Decluttering Strategies: Ways to Shed Your Stuff and Simplify Your Life
Last updated in May 2017
Need some help deciding what to cherish, what to sell, and what to pitch? Here are some popular strategies and resources.
The KonMari Method
Japanese decluttering guru Marie Kondo sold millions of copies of her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Her throw-it-all-out minimalist approach is based on the logic that, when you touch an object, it should spark joy. If it doesn’t, be the thing a spatula or a suit, you’re supposed to shuttle it. Obviously, her ultra-pared-back approach isn’t for everyone, especially booklovers who might take umbrage with Kondo’s suggestion that you tear pages from your favorite tomes to just “keep the words you like.”
The OHIO Rule
“Only Handle It Once” is a standard junk-battling refrain, perhaps best for controlling things constantly coming into your abode: mail, free grocery-store totes, cheap toys from kids’ birthday parties. You can also OHIO things you’re trying to sort out by deciding if you’ll keep something and then either selling it, donating, or tossing it. And no, you can’t run back to the dumpster to “rescue” things after you’ve made up your mind.
The One-Year Question
Haven’t worn that shirt, used Aunt Mildred’s teapot, or powered up your VHS player in over a year? Time to toss it. Can you hold on to a few things for sentimental reasons? Sure, but within reason. It’s one thing to keep one of your late father’s pipes if you don’t smoke, but you’re getting close to “Hoarders: Tobacco Row Edition” if you’re keeping 50 of them.
Everything in Its Place or That Fits Your Space
Except for rare instances (you own a collection of Matisse paintings you need to protect?), you shouldn’t buy or keep more stuff than your current space will hold. This means stopping shopping (or purging garments) when your closet is so stuffed it won’t shut or making Junior give away a few stuffed animals when the toy box overfloweth.
The Unf^&k Your Habitat and FlyLady Methods
Both of these websites and books have a similar message: Devote short bursts of time (15 to 20 minutes) to throwing stuff out and cleaning up your home. FlyLady recommends setting a timer; the other resource (there may be kids around, so we won’t display its full name) advocates walking a line between getting rid of junk you don’t need and keeping things you enjoy. “Redefine minimalism to fit your own life,” it coaches.
Whether you enlist your dapper friend to help you winnow down your collection of, ahem, 200 bow ties, or you go through family photos with your kid brother, it helps to have another set of eyes and hands on your stuff. Hiring a professional organizer by the project or hour is another option. The National Association of Professional Organizers is a good place to look for one—its members must undergo multiple hours of training and education to receive certification. We’ll write more about organizers later this year.