Let’s face it: clutter is stressful. You know what’s even more stressful? Dealing with all that clutter! It’s a nasty catch-22 that keeps many of us stressed out, fatigued, and not as mentally healthy as we could be.
Fortunately, there are solutions. For most of us, that is solutions with a capital “S”–at the end. Instead of one big thing we can do to make decluttering easier, it’s actually more practical (and less stressful) to implement a few small solutions instead of one great big one.
The First Step to Decluttering Your Home: It’s Actually Very Liberating
First, give yourself permission to be imperfect. (If you really can’t do that, we’ve got another suggestion below.)
Let’s face it, a cluttered house is already a less-than-perfect situation. Well guess what? You don’t have to make your house perfect–you just have to make it look better than it does now. That’s the truth. That’s it. That’s all!
Listen, no one truly has a perfectly clean or decluttered house. The only time anyone’s house looks “perfect” is when they’ve spent way too much time cleaning before company came over.
Here’s the great part: Once you give yourself permission to be imperfect, you’ll take a huge amount of pressure off yourself. You’ll probably do a better job–and do it faster–than you ever thought possible!
Step 1.5: When You Absolutely, Positively Cannot Settle for Anything Less Than a Perfectly Clean Home
So fine, you don’t want to listen to reason–you want a perfectly clean house that puts your friends and family and neighbors to shame. You want to be that mom. Nothing less will do.
But you’re afraid you can’t do it.
So you don’t even try.
Luckily for you, there is a solution!
Here is your ticket out: Perfection is achievable–just not always on the first try. That’s why you should take your housecleaning in waves.
It might sound counter intuitive, but it’s okay to clean a room two or three times! Do what you can. When you start feeling overwhelmed, stop. Go on to the next room, and then the next, and then come back. You’ll be surprised at how refreshed you’re going to feel!
Step 2: Make a Plan
Here’s the secret to making a plan: It doesn’t have to be detailed, it just has to be. Most importantly, you don’t have to follow it religiously. You just need to have one!
- Which room do you want to start with? For some of us, the obvious answer is the room that’s easiest to clean. But it can be tempting to tackle that hard-to-get room so that everything afterwards feels easier. Either way, make a decision and write it down!
- Break each room down into tasks. One favorite method is to separate your clutter into different categories: Clothes that need to be washed, toys that need to be put away, electronics that need to be stored, trash that needs to be put out, and items that need to be donated.
- You don’t have to clean one room at a time–but you can. What’s your usual method? You might find it easiest to stick with cleaning one room at a time, until each is completely clean. Or, you may want to collect all of the dirty clothes from each room, then pick up all the toys or electronics from each room, etc. Hint: If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try doing the opposite of what you usually do for a change of pace.
- Don’t be afraid to pile it up. One common “hack” for cleaning is to take everything off of shelves, furniture, etc. and put it into separate groups: a pile of laundry, a pile of electronics, a pile of books or DVDs, things to donate or give away, etc. Hit each pile one by one, putting everything back where it’s supposed to be. Science has shown that microproductivity can increase productivity and decrease the time it takes to do most anything.
Step 3: Keep Your House Decluttered
The most important step for keeping your home clean–and your mind sane!–is to make sure your house doesn’t end up so cluttered again! Of course, this is easier said than done. But it’s not as difficult to do as you may think.
Most of us know that the “best” way to avoid clutter is to clean up any clutter as soon as it’s formed. But let’s be honest–if this was practical, we’d never have cluttered homes in the first place! Most of us are simply too pressed for time or energy to clean up every mess as soon as it’s made.
Instead, it can be a good idea to dedicate certain times of the week to certain tasks. This may mean going over the entire house once or twice a week. But you might find it more manageable to work on different specific goals on different days: Cleaning the living room on Wednesdays and Saturdays, for example. Or, have a different day dedicated to clothes, a different day dedicated to sorting out books or electronics, etc.
The most important thing is to have concrete goals that you can divide up over time. Then, you’ll keep your sense of accomplishment, and be much less likely to feel overwhelmed.