Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: Jorinde Berben
I mentioned in my second to last post on control that I’ve been in a bit of an organizing fixation, and also that it isn’t the first one I’ve ever been in. Trying to organize myself is probably one of the leading motives of my life, as is failing at it, so far. But each time I’ve been through one of these major organizing periods, things have stuck. I still fold my clothes Marie Kondo style, and I still aim for an evening routine which makes the next morning easier. One of the things that has slipped, though, is decluttering.
After I got my ADHD diagnosis (I’ve written about my ADHD before in these posts), I also researched cleaning methods, tips and tricks for those of us with ADHD for whom chaos is a constant threat. One of the tips I keep running into is just to have less stuff. Now I know this, so I’ve been very conscious about what stuff I bring into my house, but over the past 6 or so years, it still snuck in,without me noticing. Sure, I know I have stuff, but as long as it’s hidden, I can conveniently forget about it. Except that it doesn’t really work that way. The stuff we have takes up our space, physically, mentally, emotionally and (if you’re so inclined) spiritually.
I, for one, love space. I crave it. Ask my partner. When I see my rooms, closets, desks and cabinets filled with things I no longer use, it is a constant reminder of stuff I’m not doing, stuff I once hoped I would do, memories that I can’t let go of (I wrote this post about the difficulty of letting stuff go last year). The thing is, it’s not making me feel any better, obviously.
One of the great shifts in my thinking came when I started looking at it from the perspective of the item itself. Our things are meant to be used and enjoyed. Books want to be read, music wants to be listened to and bread makers want to, you guess it, bake bread. When we leave our stuff around doing nothing, stored away for that one time in your life in which you might regret not having it, we’re actually doing it a big disservice. We’re also doing the other people around us, who might want to use it, and the planet, which wants to limit the amount of stuff, a disservice.
So on to the declutter crusade it is! Are you with me? No? Not really looking forward to going through old things by yourself and tossing/donating them? Well, I’ve got a few quick tips for you to make decluttering a little less boring and a little faster.
- Every item counts
Set up a jar or a glass and put some dry beans/marbles/pebbles/… next to it. For every item that leaves your house, you put one of these things in the jar. If your jar is full, you get to pick a reward (maybe think twice before you buy yourself more stuff though).
- Fill the box
Take a cardboard box or big bag and go around the house trying to fill it up as quickly as you can with stuff to donate. We’re often pretty good with finding stuff once we make that our focus.
- Something from every room
Walk around your house and try to find something to donate or throw away in every single room. An old t-shirt from your bedroom, a novelty cup from your kitchen, that red lipstick you only wore once…
- Find the forgotten spare
Do you have two mixers and only use one? Find yourself picking the same pair of sneakers every day and never choosing the others? See if you can find pairs in your house that should really be singles, or which you only need one. I have an old vacuum that needs donating because I only ever use the new one I got, for example.
- Tiny spaces
Go through a single drawer, a small box, one section of your closet, and look for the tuff you don’t ever use and wouldn’t buy again.
Buy some cheap labels or stickers and look in your cabinets and closets for things that you think you don’t use but find hard to get rid of. Put a sticker on these items. Set an alarm for a year from now (taking seasons into account). If you use the item before the year is up, you take the sticker off. If you don’t, you let it go to someone who might use it instead. Works great for clothing and kitchen appliances.
- Plan for use, not storage
Think of a space in your house: your desk, your bathroom, your closet. Then think of what you want/need this space to do for you. Think about all the things you might need for those purposes, and write them down. Take your list to that place and see what you should clear from or add to the space. I removed a ton of make-up from my bathroom (I hardly ever use makeup) but decided to add a little box with candles and matches for when I take a bath. I’m much more likely to use them when they are there, and one of the things I like to do in the bath is relaxing.
- Free gifts!
Do you have a lot of small random things that make for great gifts? Scented candles you don’t like, or small toys. Wrap some of these things up as surprise gifts and put a basket or box outside your door with free gifts for all. If you hang around, you’re likely to have a great chat, too.
If you have a lot of toys and it’s a nice day out, you can also make one specifically for kids. Put little loops on each and give the kids a stick with a hook attached so they can fish out a gift they want.
- Trade it 10 to one
Challenge yourself to get rid of 10 of something which you can trade for one other. I have a weakness for books, but often end up reading e-books and library books. Getting rid of books before I buy one that I actually really want is a great motivation.
- Do it together
Just that. Find a friend or loved one (Not your kids. Kids suck at decluttering!) and do a closet together, or a desk, or a bookshelf. Switch houses and help each other out. Challenge each other on the ‘keepers’ and be honest. Great bonding time when social engagements are already too rare in your diary (anyone?)
- Bonus: Cherish what you love
This isn’t technically a decluttering tip, but it is essential in sharpening your decluttering muscle. When we really treasure the things we love (I really like my fruitbowl, for example), it becomes much easier to notice when things don’t spark the same kind of joy (my other fruitbowl, hidden away in the closet) and it becomes much easier to part with them.
After all these years, I can count the stuff I’ve regretted throwing away on the fingers of one hand (my old t-shirts when I needed to paint my wall. No need for those rags to ‘spark joy’, I’ve learned!). I do notice that many of the things I have around me are used more often and enjoyed more, and that fills me with a sense of freedom and relief.
Do you struggle to get rid of stuff in your home? Can’t find the time to really get to it? Remember, every little bit counts. Only added one marble to the jar in 3 months? Don’t worry, you can always start again.