Want to create some clutter?
- Keep all your clothes. Even the ones labeled size 6. (You are now size 14.)
- Always say “yes” when people offer you things.
- Hoard those little hotel shampoo and soap bottles when you travel.
- Save everything, even your husband’s first shaved mustache. And the diet manual from 15 years ago. And the theater ticket stub for the play you hated.
- Buy “amazing” deals, even when you don’t need them. In four colors.
- Create piles of papers on your desk, all with a Post-it-Note label, “Miscellaneous.”
- Save everything from your garage sale and add to all the other stuff you saved from past three garage sales—and when it’s overflowing your garage and the shed out back, take it all to a paid storage unit! (Those storage unit owners need to make money too; help them out!)
There are a number of signs of the anxiety disorder, Compulsive Hoarding – including not being able to use parts of a home, unsanitary living spaces, and anger/unwillingness when someone attempts to remove items from the home.
That’s not what I’m talking about here.
I’m talking about simple clutter. Everyone gets a little messy sometimes. And some of us are messier than others. Truth told, some are passionate pack rats.
But we don’t have to live with clutter. As Sheila Wray Gregoire wrote in “Declutter Now,” it’s important to “realize that you are making a choice to live a cluttered life.”
And I think the reverse is true.
It’s a choice to practice uncluttered living—the good stewardship of resources.
God gives us spiritual gifts and things so we can serve one another “as good stewards” of God’ grace (1 Peter 4:10). He wants us to be faithful in using what He’s given us (Luke 16:11). God gives us many things to “richly enjoy,” and it is not wrong to have “things,” but we need a right perspective about accumulating this world’s goods (1 Timothy 6:17-19).
Every one of us can choose to practice contentment (1 Timothy 6:7-8), and we can be wise in how we use what we already have.
The wise person knows when enough is enough, and recognizes when clutter takes over the home. Clutter can happen to any of us, and it’s often a sign of other issues that need to be taken to the Lord in prayer.
What are some practical ways to declutter your home?
- Take photos of your home, as is. It will help you “see” where the clutter is piling up.
- Make a list of all the areas in your home that need decluttering, beginning with the easiest. You’ll be tackling one area at a time, and then stopping! Don’t work for more than an hour continuously at a time. (It always takes more time than you think, but there’s no rush!)
- Cut distractions. Rather than running from room to room when you find things that don’t belong, put them in a box or basket to “return to their homes” later – even the next day.
- Take the 10-10-10 challenge (or any number you want). Find 10 items to throw away. Find 10 items that are out of place and put them away. Find 10 items to donate or give away. Encourage your children to do the same.
- If that’s too hard, simply try to give away one thing each day. (That’s 365 things a year, and you may make a dent!)
- Keep a box and large trash bag in your garage or a designated space and see how quickly you can fill them – bag for trash; box for things to donate.
- Remove every item in your clothes closet. Ask, “Does it fit? Is it flattering and appropriate for me? Do I love wearing it?” If not – give someone else the opportunity to wear it.
- Also concerning clothing, ask: “When did I wear this last?” If you haven’t used it in a year – unless it’s a holiday or special occasion item – you likely won’t. If you’re not sure about when you used things, create a system to decide. (Some people hang all their clothes with hangers in a reversed direction. When they wear an item, they return it facing the right way. After six months, you’ll clearly see what clothes are candidates for donation or a garage sale.)
- Figure out similar “when did I last use this?” systems for linens, toys, kitchen tools, cleaning products, craft items, etc.
- Evaluate for quantity. Ask, “Do I have too many of these? Too much of this?” Just because you have an item, that doesn’t mean you need it. Or that it adds value to your life. Challenge yourself to dump the excess, to live with less, because simplicity creates freedom.
- Evaluate for worth. Kathi Lipp, in her book, Clutter Free, said, “When every possession is special, none of them are.” Ask, “Would I buy this now? What would I pay for it?” Eliminate all the “trinkets” and “passing fancies.” Get down to the items you love; items with true worth. (Note: If the item was a gift but you don’t really want it, take a photo with the item – maybe to share with the giver? – and then sing the theme song from Frozen: Let It Go!
- Got paper clutter? Basic rules: Keep tax returns “forever.” Purge receipts and statements after seven years. Scan items that are important, but seldom used. Work through piles systematically. [Marcia Ramsland is an expert on this, with a helpful webinar, “Organize all your papers.”]
- Help others keep the home decluttered by assigning a “home” to items. Think, “How would my family best store this? – By color? By theme? By intended use?” Everyone should know where an item belongs. If there’s no room for a “home” for an item, return to #10!
- Make sure your storage for similar items actually works. Containers are great, if they function right. Evaluate size and use before purchasing new containers. Consolidate similar things into baskets, boxes or plastic containers. Use labels or color-coding.
- If you can’t see it, you’ll likely forget you have it. And then you might buy more that you really don’t need. Make sure everything is visible, or that you have way to reach “hidden” items. In cabinets, for example, use a lazy-Susan turntable.
- Map it out with a list. I have a list of what book topics are on what shelves. I also list what’s in my various Christmas boxes. In my garage, I label containers with a number and then list what’s in the containers; and I keep my lists handy.
- Examine your priorities and understand that every area of your home won’t be picture-perfect. Be a realist. Decide where to spend your time organizing to prevent future clutter.
When you’ve decluttered, what can you do with all the “stuff”?
- Give to the Salvation Army, Amvets or a similar store you can support. Some churches have toy drives or community yard sales.
- Consider consignment stores, and use the money you get back for a charity you care about, or save it for a family vacation or project.
- Find families in need of what you have—children who can wear clothes your own children have outgrown, families who have lost items in fires or natural catastrophes.
- Check with your church to see if there are specific needs in your church family.
- Ask your church if its supported missionaries have specific needs or wants.
- Give salvaged building supplies to a “Green” building store. Or check out Habitat for Humanity or ministries that work in third world countries with salvaged goods.
- Check to see if your local college, youth ministry or shelter needs your good, cast-off furniture. Donate a good couch or chair for a lounging area.
- Ship used electronics (phones, iPhones, iPads, etc.) to interested companies – you might get some cash!
- Give items to local or church crafters who can re-purpose your items.
- Try to pare down the number of books on your book shelves. Give them to shelters, retirement homes, even the waiting room where you wait to be called for jury duty.
- Pare down some “legacy” items by giving items to family members you think will appreciate them now. Why wait until you die?
- Turn photos into digital versions. Create photo books.
- Many times, you can re-gift by “transforming” your nice, no-longer-used items. For example, stuff colorful mugs with homemade wrapped cookies or truffles, or create a housewarming gift with a nice basket and tea towel.
“At it’s heart, clutter is a lack of peace,” Kathi Lipp wrote in Clutter Free. Who wouldn’t want to choose peace?
Decluttering begins with small choices made consistently each day.
Which decluttering idea can you start on right now?