Last year I wrote a series of posts on decluttering. I heard from a lot of our readers on their decluttering efforts which was so great to hear! It gets lonely for a writer when you don’t hear how readers take it. 😉 So I totally appreciate hearing back from you about your experiences any way you want to share those – comments here or on the Facebook page, messages, or emails.
It’s been about a year since I did my first major haul of decluttering. I got rid of about half of my stuff that time! Today, one of our readers shared her experience with me and wanted to know how decluttering has helped me in the last year. So I am going to share with you what it has done for me.
If you had asked me a year ago when I first started if these outcomes were my goals, I would have said, “Heck, no!” All I wanted was to get rid of the stuff I no longer use. But once I did that, it yielded a lot more than I had ever aimed for. The 4 points below are my favorite byproducts of this decluttering process.
1. Cleaning efficiency
Nobody ever says, “Oh, I have so much time at my hand. Let me put it to good use by cleaning stuff.”
Well, except Monica in Friends. 😀
When you have a lot of things, you have a pain in the neck of keeping those clean. If you are a busy professional you either just make peace with the fact that you simply cannot keep up with the cleaning, or you ruin your evenings and weekends over it. That spirals into more stress, less relaxation, and aggravation with your loved ones on how they should participate more in the cleaning. Not worth it, people, NOT worth it!
I may have gotten rid of half my stuff, but my cleaning time has reduced much more than just 50%.
First of all, cleaning does not feel overwhelming anymore, so I do it more frequently (and hence regularly 😉 ). Once I got into that discipline, every successive cleaning became easier and faster. Earlier, I used to wait for a 2-3 hour block of free time to start cleaning. Now even if I have 10-15 minutes, I jump in because I feel confident something can be achieved in that time – say get my living room in shape or quickly clean our bathroom.
Second, whenever I clean, I do not have to move things around as much. That in and of itself, it a big time saver. Not to mention the moving around part used to totally demotivate me from even getting started.
And finally, I feel motivated to keep acquiring tools and techniques that make cleaning even more efficient. For example, homemade cleaning supplies that work like a charm! They are non-toxic, inexpensive, and believe it or not, take much less elbow grease while using. I quickly whip them up if I run out of those, and get on with my cleaning plan. Saves me a trip to a store.
I am going to share with you the compilation of my favorite cleaner recipes, and tips for using them. I have tried many recipes from a variety of sources over the last year. This list includes the most effective cleaners in my experience. If you want this file, send me your email below. I will email you the file within 24 hours. (You are welcome! 🙂 )
See? Now all you have to think about is what to do with all the extra time and energy that you have at your disposal.
2. Mental organization
Let me demonstrate to you what organization experts mean when they say that an organized space brings clarity of mind, and mental organization.
Geek alert: It is hard to explain this concept without getting a little bit into psychology and brain. The anlytical minds will enjoy it. But my apologies if it gets too deep. Bare with me, there is a point to this, I promise. 😉
When I decluttered, my goal was not to keep an item, unless I can provide a designated space for it. Consequently, now I have a spot for almost every single item. This does a lot more than just keeping my space organized – it keeps my head organized.
Why? Because when I have clearly defined special boundaries in a physical area, it creates clear segments in my head. This structure in my head helps me pick just one segment at a time and clean it, organize it, or decorate it without having to think about the other segments or surrounding areas.
Here is an example. Before, I just “felt” that my whole house is one space from one end to the other. Maybe, I “felt” the boundaries of a bedroom vs. a living room vs. a kitchen. But nothing more than that.
Now, I “feel” like I know exactly where one block of space starts and where it ends because I know what exactly fits in that block. For example, if I look around right now, I can clearly create blocks of our living room – the bookcase, TV counter, lamp 1, plant number 1, coffee table, lamp 2, Argo’s toy box, couch, pillow bin, lamp 2, and plant number 2.
Visualizing a space in such finite segments makes it very non-overwhelming and structured. There is a power in thinking about a task or an experience as a string of finite parts rather than just one big task. One big task seems vague and indefinite with no clear end in sight. That makes it boring, unattractive, and overwhelming.
This is the same psychology that makes you want to read an article titled “10 decluttering tips” much more than an article titled “Decluttering tips”. I want to check it out, read one tip at a time, exactly knowing how many more to go before I feel accomplished for finishing the article.
When my brain processes the living room as a space made out of 11 segments, it reacts the same way as it would to the title “10 decluttering tips”. When I start cleaning the living room, I do not feel the pressure I used to before, of cleaning it all in one swoop without being able to estimate how much time it will take. Now I feel, that all I have to do is to clean one segment at a time, and total of 11 of those. If I run out of time mid-way, I will clean the remaining segments when I return.
Obviously, I do not consciously think in terms of segments all the time, but I think this is what is going on in my brain. Such structuring is what provides the mental clarity, and hence the feeling of better mental organization.
Now I know, and you know what the experts mean when they say be organized, and bring clarity of mind.
3. Easy entertaining
How many times have you dreaded having a party or a small gathering because it takes too much before and after effort? Honestly, even when the party involved my favorite friends I would think twice because I am lazy when it comes to housework.
Now it takes me such little time to get the house in shape that it is not even a consideration anymore. Having people over on a short or no notice is one of the best outcomes of having a fairly organized house.
My friends, too, do not feel as if they are creating more work for me by just dropping by. So now we often make spontaneous plans to hang out. I love it!
And remember that “Entertaining made easy: 5 step guide for busy professionals”? That discovery simply would not have been possible had it not been for the decluttering. Because that was the first step in the journey of simplifying life, and looking for efficiency in everything I do. If you haven’t yet read the guide, please do!
4. Peace of mind
This is THE biggest advantage I have seen in my life. When you have less stuff to take care of, life just becomes simple and straight forward – for all the reasons listed above. You can focus more time, energy, and effort into thinking, doing, and having what you really want. When you start living the life that you want, it brings you so much happiness, and peace of mind.
This is what I had read in many articles when I first started decluttering. But to be honest, I never really understood what it means until I felt it myself. Since that first major decluttering effort last June, I have continued doing more and more of it because it just keeps feeling better and better.
It is a process and a journey, not a destination. Now I have gotten into the discipline of questioning the need of everything new that I want to bring in the house, and regularly evaluate the need to keep already existing things in the house. Knowing that I continue to make my space leaner and leaner provides me the peace of mind that I want because I know the advantages are only going to get better.
By no means, I am as organized as I can be. But I can say with 100% certainty that I am more organized than I was a year ago. That’s a feeling of accomplishment which keeps me motivated to do more and more.
So have you ever tried decluttering? If you never did, or did it a little and then forgot about it, give it a shot. It is worth every minute you spend on it. It is worth every penny that you will invest in better organization supplies. It is worth all the hesitation that you go through while getting rid of those items that meant something to you 10 years ago.
Now tell me in the comments below:
Which of these benefits do you really want in your life, and how will this change your current situation?
Wishing you a lot of fun on this journey!
Varun Kakde of Aperture Adventures for my ever so favorite photo of the books as the featured image