How to Declutter Your Home for Healthy Living
You’re an empty-nester, and all of your children have moved out. Yet, you are holding on to their clothes, toys, books, etc. You live alone, but you have enough place settings and linens to service a small hotel. You've been meaning to throw out that old, broken vacuum cleaner, but you haven’t gotten around to it. And, you have hundreds of packets of take-out condiments in your refrigerator. If this is true for you, it’s time to declutter for healthy living.
Now that you have retired from working a full-time job, raising a family, and putting everyone else’s needs ahead of yours, it’s time to enjoy your life. This begins in the home. You need to create, what I like to call, “Breathing Room.” Then, you'll be able to consider new lifestyle options. When you live in a cluttered space, seeing a new and improved life is nearly impossible. Your stuff tends to trap you both physically and mentally. So, getting rid of all the extra things in your home will help you to begin to see a new and happier life.
To begin, we need to distinguish the difference between "clutter" and "hoarding". Hoarding has personality and psychological implications that may need professional, psychological counselling. Hoarders are usually unaware of their behaviour and cannot seem to change on their own. However, healthy-minded, intelligent people often have too much stuff, and it happens over time. Things begin to accumulate for various reasons: we have a full-time job, we’re raising children, we’re busy with other projects, or we just don’t take the time to sort and discard things on a regular basis. This is what we will be talking about here. Clutter.
Why is decluttering important?
First, a cluttered space invades our minds and creates cluttered thinking. We can't remember where we left our keys. We get to the grocery store and realize that we've forgotten the grocery list. We miss appointments. Or, we cannot complete simple projects. When we declutter our living space, we begin to think more clearly.
Second, a cluttered space traps us in the mindset and behavior of "guarding" our stuff. We are less likely to go out with friends, explore new interests, travel, and/or simply read new books. When we are surrounded by stuff, we spend a lot of time thinking about what we want to do, but very little time doing it.
Finally, you simply will feel better when your space is clean and organized. You will have more time and energy to explore and enjoy your life.
So, where do we begin?
First, take an honest assessment of your lifestyle: income, health, job, hobbies, interests, physical abilities, etc. You will want to declutter based on the life you actually live, not on the one you want to live. Be extremely honest in your appraisal. For example, you may have some health issues that limit your physical activities. Take this into consideration when you assess your lifestyle. Or, you enjoy gardening or crafting. These are the things you need to consider.
Then, locate four large boxes or trash bags. Using a big black marker, label them KEEP, GIVE AWAY, THROW AWAY, SELL. You will use these boxes when you begin to declutter.
Next, choose a room. Begin with the most lived-in spaces: bedroom, kitchen, bath, or living room. Let's use the kitchen as our example.
Standing where you can see your entire kitchen, look at the countertops. Take a visual assessment of the things that you use regularly, things that you use occasionally, and things that you have not touched in years. Then, begin the sorting process. Assess the items that can be sold (maybe at a garage sale), items that you want to give away (to charity and/or friends and family), and items that do nothing but take up space (broken, outdated, unused over time, etc.). Everything you decide to KEEP should be only those things you use regularly, nearly everyday.
Now, move to the cabinets. Open each one and repeat the above process. You will need to be tough on yourself. You may have dishes your grandmother gave you, but you have not touched them in years. Maybe, it’s time to pass them down to the next generation. Here’s a great idea for giving away “precious” things. When you have your next family dinner party, use grandma’s dishes. And, tell the guest to take their plate with them when they leave. In this way, you are passing down something precious and decluttering your house at the same time.
When you finish sorting and decluttering one room, try to get the boxes out of your house as quickly as possible. You don't want to be tempted to pick through them and keep some of the things you've discarded. Pack up your car and drop off stuff at Goodwill or some other charity. Some charity orgazations will pick up from your home. Check the internet and schedule a pick-up. Plan a garage sale as soon as possible and begin to label and price your items. Finally, let friends and family know that you are "cleaning house" and have a few items they might like. In other words, get the stuff out of your house as soon as possible.
After you've finished one room, take a break and congratulate yourself. You may even treat yourself to lunch with a friend. You've earned it.
NOTE: Decluttering our lives and homes will take time. Do not think this will happen in a day. After all, it took more than one day to accumulate all your stuff. But, you should not get discouraged. Each area that you clear out (even one junk drawer) is progress. You soon will get the hang of it and begin to feel good about the progress you are making. Keep going and don’t give up.