Declutter Your Life
Conquer the Chaos
Ever walk into someone's spotless, clutter-free house and wonder how she does it? The key, experts agree, is to follow a few simple rules (and to bend a few others).
Maintain critical mass. You already own most of what you need, so think of every new item you buy as a replacement, not an addition. When you bring home a fancy new skillet or cute sweater, throw away an old one.
Declutter every single day. When you stay on top of a problem, it doesn't mushroom into a mess requiring a massive cleanup. Devoting 10 or 15 minutes every day to tidying up will save you untold hours down the road.
Cherish memories, not objects. There's no need to hang on to that pint-size table your kids doodled at to remember them as adorable toddlers. Belongings should relate to your life now, not be rooted in the past.
Remember the classic rule. The cliche is (mostly) true: If you haven't worn or used something in two years, toss it. The exception? If it truly motivates you or makes you smile, says Gail Blanke, author of Throw Out Fifty Things. Unloading should be freeing, not forced; otherwise there's no benefit.
Time it right. A sure way to make a cluttered space more so: Start tackling it, only to run out of time halfway through. To avoid letting a chore drag out over several weekends, clear your schedule and double the number of hours you think it will take.
Appreciate the value of order. Streamlining your desk so you have room to think or paring down your Tupperware so you can actually find a container (with a lid) for leftovers is a form of "self-care," says Sara Bereika, a professional organizer in Richmond, Virginia, who appears on the show Hoarders. "Organized people tend to see more clearly how their environment affects their emotional well-being."
Stick to the shopping list. Even if it means (gulp) breezing past the two-for-one laundry detergent display or table of handbags marked 40 percent off. Impulse buying saddles you with a lot of stuff you neither need nor have the room to store.
Keep your eye on the prize. Ask a runner why she loves the sport and she'll mention the endorphin high it gives her. Decluttering produces a similar effect. "Decide to get rid of stuff and you instantly feel lighter, invigorated, more optimistic," promises Blanke.
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