Strategic Decluttering: 5 Steps to Mapping Your Path to Less

Decluttering the excess stuff from your home is hard work.  The physical aspects of stooping, climbing, lifting, and carrying can certainly help you find muscles you forgot you had.  But more overlooked is the mental work required to sort, assess, and rethink your space according to your evolving minimalist mindset. 

Your why.  A common starting point in the decluttering process is defining your “why”, or what one hopes to achieve by owning less.  Individuals determine their “why” by focusing on the long term gains they hope to achieve by removing the clutter from their homes.  While having a “why” is an important first step into minimalism, I have found many individuals struggle with next steps, or the “how” of actually implementing their desire to own less. 

Your how.  Determining a “how” requires its own set of mental gymnastics.  A long term “why” serves as a motivator to begin pursuing the benefits of an uncluttered life.  But a short term strategic “how” helps to guide the hands-on aspect of actually decluttering your space. Having a plan in place will help prevent frustration and can minimize the rut of simply moving things about rather that deowning them during the decluttering process.

By taking a little time to be present in your space and really observe the different elements that comprise each room, you can begin to identify a strategic “how” to guide your progress toward minimalism. 

Below are 5 steps you can take to help map out a strategic path to owning less:
  1.  Remove obvious distractions.   Make a quick initial pass through your home removing the “low hanging fruit”.  Get rid of broken and worn out items, throw away misplaced trash.
  2. Observe Quickly. Make a second pass through your home, entering each room and pausing for a few moments.  Make mental or written notes about the feelings you have as you enter the space.  Does it draw you in?  Does it leave you feeling stressed out?  What about the space gives you that vibe?  Is this room heavily trafficked or a quiet space?  Is that how you intended it to be used, or did the use evolve naturally?
  3. Observe Carefully. Make a third pass through your home, but this time much more slowly.  Go through each room individually. Find a spot where you can sit quietly and be present in the space for about 20-30 minutes.  Visually assess the room. Really look at the space.  Look at the elements that make up the room, such as lighting, the size of the space, and the ratio of space to clutter. Try to “see with new eyes.”  Does the room have too much furniture? What areas and items do you like?  Love?  What areas make you say “Ugh!” inside?  What are the trouble spots?  What makes it a trouble spot? Observe wall art.  Does every wall have a picture or do you use art sparingly?  Would a less-is-more approach draw more attention to a favored item?
  4. Visualize.  What you would like the space to become?  As you sit observing each room, try to identify the mental picture you carry inside for this space. Would you actually use it the way you envision, or is that a fantasy use?  Is it being put to its highest and best use? Is there a better function for the space?  Is its current use even necessary? Is there a creative use for the space that would allow other areas of the home to become less cluttered or busy?  What level of minimalism do you visualize for this area?  Do you want a wide open space with little furniture, or a cozy space with greatly reduced clutter? What feeling does this room give you?  Does the wall art contribute to your overall vision for the space? Is it a bright cheerful area that draws you in, or a dark secluded area that emanates isolation and loneliness?  Does the vibe hinder or help its current use? Begin to identify which items are absolute keepers and try to identify why they evoke those feelings.  Identify which items must be removed to achieve your emerging vision for the space. Are there items in your home that can multitask so duplicates can be removed? 
  5. Transform your space. Begin to transform and declutter your space keeping your observations and strategic goals in mind.  Start with small victories working to declutter a drawer or shelf first.  Hold the items in each room up to the plumb-line of your overarching vision for your home.  Does it help to achieve your goal?  Ask why you even own the object.  Identify the attachments you hold to certain objects and assess their actual value in your life.  Has the object outlived its usefulness?  Does it carry good memories or remind you of unpleasant things? Does the item add value to your life?  Work through each object removing, decluttering, and repurposing items to fit your needs.

It takes a little concentrated effort to put these steps into practice but as you do, your decluttering efforts will be more focused and intentional.  Layer by layer, you can transform your space to achieve a level of minimalism that works for you and your own unique circumstances.

Happy Trails!