Tips & Tricks

6 Slow Decluttering Techniques

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The thought of tackling a whole-house decluttering project can be overwhelming and dispiriting, even for those who generally enjoy a neat and tidy environment. And with good reason—according to a recent article from the LA Times, the average American household contains an average of 300,000 items, making it easy for decision fatigue to set in when sorting items to keep, donate, throw away, or recycle.

If your living space is jammed to the gills, and you find yourself frustrated by the mess, but unable to pull yourself off the couch to deal with it, slow decluttering may be for you. The idea is to break the project into small, manageable chunks, so that you can experience the satisfaction of completing a task and start building momentum. Techniques you may want to try include:

  1. Completely declutter one small area: This could be one flat surface, pile, cabinet, or drawer. For maximum impact, choose an area that’s frequently within your view, such as the top of your nightstand, a coffee table, or one section of your kitchen counter.
  2. Get rid of one piece of furniture: One simple way to clear a large area quickly is to get rid of one large item instead of many smaller ones. Choose a piece of furniture that’s worn, in need of repair, or that doesn’t suit your current space or tastes and kick it to the curb.
  3. Use the 20/10 Technique: Set a timer for 20 minutes and work on decluttering with a focused energy, doing what you can to avoid any interruptions or distractions. When the timer goes off, reset it for 10 minutes and take a break. Do this for as many sessions as it takes to accomplish your immediate goal, or until you’ve found your groove and no longer need to take breaks at regular intervals.
  4. Schedule regular, short, decluttering sessions: A variation on the above, this involves scheduling 10-20 minutes each day to work on sorting items. Make an appointment on your Google calendar, or set an alarm on your phone that will cue you to begin the day’s session. These short, daily bursts will set you on the path to accomplish a lot over time, while taking very little mental or physical energy on any given day.
  5. Get rid of a predetermined number of items each day for a month: Set up a sorting station composed of a trash can, a recycle bin, and a donation box or bag and get rid of 5-10 items a day for 30 days. At the end of the month you’ll have purged 150-300 items, which will feel like substantial progress.
  6. Declutter with a partner: Two sets of hands are always better than one. Enlist the help of your spouse, or pair up with friend and work on one person’s space, then on the other person’s space. Define a concrete goal for each decluttering session you tackle together, then take some time to relax and enjoy each other’s company after you’ve completed your objectives.

Breaking down large decluttering projects and incorporating good habits into your daily life will have you feeling accomplished, and help you regain a sense of control over your environment in no time.

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