This is an updated post from 2015 because frankly, it is a problem that we all have. However, taking steps to unclutter life had such a positive impact on us that we want to share more tips with you.
I was utterly spent. It was ten hours into packing up the last box from my mom’s house before the movers arrived to lift everything into the moving van. Even though my mother downsized and moved two years earlier, this was still an enormous job. With every piece of silverware, crystal, plastic container, and the dust-covered ceramic French onion soup bowl set I put into a box, I felt anxiety and a certain tightness in my chest. This was way too much stuff for a single person, let alone an entire family to use or appreciate in a lifetime.
Sure, I was physically tired, but it was the mental exhaustion from the overwhelm of being surrounded by all this stuff.
Oddly, this stuff wasn’t even mine, and all these things weren't even moving to my house!
Why did I feel such angst?
Because I was re-living the overwhelm of all these things weighing me down.
Even though I no longer have a home or a permanent place to live, the feeling of losing control of your stuff still hurts.
Over three years ago, we got rid of everything we owned. And l was my mother’s daughter, I also owned WAY TOO MUCH stuff, packed tightly in every nook and cranny of our home. At that time, we decided to put our life into our own driver’s seat. We had full control, fully conscious of what we owned and what we bought because we yearned for a life of more flexibility and more travel.
Three years later, we feel lighter, more in control of our money and belongings, and the pride in living with less. Once the initial uncluttering of our life was over, it was very easy to maintain and live more consciously, making better choices about what we should be buying and why we are buying it.
1. Change your views about your stuff
What really helped me purge our goods was thinking about the consequences of how less things would make our life better.
This was the logical thinking that worked for me to take the emotion out:
"Someone out there can use this… way more than I will."
"We are wasting so much money and so much energy keeping this stuff."
"We will never lose things again because we will be able to keep track of them better."
"Without these things, I can free up money to buy things that are more meaningful like enjoying experiences,traveling somewhere, or putting gas in my car."
"We will no longer pay for storage fees (if applicable) because I don’t need this stuff tying up our money."
"I've tried to sell my clothes before and no one wants them - even though I like them, they are out of date."
"Technology goes out of date fast, why are we keeping all those cords and electronics we never use?"
2. How to Get Started
Take lots of time doing these steps little by little, one by one to avoid the overwhelm.
Can you find at least 10 minutes a day to do anything? It’s easy.
Start with tackling just one shelf, one drawer, or one countertop.
Spread everything out on the floor so you can see everything.
Ask yourself the most honest questions you have ever asked yourself.
Don’t worry about dealing with your boxes right now. Let them pile up with things and deal with taking them to a donation center when you have time or leave a space in your basement for a future yard sale or online sale.
Put back your things that you use and love. Ensure there is space between them, so you have seen the benefits of your decluttering project.
Repeat this over the next many weeks in your home. Take 10 minutes (or longer) just a little everyday. But don’t overdo it. Slowly, you will see the impact of decluttering one bookshelf, one cupboard, one shelf, or drawer at a time.
Focus on an area in your home each week and continue the process.
Get assistance from an ‘accountability partner’ who can help you make impartial decisions on what to toss and what to keep on the things you get emotionally attached.
Nostalgia: Find other ways to relive moments from the past rather than things. Music is a great example - Downloading those 80's songs from the past can be a great alternative to collecting more stuff.
Selling CDs and albums: You'll find collectors willing to pay cash for these items. They're also easy to part with because you can download just about anything or turn your CDs into MP3s.
Spend the money to digitize pictures -- Hire a service to digitize your photo albums and save to a hard drive or to a cloud service.
3. Savor the enjoyment and accomplishment of less clutter
Enjoy the calm, lack of overwhelming feeling, and the joy of seeing space. Really internalize it, because the more you do, the freer you will feel. Give yourself a big pat on the back for getting this far.
4. Resources for more inspiration to unclutter your life AND get rid of your unwanted stuff
Need some more inspiration to sell your stuff? BOOKS to convince you that you can do more stuff with less stuff. These guys at Sell All Your Stuff have some excellent e-books that give you step by step tips on how to unclutter your life and house.
Create a capsule wardrobe - This idea is one of the most inspirational learnings for me. It is possible to have a stylish wardrobe where everything matches and works together, so you can own only a few pieces of clothing to use. You wear the things you love the most. If that looks good on you, then reduce your wardrobe to only about 37 pieces.
After all, we only use so little things in our closet now. Here are some great tips on how to get started in reducing your closet.
5. Borrow the stuff you need, lend the stuff that you don’t.
The cool thing about our lives today is that there are so many great ways to save money and leverage the sharing economy. Gone are the days of having to buy everything. Instead, you can borrow something or rent something instead of forking out the cost of something that you may use only once or twice (like that Miter Saw in your basement or that meat platter for that once-a-year dinner party -- you know what I mean.)
Fat Lama– It is a great online website that allows you to rent out anything you own and borrow things you don’t, such as all kinds of categories, including electronics, household goods, photography equipment, sports equipment, clothing, and kid’s equipment. Fat Lama is available only in the USA and the UK at this time.
What are your top tips to unclutter your life? Have you tried any of these tips? Please let us know in the comments!
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Dorene is a marketing consultant and freelance writer. She quit her 20-year career in marketing to redesign her career and lifestyle on her own terms by living location independent. Now with her husband Troy, she helps people who want to redefine their midlife and make conscious changes at TravelLifeX. She also trains & coaches travel and hospitality clients to improve their marketing at TravelLifeMedia.com