How to Start Uncluttering Your Life

by Henrik Edberg

“It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials.”
Bruce Lee

I love uncluttering.

Why?

Because a life with less clutter makes it easier to find inner peace, to focus and to keep your attention on what is most important and meaningful in life.

Clutter creates distraction. It can create stress and confusion that you may not be aware of that it is creating.

But after you have uncluttered there is usually a sensation of feeling calmer and lighter, a bit more upbeat and being able to think more clearly.

Decluttering a drawer, shelf or some kind of space in your life can be an unexpectedly positive experience not just practically but for you as a person both emotionally and mentally.

This is the most important reason why I declutter.

But it also frees up space and in many cases saves money.

If you have just 5 or 10 minutes to spare today and want to take a first step to simplify your outer and inner life then I recommend uncluttering just one small space in your house.

Here’s how I declutter in a few simple steps.

First, pick a drawer or a shelf.

Empty it out and clean it out.

Put everything that was in the space in one big pile.

Then make choices about those items, one at a time.

The choices are:

  • Choose to trash the item. Then put it in a trash bag.
  • Give it away. Give away old books, clothes etc. Give it to someone you know that you think could make good use of it. Or give it away to your local charity. Put such items in another bag or box.
  • Keep it and find a home for it. If you want to keep the item then find a home for it. It could be at one of the front corners of your drawer or to the right in the top shelf of your book case for example.
  • Put it in a 6-month box. If you are unsure about if you should keep the item or not ask yourself: have I used this in the past year? If not, then it is often pretty safe to say that you won’t be using it in the future either.*
    If you are still unsure after having used the question, put the item(s) in a box. Put the box away somewhere where you can easily access it – a closet for example – if you need something from it. On the outside of the box write the date when you put the stuff in it.
    6 months later get the box and see what is still in it. If you haven’t used those things in the past 6 months then you have no need for them and you can safely give them away or throw them out.

And that’s it.

By taking small 5-10 minute steps when you have some time to spare you can declutter a whole lot over a few weeks or months.

Or that first small step may lead you to uncluttering a whole room at once.

Image by storebukkebruse (license).




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{ 35 comments }

Anwell Steve September 4, 2013 at 3:43 pm

Decluttering does indeed help your life peaceful even in a simple way. You could even relate that your life. Declutter all the negative vibrations in your life which will surely help you become less anxious and keep upbeat in whatever challenges that comes along.

Henrik Edberg September 9, 2013 at 1:07 pm

Very true, thank you for adding your experience with decluttering!

Leonora September 4, 2013 at 3:50 pm

I find the process of de-cluttering very therapeutic and a great feeling of achievement. Free up your mind, body and spirit and make time for the things that really matter in your life.

http://www.leonoraworld.com

Henrik Edberg September 9, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Glad to hear that you like it so much too! :)

Randy Clark September 4, 2013 at 4:03 pm

As I read your post I opened my top left “junk door” – saw total disarray and though, “Let’s see if this works.” One little drawer, 10 minutes. and I’m in a mission accomplished positive frame of mind. Thank you, it works. Now, that bottom right drawer is…

Henrik Edberg September 9, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Awesome, glad that it worked so well for you!

Vincent September 4, 2013 at 4:34 pm

I wish my mom would understand the need to unclutter. I hate to say this, but I usually dislike going to her house because the entire place is just filled with… Stuff. Most of it never touched.

She lives one state away from me and I do visit often when I get the chance, but it’s still unpleasant.

Remember, people’s feelings towards your place change based off its cleanliness. Henrik’s tactic of cleaning up small areas at a time will make a huge difference in the long-run.

Henrik Edberg September 9, 2013 at 1:09 pm

That is a good point, thank you for adding it, Vincent!

Ragnar September 4, 2013 at 4:39 pm

I’ve been trying to unclutter my schedule lately, but it never dawned on me to actually clean up the mess that is my living space. Somehow I have just gotten used to it. Definitely going to set aside 5-10 minutes per day to working towards that goal.

Henrik Edberg September 9, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Sounds good, hope it will work well for you too!

Craig September 4, 2013 at 8:14 pm

Love the article! Time to roll up the sleeves and start the unclutter.

Henrik Edberg September 9, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Thank you, best of luck with the uncluttering, Craig!

Kramii September 5, 2013 at 10:53 am

Clutter is an ongoing battle for me. One of the biggest challenges I faced when I started was knowing where to start, but once I’d got over that hurdle I found things easier. I wrote up my experiences on my blog: http://marksinthesand.com/2012/05/15/unclog-life/

Henrik Edberg September 9, 2013 at 1:11 pm

Thank you for sharing your perspective on this challenge!

