3 Roadblocks to Starting Decluttering, 3 Ways to Smash Through Them

Photo by Arnel Hasanovic on Unsplash

I want to talk about 3 of the most common barriers to decluttering, because while many of us imagine a less stressful wardrobe and not tripping over toys and shoes, getting started is half the battle. 

So many times I’ve heard people say;  “I just don’t have time”, or “I’d love to,but my partner/family won’t get rid of their stuff”, or “It’s too overwhelming, I don’t know where to even begin!”

If all of that sounds familiar to you, here are three ways you can overcome those decluttering hurdles. 

Declutter Your Priorities

Most of us are living busy lives. We are parents, have jobs to attend, households to run, food shopping to keep stocked,  social lives to tend to, studies to keep on top of.

Even without kids, life can seem like an endless whirlwind of things to do. 

The paradox here is, with less stuff to manage in the first place, you can gain the time. But you have to get started in order to find it.

Start by having a good look at your days in detail. Record your day down to every last detail;what time you wake up, every event you have planned, every event you’re responsible for that is planned for your family, every chore you do, and how you spend your free time. No matter how small or mundane, get it down!

You might be surprised by how much of your time is eaten up simoply by browsing on your phone, for example, or how many Netflix episodes of ‘We Are All Dead’ you binged in the evening before you realised you should probably go to bed. 

When Android and Apple started to introduce phone use tracking onto their devices, I was stunned to glance at my usage and see I had somehow wasted over 6 hours in under two days browsing Facebook, Email and the internet. Yet I could have sworn I had zero time in my days. I felt shocked and disgusted with myself and started picturing what else I could have done with those hours.

If you don’t have an issue with services designed to suck your time and attention, look at your schedule. Are you over-packed? Is everything on there truly that important? How could your life look if you learned to say no to people who ask extra demands of your time? 

But the most important thing you can do is to just start. Block out a section of time and start going through the easy stuff. It doesn’t have to be a long period of time. It can be 15 minutes of going through broken pens, old papers, and out-of-date foods. 

Once you’ve started, it’s vital to keep going, whether that’s once a week or once a day. You’ll find it becomes easier and easier, and once you start seeing the benefits, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start sooner. 

Lead by Example: Inspire!

I totally understand the frustration of this one. You have a vision in your head of how you want your environment to look. Perhaps you’ve been reading blogs like this one, discovered Joshua Becker, or read some inspiring books on minimalism and are itching to get started. But you can’t because your partner and/or kids won’t get rid of anything no matter what you say or threaten.

The key here is to focus on decluttering your own stuff, and then start setting fair expectations such as; nobody else’s stuff comes into your space/storage you created, that it is their responsibility to tidy up after themselves (unless very young children), and specify certain areas as no-drop zones. The accent chair, for example, is no longer to be used as a laundry hamper or toy shelf, but as a chair. 

If you’ve always been the one picking up after everybody else, try to reduce the amount you do so; you’re giving them a chance to become fed up with dealing with it, and to see how much stuff they’re sorting on a regular basis. By continuing to do the work for them, you’re taking that chance away. 

Whatever you do, don’t threaten to throw away your child or partner’s stuff, and certainly don’t do it behind their backs without them knowing. The more you threaten, complain and point out everybody else’s clutter, the tighter they’re likely to hold on. For some people, letting go of their possessions can be emotional or even traumatic. 

People are more likely to follow by example or inspiration. Be the inspiration! Regularly watch minimalism content in the background of your family home, and live your own simple life. When others see how much more time you seem to have and how much happier you seem, they’re more likely to become curious. 

If they do become curious, or start to declutter, don’t rush them and don’t tell them what to get rid of (it won’t work!) Instead, ask them questions about their stuff that they can ask themselves and gently guide them. E.g “Would you buy this again if you saw it in a shop?”, “What did this item mean to you?” , Does it mean the same thing to you now?”, “When did you last use it?” 

Categorise and Clear

Sometimes, there’s so much stuff we just don’t know where to begin. Paperwork cluttering up counters and spilling out of binders, books stacked haphazardly on shelves and tables, toys exploding all over your living room and spilling out into the rest of the house, makeup strewn everywhere in your drawers, pens and random coins on window ledges and hidden behind twenty different ornaments, mystery cables tangled in every nook and cranny,  hygiene products filling every spare shelf in the bathroom, kitchen drawers hiding God only knows what, wardrobes struggling to close, shoes scattered all over the place, clothes dumped on chairs and draped over stair rails…ahh! 

If this is you then fear not! It’s possible to get started today. Depending on your schedule and lifestyle, there are several ways you can go about it. 

You can either start small on the obvious stuff you can see in your vicinity, and gain momentum slowly, or you can use the Konmari method and gather like-with-like, sorting through categories

I highly recommend the latter, because clearing whole categories can give instant, visible results which will spur you on to keep going, whereas going small and slow can make you feel as if you’re not even making a dent. It can also be demotivating to think you’ve finally dealt with all your books only to realise there’s fifty more dotted around in drawers, cupboards and other spaces. This can also happen if you declutter room-by-room. 

However, if room-by-room sounds like your thing, by all means go for it! But if you take this approach I advise going for a room where you spend most of your time and will quickly and clearly see the results.

The kitchen, for example, tends to be the heart of the home, (I definitely like hanging out in mine since we created a minimalist kitchen!) and you can instantly feel the difference when everything has a space, is easy to find, and there’s a light airy space to prep and to socialise in.

Seriously, I find myself happily bopping along to music in mine and sometimes sitting up on the counters reading while dinner cooks (I do clean the counter after). 

And if you can feel this good in the kitchen, where else can you curate to make you feel amazing and relaxed just by being in there? 

I hope these strategies have inspired you, and I’d love to hear of any progress you make, or even of your own struggles.

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