Have you ever had a time (or many times) when you decide that you’re going to start getting organized, or getting rid of things and you go big? You take everything out of a closet, or you empty your whole fridge, or you start sorting everything in the livingroom…And then you get stuck when you come across something that brings up a lot of emotions. Or you start to feel so exhausted. Or your partner comes in and makes a really unhelpful statement. In that moment, you just can’t do anything more. And it looks like you made things worse, not better.
Does any of this sound familiar? You are not the only person who does this. I promise you. There are a lot of other people out there with houses full of stuff who really want to change things, but they struggle to find out what works. Dealing with clutter is not something you’ve got figured out, but you’re still trying. That makes you amazing!! But it doesn’t help with the clutter, does it?
That’s why starting small is a great strategy when you’ve got a lot of clutter to deal with. Pick one little area that you’d like to work on. Maybe one place setting, or the dash of your car, or a part of your bedside table. Somewhere where having a bit of a clear spot would be nice and noticeable to you. (This is really important! Don’t pick something anyone else has been nagging you about. This is for you and only you.)
Start this little job by looking for the easiest thing to remove. Usually, this is garbage or recycling. Grab any garbage and go put it in the garbage can. Do the same with the recycling. Next, look for something you can donate. If you find a donation item, put it into a small bag and move it near where you leave the house.
Once you’ve cleared the garbage, recycling, and donating, you may have some space clear. WOOOOHOOOO!!!! Seriously, this is a BIG deal!!! Let’s also toss any unhelpful thoughts and replace them with some helpful thoughts. My favorite thought is “I love myself”. I say it a lot. You can also say “I did it!” “I found the table!” “I’m doing great!” or anything else that is true, personal, and positive. We are going to make the biggest deal out of your little spot, and it’s the right thing to do because it helps to retrain you and your brain that you can declutter your space.
Most of the things left in your little spot will fall into three more categories (remember, you’ve already done some garbage, recycling, and donating): paperwork, wrong room, and keep. Get a small bag or box for your paperwork. Shuffle through it, only looking for really important very urgent papers. If you find anything, stick it to the fridge or a cupboard you often open, or somewhere it won’t get buried. If the papers are not urgent, but you want to keep them, put them in a small bag or box and label it ‘Papers—not urgent’.
‘Wrong room’ things are anything you want to keep that doesn’t belong in the room you’re working in. If you need a break you can get up and take each of these things to the room they belong in (or as close as possible if the room is inaccessible). Or you can leave them in a different bag/box labeled ‘wrong room. It’s OK to work on a small spot and not have a solution for everything you find.
‘Keep’ is for things you find that belong in the room you’re in, but can’t get put away yet. So those also get put into a bag/box with a label. Decluttering is a journey, and you’re going to have things along the way that can’t get dealt with right away. This does not mean you failed! It means you are moving forward.
If you have some more things that are in your small spot, you get to add another category—IDK, which stands for ‘I Don’t Know’. Again, this is OK! You didn’t get a houseful of clutter by knowing where everything belongs, and you don’t need to know where everything belongs to start dealing with that clutter. The important thing here is that you create a small clear space that is just for you!
If you can, give this area a wipe to make it clean and shiny. And then take a few good cleansing breaths and tell yourself “I did it!” This is ALL about you, and all the positive feedback comes from you to you!!
OK, even if you feel like doing more, just hang on a bit. Give yourself a break and enjoy the strange feeling of success. You deserve it!! If you really want to do another spot later on today, go for it. But you can also feel really really good about what you’ve done. This is why it’s so amazing to start with something small. Because small is possible!
Is there somewhere small you can work at right now? Even if you feel tired, you can do something now and then celebrate! Start with garbage and recycling. Look for something to donate. Sort the rest into paperwork, wrong room, keep and IDK. And then enjoy your beautiful, small, clear success!