I Want to "Tidy Up" - But How?

by Gail Schuster, LICSW

Decluttering is huge. Marie Kondo, the maven of “tidying up,” has gone from bestselling self-help author to Netflix star. This craze makes sense. Most of us have a love-hate relationship with all our stuff. We collect it, we display it, we grow attached to it and we grow overwhelmed by it. When it’s time to move into a smaller space, or just clear out some space in our current home, we may grow paralyzed. We find it hard to part with “our things,” even things we don’t use, need or even like.

Perhaps we associate these objects with joyful times or treasured relationships. We may subconsciously feel that our “stuff” represents what we’ve achieved in life. But most of us also know that if we can declutter our physical space, we’ll experience a different sense of achievement. When we “tidy up,” we enter a new phase of life – not unlike what happens when we finally get in shape after a long period of inactivity. Letting go of clutter can make us feel light and free.

So, how to begin?

You don’t necessarily need to read a book or watch a television series to learn how to declutter. Following a few common-sense guidelines can get you started.  

Work small

As with any worthwhile endeavor, we must be prepared for some hard work. Start simple, with small goals and actions. Perhaps select one room or one section of a room. Once you see the change in a small space, it will be easier for you to continue.

Be neat

Make clear decisions about what stays and what goes, perhaps labeling several bags or boxes “To Donate,” to avoid confusion. Avoid amorphous piles. Keeping things clean and organized as you go will help keep you on track.

Dealing with feelings

Perhaps there is an item that you don’t really use, need or even like, but which you still want to keep because of a sentimental association. Or perhaps you feel this way about dozens of … or hundreds of items in your home. If one or two unneeded objects are too special to part with, then keep them – but commit to limit the number of such objects that you will keep. For other items that you want to remember, consider taking a photo. You can create a digital memory file, on a smartphone, tablet or computer, to enjoy whenever you wish. This goes for photo albums as well. Scanning photos and saving them on a hard drive takes up a lot less space than the bulky albums themselves.

The benefits of decluttering are numerous. Having less stuff around means less maintenance and cleaning, more time to do things you want to do. Your home may become safer, with fewer obstacles and trip hazards. Meanwhile, you’ll gain a visual environment that is calmer and more aesthetically pleasing – and what could be better than that?