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  • Writer's pictureCathy Hertler

Out With the Old (Stuff), In With the New (Habits)

A new year always brings new intentions. The hard part is figuring out how to get from “I’m going to …” to “I did it!” And when it comes to decluttering your house, the “I’m going to” phase can quickly turn into “I just can’t deal with all this.”

But the effort is worth it. Research supports the case that a clean, clutter-free house lowers stress and improves your sense of wellbeing. And getting there is possible. You just need a workable plan.

Bust the Clutter Now

The hardest part of establishing a new habit is getting started, so here are seven tasks to get the ball rolling. And hey … if seven tasks seem overwhelming, just pick one or two to get started. Once you’re over the initial hump, you’ll probably want to keep going!

  1. Don’t pack away holiday décor or gift wrap that you know you don’t want to see again in 11 months. Consider this your opportunity to do some REALLY early holiday planning by getting rid of what you don’t like or can’t use. Then, take advantage of end-of-season clearance sales to get a head-start on finding replacements.

  2. Clear space in your kitchen cabinets by tossing storage containers without lids (or lids without containers) and getting rid of cookware, dishes, and appliances you don’t use. Serviceable items can go to a thrift store, but trash anything that isn’t usable.

  3. Even though we don’t really want to think about tax time, take some time to gather documents you’ll need come April and shred what you don’t. This is also a good time to switch to electronic statements to reduce the amount of paper you have to deal with.

  4. Give some attention to the bathroom space that’s usually overlooked at cleaning time: the medicine cabinet. Pull out expired medications and dispose of them safely by looking for a pharmacy that has a take-back program. While you’re at it, toss expired beauty products, as well as anything you don’t use.

  5. Closets tend to be the trickiest decluttering spot in the house. We form emotional attachments to clothes, and we don’t always want to admit that a brand-new item is just never going to get worn. Here’s the good news: Your castoffs will find a good home through a garage sale or thrift shop. Start by pulling out anything that doesn’t fit or that you know you don’t want. Move “on the fence” items to the front of your closet, and shift them to the back if you wear them. Anything that hasn’t been worn in 12 months can go in the “donate” pile.

  6. If your entertainment world is mainly streaming, get rid of CDs, DVDs, and video games that are taking up valuable storage space. Donate these items or sell them to shops that specialize in used entertainment and books.

  7. Before gardening season starts, get rid of broken tools and outdoor furnishings that are worn out or unwanted. Spring is a great time for a fresh start on your yard and outdoor living space!

Keep the Clutter at Bay

Once you’ve cleared out your space and see how much better it looks, it will be easier to find motivation to stay on track. Here are seven habits to adopt into your routine that will keep your home running smoothly all year long.

  1. Set up a bin or bag in a closet where you can toss anything you plan to give away. Once it’s full, donate and start again.

  2. Any time you put on a clothing item that doesn’t fit, isn’t flattering, or that you’re just plain tired of, toss it in that donation bin.

  3. Clean out your pantry and fridge before every grocery shopping trip. You’ll have a better idea of what you need, and you’ll have space to put your fresh food.

  4. It doesn’t take up physical space, but digital clutter is just as overwhelming. Set aside time once a week to delete unneeded emails and put those you need in folders. This is also a good time to go through photos on your phone and delete duplicates or blurred shots.

  5. Make a daily decluttering appointment for the family. As little as 15 minutes a day will make sure the mail gets dealt with, toys get put away, and the kitchen counters get cleared for the next day. If you schedule this time for after dinner, you can then settle in for a relaxing evening for everyone!

  6. Adopt the “One In, One Out” rule. Bought a new shirt? Give one away. New skillet? Toss or donate the old one. This method ensures that you don’t keep adding new layers of “stuff.” But you can really banish clutter for good — while also lessening your environmental footprint — by stopping to think whether you really need something before buying it. Remember: Reduced consumption = reduced clutter.

  7. Remind yourself why you’re doing this. This isn’t a chore … it’s a goal of living in a stress-free, restorative environment. Once you think of this as a gift you’re giving yourself and your family, you’ll feel better about making decluttering a daily habit!

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