By Jessica Kirby, Senior Editor of TheGreenGazette

Sometimes success is a matter of perception. This January, when the fuss and bustle of the holidays has passed and you are left in the quiet (sometimes, too quiet) that follows, consider this a time to succeed at something that requires quiet and focus: decluttering.


We strive for environmental wellness, personal and community health, and a general sense of clean living, yet we forget how important simplicity is in achieving these states of being. “Stuff” burdens the Earth, stifles our minds, restricts our mobility, and leaves us with a general sense of discomfort because we know we are perpetually surrounded.

Be still, and live clean. Save money, have more time, and revel in energy by purging your clutter and making a pact with yourself to keep the way forward clear and open. Easy for me to say, from way over here (surrounded in office junk, I might add) because deciding where to begin inspires anxiety and a general sense of defeat in the strongest of mind among us. The solution? Break it down. You didn’t gather all that junk in one day and nor will you shed it quickly. But you will shed it—one, beautiful day at a time. So what are you waiting for? Check out this list, pick up a book, and get things moving. What do you have to lose, except practically everything?

1. Commit to losing one thing each day. Throw it out, recycle is, regift it—whatever it takes, just rid your space of one thing each day. It will add up.

2. Fill one bag. Make a special place for a trash bag and decide to see how quickly you can fill that bag, be it with recyclables, donations, or if you really can’t help it: garbage. When you’ve filled the bag? That’s right: go get another one.

3. Set a five-minute time zone. You absolutely, unquestionably, and without argument have five minutes each day to commit to this cause. So, schedule it and use it to work through the piles.

4. Make a list. This could be of spaces (bathroom, bedroom, garage) or of more focused areas (kitchen drawer, bathroom closet, backseat) you want to tackle. Your brain actually experiences a tiny rush of dopamine when you cross something off of a list of accomplishments, so take advantage of your natural reward system.

5. Tackle your closet using Oprah’s clothes hanger technique: Hang all of your clothing on hangers facing the incorrect direction. When you wear something, turn the hanger into the correct direction. After six months you will know what you are wearing and what you aren’t. The same principle can apply to any items, of course.

6. Use four boxes to organize your life. Label them Keep, Donate, Recycle, and Trash and run every single item in your house through this test. It will take time, but you will have a much clearer picture of what you have and what you need by the end of it.

7. Go for 12-12-12. Similarly, search through your things to find 12 to give away, 12 to throw away, and 12 to keep. Do this weekly and find your space organized and decluttered, 36 items at a time. Even better, make this a competition among members of your household.

8. It’s in the numbers. You can pick 33 clothing items to wear for three months to see how little you can live with, or any old set of numbers that give your project meaning and rhythm. There is something in the rigidity of math that appeals to our organization centres.

9. Section your progress. Pick a space and do everything you can in that one space until it is completely finished. Ideally that will take two or three weeks, but who knows? Ideally, you’d have your space sorted in about six months so budget with an end goal in mind.

10. Adjust your perspective. Take photos of your space to find items previously gone unnoticed, get down on all fours to see things beyond your normal range of sight, or have a dinner party and notice what you pick up or put away. There is always room to improve, but we don’t always see it until we shift our vision and look for possibility. Gathering clutter is a habit, so changing our perspective changes the habit.

Reward yourself along the way and take pleasure in your open, airy, spacious living area. And don’t go back: a commitment to live simply is a commitment to fortitude in resisting the urge to fill the void with more “stuff.” It will take dedication and focus but you can do it—success is almost always a matter of perception.




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