Perhaps more than any other season, Spring invites us to take a good, long look at all the “stuff” we’ve accumulated over the past year (or years!) that is taking up space in our apartments—and then get rid of it. But busting clutter isn’t always as easy. If you’re having difficulty letting go of all the unnecessary “stuff” in your life, read on for five pro tips to get you started!
- Start with the smallest space that is still meaningful
A lot of clutter-clearing professionals suggest that you begin with a space that won’t cause you any stress at all…like a junk drawer. That’s a fine idea, but an even better one is to pick a space that you can actually see—like a cabinet that you open often, or a small shelf or table that you notice every time you walk into a room. If you take the twenty minutes tops necessary to clear a small but visible space, you may be inspired to continue, and either way, you’ll feel better every time you see the results of your effort!
- Set a timer
This one is critical. If you’ve never spent meaningful time clearing clutter, it can feel like a monumental task. But it doesn’t have to be! In the same amount of time that it takes you to heat up a frozen pizza, you can clear a drawer, a cabinet shelf, or the top of your refrigerator. Ten- to 20-minutes is the preferred amount of time for clutter-clearing mastery.
Added bonus: When you make the process a game, you’re much more likely to return to it. So in addition to setting a timer, consider keeping track of how many bags of trash or donatable items you clear out in a given week. Or put a star on the calendar for every day you fill up a full bag of clutter AND remove it from of your space (whether via donation or putting it in your outside trash bins).
- Choose the process that works best for you
There are two general approaches to clutter clearing: slow and sustainable, or clean sweep. Which one is right for you?
Slow and sustainable starts with that junk drawer or shelf you cleared, and makes that place sacred. You will *not* put anything in that space that doesn’t belong there, and you slowly, deliberately expand from that space or add other spaces that are also officially “cleared.” Make sure each of these spaces have a chance at staying cleared…if you have roommates, pets, kids or other clutter-collectors, this isn’t always easy! So start with areas you can control, and continue from there.
Clean sweep is for those who have an uninterrupted weekend or week to tackle your entire living space…without the input of others. It also works best if you have a hard deadline—like guests coming to visit. This fast and complete decluttering approach is a full-on “out with the old/worn-out/unused/unloved” clearing. It can be invigorating, but also incredibly emotional, so it’s usually not the preferred approach…but you know best what will work for you!
- Save the sentimental items for last
We all have them. Those stuffed animals from your youth, the boxes of letters you haven’t read through in decades, the shirt you wore when you met your spouse or won that tournament. Don’t start there. In fact, save all these items for after you’ve cleared everything else out. You may find you don’t need to part with your treasures…or you may find that your definition of “treasure” has changed, now that you are enjoying the sense of lightness that living in an uncluttered home brings. You be the judge!
- Create a strategy for long-term success
Once you have opened up some space in your home, how do you maintain it? There are several strategies:
- Assign a specific spot for commonly used items. In other words, all vitamins go on a certain shelf, medications on another, cleaning supplies in their own little nooks—even scissors, tape, rubber bands, etc. can have their own home. Then, when you find one of these items out in the wild of your apartment, you’ll know exactly where to put it!
- Adopt a “one in, one out” rule…If you bring something new into your home, another item has to go. This is an especially good rule for your clothes closet!
- Go on a purchasing diet. Make a game out of limiting your incidental “stuff” purchases to only a few times a month, or add possible purchases to a list and wait a period of time before buying them if they’re not groceries or necessary personal care items. You may be surprised at how much money you save when you cut back on impulse spending.
- Cut down on temptation! Toss those catalogs immediately as they come in the door, ignore the coupons to stores full of stuff you don’t need, unfollow social media influencers peddling products of the type that already fill your medicine cabinets.
- Celebrate! Set a date for when you want your apartment (or garage, or basement, or spare room) officially clutter free, and take the time to show it off and really enjoy that newly cleared space. You’ve earned it!