I want to declutter, but where do I start?

Updated: Sep 18, 2020

Ouch! You get knocked on the head by a falling object as you pull something from the top shelf of your cupboard.

"Thats it! I'm done!" you yell, "That's the last time I get injured by clutter!"

So- you're finally ready to tackle the big home declutter. But where to start? The overflowing kitchen cupboards, the wardrobe that is crammed with clothes you never wear, the garage which holds every imaginable piece of sports and camping equipment. Ugh. You need a plan. And fast.

Where do I believe you should start? It's not where you might think...

Where do I believe you should start with decluttering? HINT: it's not where you think!

It's your wallet.

"What? This chick has gone mad." I can actually hear you you saying that out loud as you read this, but bear with me.

Decluttering can be exhausting. There are so many decisions to be made and plenty of them involve complex emotions like deep sentimentality. You have to reassess you aspirations, accept the feelings of wastefulness and frequently negotiate with other parties in your household if the items relate to them. And that's just in the letting go. You also have to address the rehoming, selling or discarding of items and then re-organise, possibly clean and put back what remains. This is not a job for the faint-hearted or the easily bored.

Hence, start with your wallet.

Pull out everything. Start by looking at all of your cards. Cut up any that you no longer use or which may have expired. Convert the excess (or lesser used) loyalty cards to a loyalty card storage app on your phone so you have less bulk in your wallet. Throw away or file the receipts. Look at anything else that was in there and ask yourself if you need it and use it. Give it a dust off or wipe inside and out. Put your cash and needed cards back in. Job done.

Doesn't that feel great? Success. Go make yourself a cuppa and put your feet up. You've earned a rest. But wait, that feels good doesn't it? That feeling of achievement? Maybe you just want to keep going. So where to next? Maybe take a small step up. Try decluttering your purse/ handbag or backpack next. Maybe your gym bag or the glovebox in your car?

You see, decluttering is like using a muscle. You can't walk into the gym, having never lifted weights, and go straight to bench-pressing 100kg. You would injure yourself and probably never come back to the gym. You need to start small and gradually build it up over time. When you start AND finish a decluttering task, you feel great and that builds momentum for you to continue. You get a little stronger. How many times have you tried to jump straight into a big decluttering job, got half way through, lost heart and hope and thrown it all back in the space, in a worse state than it was when you started? It is unbelievably common. That's because it's too big. You're not ready for that yet. Start small and gradually work your way up.

You know that decluttering will involve an exhaustive amount of decisions about what to keep and what let go, so it is helpful to practice letting go of small and insignificant things like receipts or loyalty cards first. This gives you lived experience of things leaving your life and not affecting you negatively. It's much easier deciding on the receipts in your wallet than whether to keep or sell your wedding dress for example.

But, when you start small you will work your decision making muscle over and over, easy decisions at first and then gradually harder. After wallets and bags, think of decluttering a drawer at a time. Maybe a drawer in the kitchen first. Then each of your desk drawers. Graduate to a shelf in the pantry, then the bookshelf, your bedside tables, the linen cupboard. Then you might feel ready to move to your wardrobe, then the trunk full of old photos and then onwards towards the attic and the junk room. By the time you reach a decision as big as the unused sports equipment in the garage, the box of keepsakes from high school or your wedding dress, you will have made literally thousands of decisions. You will be much better at working out what you need, use or love, be stronger at letting things go and understanding that you actually can let them go, without adverse effects.

So forget the saying, "Go big or go home." When it comes to decluttering you want to start small and then build momentum. Now, go find your wallet...

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