the idea that you did not technically throw these away, but rather, made them of better use. Donating will also make you feel nobler and at ease when decluttering because of the idea of being able to help.
While it is true that decluttering and organizing are, indeed, burdensome and unrealistic for those who are living in spaces that are at constant headway, keeping things organized and minimal does more good to you than harm. Aside from navigating the home would be less timebound, decluttering satisfies our inner craving for tranquility. It is therapeutic in the sense that it will help you gain self-control and improve your state of mind. Remember: an organized home mirrors an organized life… so why not start now?
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Written by Ivanna Espenida