Three truths about decluttering: an invitation
May seems like a strange time to think about spring cleaning. Yes, it’s spring, but if you’re a parent, you’re busy. Schools panic and decide to cram several months’ worth of meetings, presentations, and projects in a few final weeks. Kids have final sporting events, dance recitals, and band concerts. No one’s in a big hurry in the morning to get to school on time. (Or is that just my kids?)
Even if you’re not a parent, you’re not feeling the wiggle room to spring clean, either. There’s something about summer on the horizon that makes us in the mood to…. lie around. Read a good book. Walk in the grass. Go out for margaritas.
Not knee-deep in a closet and overwhelmed with our stuff.
But I’m doing it in May anyway. In fact, I’m doing it because I’m in a slump and feeling busier than I like. Clearing out my physical space airs out my head space, helps me sleep better, and fans the fire for being content where I live.
I need it.
This isn’t new
I’ve written about spring cleaning before. It was the topic of my first e-book that led to the creation of my first print book, Organized Simplicity. If you’re a long-time reader around here, my writing on spring cleaning will be a refresher.
But it has been awhile since I’ve tackled this topic. When I recently asked you guys what you like around here, you overwhelmingly asked to read more about the practicals of simple living.
So, this month I’ll work through my own home, and I invite you to do the same.
A few tenets:
1. Decluttering first is a million times better than just organizing.
Organizing—a four-syllable word that just means “putting stuff where it belongs”—without first getting rid of all the unnecessary is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. It’s also discouraging, disheartening, and a temporary fix.
Get rid of absolutely everything that doesn’t give life to your life. I ask myself this question about everything with my four walls: “Is this thing beautiful or useful?”
If it is, I keep it, guilt-free. If it’s not beautiful or useful (to me or to someone who lives with me), I ask: Why am I keeping this? Do I feel guilty at the thought of letting go? Am I holding on “just in case?”
2. Decluttering isn’t a one-time thing.
I know, I know… It’s an in-vogue idea that you can dive in and get rid of everything you don’t love in one fell swoop. For some people, that might work. For the rest of us, I have one word:
Okay, it’s not just kids. It’s this simple truth: life is full of changes. We change jobs, change relationships, change locations, change interests, change responsibilities.
I don’t think it’s life-giving to hold on to things “just in case.” But I do think it’s unfair to broadly say decluttering should/can happen only one time, because when it’s time to declutter again (and if you’re like the majority, that will happen), you’ll think you’re doing it wrong.
You’re not doing it wrong. You’ve got a two-year-old when you first declutter, but then you blink and she’s six. Or you live in the suburbs, but a year later you move to an urban community. You work from home for a season, but then you go back to the office.
Different situations call for different stuff in our life.
Now, it’s not good to make needless excuses in order to not do a thorough job, to hold on to things just in case, or to not try at all. But give yourself grace. We’re not all obsessed with tidying…. We have real-life people and responsibilities around us.
A word of encouragement: The more you declutter, the easier it gets. Nearly a decade after first starting, I don’t have much to do anymore. Just an annual checkup, and we’re good. Chin up, if you’re feeling swamped. Start now.
3. Once you declutter, organizing is easy.
Organizing simply means giving everything a home. You don’t need color-coordinated canvas baskets for all your kids’ toys, you don’t need chalkboard labels for your mason jars, and you don’t need to buy more meta-stuff to store your stuff.
Nothing wrong with making things pretty. But it’s not necessary to have the aesthetically-ideal organizing supplies to just put things where they belong.
When everything has a good and proper home, then things are easier found, easier cared for, and easier enjoyed. When organizing is kept simple, we’re far more willing to make it a habit.
Once your living space is decluttered, it's not too hard to organize. Don’t give yourself a needless, complicated chore.
How this will work
For the next three weeks, I’ll write weekly on why and how I’m decluttering certain areas in my physical space:
- May 17: Kid stuff (toys, clothes, art supplies, books)
- May 24: My personal stuff (clothes, books, work supplies)
- May 31: Hot spots (the little places where clutter breeds at night while we sleep)
In these weekly updates I'll share my personal preferences, tricks, and reasons why I keep what I keep.
If you feel the need to declutter and organize, you’re welcome to join in. Before and after pics are super motivating, so if that helps you stay on task, use the hashtag #theartofsimple on your Instagrams or other social media posts, and I’ll be able to cheer you on.
You’re also welcome to post your links in the comment sections to the weekly updates here on AoS (blog posts, Facebook statuses, whatever). I’d love to read them!
Or, you can quietly do your thing and just play along at home. That’s great, too.
If you’d like to support this site, you might like my first book, Organized Simplicity. It’s not essential to decluttering your home, but it's a helpful bit of encouragement and hand-holding .
I’m looking forward to this time next month, with my physical surroundings clearer, cleaner, and just about right. I'd love you to join me.
p.s. - Upstream Field Guide has opened again. Yay!
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