Bring fresh energy in – send the old energy out
Clearing your clutter is liberating. Not only does it free up physical space, but it can also have a huge positive impact psychologically.
It’s not always easy to clear your clutter though, and you may find yourself getting bogged down trying to decide what will stay and what will go. I’m going to share with you a powerful 7-step system I devised myself to make this whole thing a lot easier.
Whether you’re getting rid of most of your stuff or just some of it, the following process will help. What’s more, it will also reveal to you the things you actually, genuinely need, day to day.
The results might surprise you.
In 2014, I went through a process of changing the way I work (so that I could travel and work at the same time), and I also made the decision to rent out my house.
But there was one big problem. My house was full of stuff!
I really didn’t relish having to sort through everything to decide what to keep and what to throw out. So I took a different approach:
Rather than looking at what I wanted to get rid of, I started instead with the end in mind – and looked at what I actually needed, day to day.
My own plans were to travel and housesit, so I wasn’t going to need very much. My house would be rented out unfurnished, and so I wouldn’t need my furniture and furnishings either.
Even if you’re not making such a big change in your own life, the system I used will help you clear things less painfully than going through every item you have.
So here goes…
1. Put a small blank piece of paper and a pen in every room – positioned somewhere convenient. (Make sure the paper is no bigger than half A4/Letter and make sure you only write on one side.)
2. Each time you go into a room or space, use the piece of paper in that room to note what you actually use during the time you’re in there. Do it for that specific time only, i.e. just the hours/minutes you’re in that room that day. For example, if you go into the kitchen to make a coffee, write down: coffee, milk, fridge, mug, coffee maker, filters, water, kettle, spoon – or whatever it is you actually use on that one single occasion. If you go into the living room to read a book, write down: book, sofa, lamp, etc.
3. In each room use only what you really need to in that room.
4. Each time you go back into that same room/space, do the same thing with the pen and paper – but only add the new things you use. No need to repeat things you’ve already noted. So, for example, if you go back into the kitchen later the same day to make another coffee, the chances are you wouldn’t need to write down anything new on the paper.
5. Leave each piece of paper in the room it belongs to, so it’s always there when you go in.
6. Do the same thing each time you go into a room or space. Do it every single day for one month, using the same pieces of paper for the whole month. This may all sound a bit pedantic, but it has amazing results.
7. When the month is up, review everything you’ve written down, and if there are any duplicates between rooms (i.e. you’ve written the same item on more than one piece of paper), cross out the duplicates.
You’ll probably find that during the first few days you fill up most of the sheets of paper. However, after those first few days you’ll find there’s very little to add – because you tend to repeatedly use the same few things, day to day.
For example, in the bathroom you might initially write down: toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, hairbrush, hairdryer, make up, bath towel, contact lenses, lens solution, face cream, nail clippers, etc. After that you won’t really need to add much – because every day in the bathroom is more or less the same.
When I came to review my own lists, I was surprised how little was actually written on them, compared with everything that was cluttering up my house.
I my case I wasn’t going to need furniture or kitchen equipment/appliances, so I excluded those things from my lists – and I also excluded perishable food items.
After that I drew up one master list from all the separate pieces of paper, and was amazed to discover that my list of everything I needed could fit on two sides of A4 paper.
Another useful thing to do is to look at how you could use one thing for multiple purposes; it means you can cross a few more things off your list.
To my final list I added a few ‘seasonal’ things that I hadn’t used during the month, like my trekking gear, camping equipment, etc.
Seeing the final master list showed me very clearly that everything else in my house could go. Everything.
You can adapt this system to suit your own purposes of course, but the principles will make clearing your clutter much easier – because you can see so clearly what you actually need.
So now that I knew what I genuinely needed and what I didn’t, the process of clearing out was actually quite easy. I gave away the majority to people who needed it, including my clothes. I just kept a small number of clothes I felt really good in.
While I was actually clearing stuff out after I’d made my list, I was shocked to discover how many multiples of some things I had, for example I found 11(!) rolls of sticky tape, more mugs than I could possibly ever use even if I had a houseful of people, and multiple unopened bottles of things like shampoo, etc.
When my house was finally clear, it felt so incredibly good. At the same time I was horrified to think just how much money and time I’d spent over the years on all that stuff.
Over my years of travelling, I’ve hardly missed anything, and the process itself has been a game changer for me. Whatever I’m doing now, I’m much more able to see what’s really important and what’s not – not just with physical stuff, but in other areas of my life too. It keeps fresh energy coming in.
What’s your own experience of clearing your clutter?