Di September 5, 2013 at 11:26 am

Great post, I think uncluttering is a huge thing, and I truly believe that people who clutter things in the physical world have a cluttered mind. Every single person I’ve ever met who lived an uncluttered life also had an uncluttered mind.

Henrik Edberg September 9, 2013 at 1:12 pm

That has been my own experience too, at least with my own mind and my physical world.

steve werner September 5, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Great post!!

I love the 6 month box!!!

Cluttered people are probably not as organized as uncluttered.
Something I can be better at.

thanks

SW

Henrik Edberg September 9, 2013 at 1:12 pm

Thank you for reading and for the kind words, Steve! Best of luck with your uncluttering!

Jeremy September 6, 2013 at 2:49 am

Henrik,

Thank you for the great work that you do with The Positivity Blog and for composing another excellent article with practical advice that can be easily implemented.

I agree with your take on clutter, and I find that the times when I feel most stressed in my life, it is when I am trying to do too much, or in other words, my days are too cluttered. Your action list applies to things that are on our schedules as well. If we are wasting out time doing something that that is not meaningful, we should stop doing it, or throw it away. Or if it is something that someone else can do for us, we can delegate it, or give it away. And if we are not sure about doing something, we can step away from it for a period of time, revisit it, and make a decision then about whether to trash it or delegate it.

I think the key here is focus, and focusing on what is most important and what will produce the results we are looking for in our lives.

Thanks again, Henrik!

Henrik Edberg September 9, 2013 at 1:14 pm

Very wise thoughts, thank you for adding your perspective on another part of clutter and focus, Jeremy!

Ashley Pennewill September 6, 2013 at 7:14 pm

Great advice, my life could definitely use some decluttering.

Henrik Edberg September 9, 2013 at 1:14 pm

Glad you found it helpful!

KC September 7, 2013 at 12:39 am

I find this blog incredibly useful. Thank you for your insight.

Henrik Edberg September 9, 2013 at 1:14 pm

That is great to hear, thank you!

Carlos September 10, 2013 at 1:31 am

Thanks so much for these organizational tips. Clutter has always been a thorn in my side. Can’t wait to try these suggestions.

Joaseph Dabon September 10, 2013 at 4:44 am

The hardest part in de-cluttering is to decide which to keep or throw away. More often than not, we will be emotionally turned upside down for having thrown something we shouldn’t and dismayed for keeping what we should get rid of.

Naina September 10, 2013 at 10:25 am

Thankyou for such a great article to motivate to Decluttering…

Here’s the one that will add on to the Encouragement to the message that you want to spread..

Its an article on the Inspiration that we have taken from one of the great Inspiring Leader – “Steve Jobs”. Find the article here -http://www.lifeschool.co.in/cut-the-crap/

Joe September 11, 2013 at 1:36 am

Your method works well. I have a pile of “Stuff” that is sitting in the basement. It looks so big. But if you break it down to small areas or one box it isn’t as hard to do. Thanks

John September 11, 2013 at 3:20 am

I always wondered why it felt so calming to declutter a room,cupboard etc…but I always thought of it as a small thing and didn’t give it much attention. Thank you for writing about it :)

Jodi September 12, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Take one room at a time,doesn’t seem so overwhelming that way.when you declutter you will feel lighter!!

Don (@breatheoptimism) September 13, 2013 at 1:57 pm

I love to declutter. I usually keep everything organized but every so often life happens and a room gets out of control. I then go in that room and clean it out, usually giving stuff away. I agree 100% that an uncluttered life is much more peaceful.

Ali Bowling September 16, 2013 at 4:50 pm

I love to declutter and sort out shelves and drawers from time to time. It somehow makes me feel like I have a more organized home and life. It’s almost like a form of meditation, if that makes any sense.

Francis September 19, 2013 at 5:35 pm

Excellent post, I totally agree with you! Keeping a house clutter free really does help reduce the stress in my life. Thanks for sharing

Robert DANEMAYER September 24, 2013 at 7:03 pm

There are sooooo many go quotes it is hard to pick one , I’ll remember some and read them over as needed.Thank you for sending them my wa y.
bob d bd

Social Natural October 4, 2013 at 12:26 am

As a society, we’re told how to live and what constitutes a glamorous life as a result we strive to meet and obtain material possessions that end of owning us. It’s like we’re taught to clutter our life is the way to go.

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