It seems that every magazine, home improvement show and self-help book these days is touting the benefits of decluttering. There are constantly new guides and checklists to help pare down your belongings, simplify your life and surround yourself with less stuff.
Decluttering has the proven benefits of reducing stress and increasing energy and productivity. Declutter and the National Association for Professional Organizers (NAPO) set out to find out just how much clutter Americans suffer from and how they deal with it. Their study found that not only is 54 percent of America overwhelmed by the amount of clutter they have, but 78 percent have no idea what to do with it or find it too complicated to deal with so they let it build up, taking over their homes and offices.
In reality, it's much easier said than done to get out boxes and divide up your life into what stays and what goes. Pushing through the sometimes difficult task, however, can make a world of difference not only to your space, but to your mindset.
Here are three groups of possessions it may prove especially difficult to part with, and tips to overcome each:
Getting rid of physical belongings can feel like giving up a piece of yourself or letting go of a time in your life, a person or a place you cherish. What may look to an outsider as an old business contract for an operation that has long since disbanded can bring back a flood of memories from that time. And what may look like a frayed towel can initiate a deluge of emotions thinking about the person who gave it to you. It's important to recognize that the memories and emotions are not tied to the physical possession. They are a part of you, with or without the contract or towel, and it's the memory you cherish, not the item.
Tip: Keep one reminder of that time, person, or place to bring a smile to your face.
Tip: Take a picture of anything you're keeping for sentimental reasons that doesn't fit in your home. Give the item away to someone who has space for it and will love it. Keep the photo in an album or make a memory book.
Tip: Allow each member of the family to have one sentimental box to fill with reminders and keepsakes. Just one.
You can rationalize your way into keeping just about anything. "This dress will fit again" or "That kitchen gadget will make an amazing meal someday." Although every object has a function for someone, that person is not necessarily you. Fill your closet with the clothes that fit today and your shelves and cupboards with the tools and accessories you use regularly.
Tip: Evaluate items with a critical eye - though you may use or wear something again, in all reality, what is the likelihood that you will in the foreseeable future? If anything less than 90%, donate it to someone who will benefit from it now.
Tip: Recognize where you are right now in your life and get rid of anything that does not reflect the current state. Embrace your life today and stop living in the past or looking toward the future.
Tip: Remember that styles and technology advance. If the time comes when are that size or need that gadget, you'll always be able to get it. And by that time, there will likely be a far superior option available.
Television shows like Antiques Roadshow and Pawn Stars may cause you to pause and think, "... what if this vase is truly a collector's item worth hundreds of dollars?" It's important to know that value to you may not be the same as value to the outside world and also that more items decrease in value over time than gain it. For example, although you paid top dollar for a television set in 2005, today it's likely worth a small fraction of that.
Tip: Take 5 minutes (and no more than that) to look on eBay and see what similar items are selling for. Worthpoint (subscription required) is also a good resource to value antiques, art and vintage collectibles.
Tip: Remember that finding a buyer can be quite time consuming. If you want to sell a camera for $50, will it take you more than $50 worth of your time to find a willing buyer and arrange the sale? If yes, seriously consider if this makes sense.
Tip: Consignment may be an option for some items. Be prepared for items to sell for less than your asking price. People may not be willing to pay your asking price for items you deem to be in perfectly good condition.
Dictionary.com defines declutter as "to organize and prioritize (one's commitments, material possessions, etc.)" Our physical spaces reflect what's most important to us. The more thin you are stretched maintaining your possessions, the more apt you are to feel weighed down and out of control. To feel like you're constantly behind and stressed. When you declutter your space and surround yourself by only the things that you truly want, use and value, you feel energized rather than depleted and you may find that some of your stress slips away.