Five spaces to lighten to make decluttering contagious

Making decluttering contagious is not as difficult as it sounds. While it is often wrought with hesitation and fear, there are two ways to create ease in doing this necessary and daunting deed.

The first way is to start small.

You have likely heard me say before that the best place to start when it comes to lightening your space of what you don’t like, need, or use is to start small. Starting small can be in terms of the job scope, time allotted, or both.

As I have said, when you start small you eat the proverbial elephant one bite at a time. So, you look at a corner instead of an entire room cluttered with unmade decisions, homeless items, or excess. You allow yourself to do one drawer or box at a time.

That important permission does two things:

It makes easier the overwhelming task of letting go.

And because the task has an air of ease you are more likely to want to stay the course.

That is the key to making decluttering contagious! When something feels easier, you are more likely to want to do it.

The second way to create ease is to start in areas where there is less fear.

There are many small decluttering tasks you can do to give you a boost of inspiration and make decluttering feel more appealing. My top five are areas where clutter congregates but there is an ease to decluttering these spaces because the clutter doesn’t tend to be the scary kind that makes you feel guilt or shame.

These spaces are often easier to purge because much of what you find in them requires little decision-making. Instead, they are stuffed with obvious clutter that needs little effort and takes up hardly any brain space.

The key to addressing these spaces lies in what they do for your psyche once you’ve tackled them.

Purging these simple spaces gives you a taste of the freedom decluttering creates. It will make it addictive. And it will propel you to take on more small decluttering tasks.

For each space listed below, I recommend doing a quick declutter. This process is meant to help you let go without too much angst. The goal of the quick declutter is to identify 10 things in 10 minutes that are obvious clutter – things you can easily identify as trash or belonging to someone else. You might be surprised how much clutter fits into those unemotional categories, but when you realize it decluttering can become addictive.

Five spaces to lighten that will make decluttering contagious

1. Your handbag or wallet.

Similar to storing things behind doors or in drawers, your handbag (tote bag, briefcase, backpack, etc) offers an out-of-site-out-of-mind opportunity to ignore doing easy, tidy tasks like trashing small items or putting things in their home. Empty the contents in a clear space and sort the trash from the “treasure” to empty the physical load of what you carry daily. And repeat weekly to keep that load light.

2. The bathroom.

A lot of unemotional clutter lurks in the bathroom. Go through the space, the drawers and closets, and look for old cosmetics, expired prescriptions, items that have run their course – like old hair brushes – or excess supplies like soap, toothpaste/brushes, hair supplies, or towels. These make great shelter donations. Remove the obvious clutter and it will function better.

3. Nightstand.

Declutter anything from the space that makes it feel busy or overwhelmed. That means no computers, excess notebooks, tchotchkes, or books. Those items are distracting, and don’t serve the purpose of the space. Prioritize what you put on your nightstand table remembering that a clutter-free nightstand promotes a restful night’s sleep.

4. Pantry.

The out-of-site mentality applies to this space. Because many people buy duplicates unknowingly and store them in a pantry or cabinet this not only becomes cluttered often, but it is wrought with easy decisions – like expired food, or food you know you just are not going to eat. Look through this space and swiftly toss what is old, unnecessary, or unappetizing. If there are foods, spices, or sauces that are not outdated but that you know you are aren’t eating consider donating those unopened items to a local food bank or shelter.

5. Your car.

While it can be an easy out-of-site space to dump things, the car isn’t the spot for unmade decisions – or worse, decisions that have been made but not seen through – like donations or the book/sweater/bowl you need to return to your sister. It isn’t the place for trash from takeout, every CD you own but never use, or excess clutter for things you might need, someday… just in case. (Yes, I am talking about “extra” napkins, pens, utensils, clothes, etc). Like the bathroom there is a lot of unemotional clutter in the car making it an easy declutter, thus contributing to its contagiousness. Remove the obvious, easy clutter. You’ll feel better. Your car will probably run better. And you might find that you enjoy your commute even more.


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