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Top Decluttering Methods Experts Like

Wethered wooden sign with our small planks shaped like long arrows where the seaparate arrows say Own, Less, Live, More.

Now that the weather has turned hot, and we'll all be spending more time in our air-conditioned homes, why not use some of that time to clear away those worn out, no longer usable, or "not my style" items you've been keeping hidden in drawers or cabinets?

Ideal Home surveyed a group of decluttering experts to see which methods they think work best and how you should approach the task so you have a healthier and more positive perspective.

Unlock the Benefits of Decluttering

Many home organizers and decluttering experts say that how you approach the task of clearing out your space is one of the best ways to make it easier. Instead of approaching it as a cleaning, administrative or household chore, look at decluttering as part of your self-care routine. Studies show a more minimalist environment reduces stress and feelings of shame of being unable to handle the day-to-day upkeep a maximalist environment presents.

Approaching it as part of a self-care routine also means you'll be more likely to declutter and reorganize frequently rather than seeing it as something you have to set aside large chunks of time to do.

So which methods do the experts like best? Here are the top 5:

The 20/20 Rule

Often, when you look at an item, you can't remember the last time you used it but think, "I may need this one day," so you don't want to donate or toss it.

The 20/20 Rule, developed by The Minimalists Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, helps you consider the real value of any item and often lets you get rid of it without any guilt.

Here's how it works. Let's say you have a box of nails or screws that you purchased a while ago for a project, and you have a bunch left over. You think you will need them again one day, so you've held onto them. They are taking up space, however, that could accommodate something else you use more frequently.

With the 20/20 rule, you ask yourself, "Can I replace this item in 20 minutes for under $20?" If the answer is yes, you can get rid of it without worry. That's one less thing you have to clean around or move to make room for something else because you know you can quickly and affordably replace it.

The One In/One Out Rule

If you just don't feel ready to do a big purge, this method is for you. It helps prevent overbuying and doesn't require you to fill up a box all at once.

This rule states that every time you bring something new into the house, one old item should go. For example, you have found a beautiful set of linen sheets that make you want to go home and immediately change your bed. Once you do, you can then go to your linen closet and bag up that set of single bedsheets to donate to your local animal shelter. You know the ones. They've been at the back of the top shelf for years because you don't even have that bed set up in your house anymore. While you're at it, you can include pillowcases that have worn edges.

Now, you don't have to stuff those new sheets into the closet after the next laundry day.

The Move Out Method

Moving is one of the best ways to clear out unwanted items. If you don't want to pay to have someone move that broken Barbie's Playhouse, you send it to the dump.

Even if you aren't moving, you can take the same approach. If you were moving to a new place, how many of the things you own would you really want to take with you? Can you pare down the number of photographs you've saved or digitize them? Do you really need the odd flatware in the kitchen drawer?

With the Move Out Method, you can go through your house, one drawer or shelf at a time, and consider each item as if you were paying someone to move it and whether it would be worth keeping. If you get into the "habit" of moving out often, decluttering won't seem like such a daunting task. And who knows, you could win the lottery, buy a villa in Tuscany, and your house would be ready to pack up quickly so you could take off on your adventure.

Swedish Art of Death Cleaning

At first, this methodology sounds morbid, but it is actually one of the best ways to free yourself from any of the guilt or worry of decluttering.

The gist of "death cleaning" is to look at an item and consider not only how it makes you feel, but how it will make your loved one feel after you have passed. Will they be happy to receive your cherished items, or overwhelmed by how much they have to go through and what to do with them?

One of the most often asked questions by heirs when going through a deceased loved one's items is "Why?" Why did they hold onto these odd socks? Why are there so many dishcloths? Why weren't these photo albums digitized? That isn't how you want your family or friends to think of you after you are gone. You can take steps now, so their process is one of nostalgia and smiles, not hair-pulling and sighs.

One thing Swedish Death Cleaning suggests is that you talk to your family and ask if they will want something or not. It may be a tough conversation and disappointing at times, especially when they aren't interested in your favorite Oriental vase or grandmother's spinning wheel. But, you can also look at this as an opportunity to make sure someone who will truly cherish and care for your possessions can get them while you are still around to ensure that happens.

The Clutter Countdown

This 30-day process can help you eliminate hundreds of items in one month. On day one, you put one item into a donate/toss bag. On day two, you put two items. On day three, you put three items, and so on. By the end of the month, you will be amazed at how much you have been able to clear out.

The beauty of this challenge is that you don't have to be perfect. On day 14, you may only find 3 items. On day 9, you may have found 12 items. If you are a stickler for the count, you can anticipate select categories for the higher count days, such as socks, ties, or costume jewelry. The point is that you are looking through your things daily to see what you can part with.

Other Considerations

One of the little-known facts about our possessions is the 80/20 ratio. We really only use 20% of the things we own frequently. The remaining 80% are sometimes only used once a year (think holiday decorations) or seasonally (bathing suits or parkas). Given how infrequently some items get used, it is easier to part with duplicates.

For example, you may have 10 pairs of winter gloves, but you really only use 4 of them, depending on the outfit, of course. With those you don't wear, you can use any of the methods above to decide whether to keep them. Can you run to TJ Maxx or Target and replace the gloves for under $20? What will your heirs think when they open that drawer and see all of those gloves?

Knowing where or how to start is often the biggest and most overwhelming part of the process. Well, there's an app for that, and it's free.

Logo for the Toss App

"Toss" can be found in the app store on your phone or tablet. Each day, it gives you a category to declutter. One day, it could be bed linens; another, it could be writing materials. You can skip a category to get another one. Once it's done, you record how many items you decide to toss or donate. When you need confirmation that you've done a lot, you can look at your history, and the app will tell you exactly how many items you've been able to clear out. Just think, no paper you have to write on and put away!

Another way to get started is to use a timer. Set the timer on your phone for 15 minutes and commit to doing only that much decluttering. Then the task is broken down into manageable chunks of time so you aren't worried about stopping to cook dinner or getting the laundry folded before bedtime.

Clutter is stressful and distracting. It has been proven to promote procrastination, decrease well-being, lower quality of life, and even adversely impact relationships. Slow and steady is the best way to tackle the problem and can result in a healthier and more relaxing environment.


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Sources: Very Well Mind, Ideal Home



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