January is Get Organized Month. After the busyness of the holidays has passed, we are all ready to simplify our lives. You’re likely familiar with the influx of things that we see come into our homes during the holidays - gifts, kids' crafts, decorations, and general clutter that we didn’t have time to address during the fullness of the season. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed or anxious, or unproductive in your home, it could be because of clutter.
What is clutter? It’s anything that doesn’t support the life you want to live in your space. Clutter can be anything. It’s often thought of as piles of paper, but it’s also found in our excess of things. Small appliances that don’t get used, clothing that no longer fits or feels good, supplies for hobbies we no longer do, collections that are not well maintained, and even expired foods in our pantries. Clutter can make us feel shame or guilt - like an unfinished project we had good intentions for, items that were passed down to us when a loved one died that don’t serve our lives, and even things that we spent a lot of money on that are no longer useful or didn’t work out as we hoped.
Clutter is known to cause a lot of problems for our mental health. A cluttered home or work environment can lead to stress, feelings of shame or inadequacy, distraction and decreased productivity, and general negative behavioral effects. The Minimalism Movement has taken off not just because of its aesthetic. There is a real correlation between having less and being able to function more effectively in an environment. According to Psychology Today, decluttering your environment can lead to increased focus and productivity. Having less also allows us to spend less time taking care of our stuff, looking for our stuff, and finding solutions for our stuff. Our things should serve us, and not the other way around. Having less allows you to spend more time and resources on the things that really matter - your family, yourself, and your community.
As we enter the New Year, January provides a great opportunity for a reset in all areas of our lives. If you’re ready to make changes in your home and how you feel and live in it, consider decluttering and organizing your home as your resolution for 2024.
If you’re ready to start our decluttering journey, here are some important things to keep in mind as you go. The first thing I always tell my clients is that decluttering is a process - it’s not a one-and-done kind of thing. As long as we are bringing things into our home, there will be the opportunity for clutter. The good news is that with some time and intention, clutter can be kept under control really easily.
When you first start to declutter your home, it’s so important to start small. You might think that by starting with your closet or office, you’ll tackle a big project and gain momentum quickly, but those spaces require so many decisions and people often become overwhelmed quickly. Instead of creating a calm and organized environment, you end up with a bigger mess. By starting with a smaller space like a drawer or cabinet, you are able to start practicing decluttering in spaces where there are fewer decisions, and you’ll start gaining that momentum as you keep working your decluttering muscles.
Don’t forget to give yourself grace. There are often a lot of feelings of guilt and shame when decluttering. It’s okay to let things go that do not serve the life that you want to have in your home, but it’s also sometimes really hard. It can be helpful to ask a friend or family member to join you at times as you go through some things that are more sentimental or bring up negative feelings. If you get stuck, there are a number of Professional Organizers in the area that can help you. Reach out to a few of us and see who you best connect with. Decluttering and organizing can be really intimate, so it’s important that you feel comfortable with the organizer you work with. Know that we are all here to help and come with no judgment.
Now that you’re ready to start, here are a few tips to help you get going:
Work in small chunks of time. Take 10-15 minutes a day to tackle a small space. Set a timer, put on music or a podcast, and get to work. When the timer goes off, wrap up your project and carry on with your day. It might take you several days of this to feel like you’re making progress, but don’t give up - you will see progress!
Set up 3 areas for things leaving your space. You will need an area for donations (a clean trash bag works well in a pinch), one for trash (the actual trash can works great here!), and one for items that belong elsewhere (don’t forget to put them away!). If an item is staying in the area you’re working on, you’ll just put it back when you’re finished decluttering.
Quick clean as you go. Whatever space you’re tackling at the moment, you’ll start by taking everything out of the space. This is a great time to give the cabinet or drawer a quick clean! Vacuum out the dust or crumbs and wipe down the surface.
Find an organization you’re happy to donate to. This makes letting things go so much easier if you’re happy to support a local organization with your donations. There are so many great local organizations that you can donate to, but there are also larger national organizations like Goodwill or Salvation Army that accept a large variety of items.
Drop off your donations regularly. As you declutter, drop your donations off regularly. The goal is to remove things from your space - and that includes your car too! Driving around with donations in your trunk doesn’t help anyone. Set time aside each week to drop your donations off as you work to declutter your home.