Before you start to declutter, be clear about exactly what it is you want to achieve. Do you want to feel happier when you enter your apartment? Do you want to find things faster? Do you want to spend less time cleaning and tidying up? Or do you want to make space for something you’re going to buy? Establish a clear image of whatever it is in your mind's eye – and enjoy it even before you get started! And also: visualise the nice things you will do in the additional free time you have.
Don’t clear out the whole bathroom or bedroom, but focus on all the electrical appliances, sports equipment, etc. in the entire household. So when you’re clearing out clothes, be sure to include those that are hidden away in the cupboard, basement and attic. This is the only way to get an overview of how much you actually have of each type of possession – and what exactly those things are.
The question you should ask yourself when decluttering is: “Does this item really make me happy?” The aim is that the things you surround yourself with should make you feel a sense of honest, heartfelt pleasure. If not, it’s time to let go.
What are going to do with the pair of jeans that’s too tight right now but which you’d love to fit back into? Again, the professional tip here is to focus on the feeling it triggers inside you to see those jeans in your wardrobe. Is it mainly pressure and a guilty conscience? If so, you’d be better off getting rid of them. But does the sight of them motivate you because it gives you a pleasing certainty to know that you’ll be able to wear them again? In this case, hold on to them.
Clearing out is a bit like a sport: it takes practice. So: start by clearing out cleaning materials and books rather than old love letters, children’s drawings and granny's tea service. As time goes on you’ll be able to make decisions more quickly, tap into your gut feeling more confidently and let go more easily.
We honour the things we have by actually using them. So try to store as little as possible in the basement – apart from wine, supplies and sports equipment. That beautiful vase? Put it up! Your grandmother’s nice tablecloth? Use it – and not just for Christmas! Old letters? Make a “treasure chest” for them and put this in a special place in your apartment. Only what you integrate in your day-to-day life can make you happy.
We’re used to putting things on top of each other. But there is an amazing number of things that can be properly stored in vertical fashion – perhaps with the help of boxes: T-shirts and underwear in a drawer, rags and cloths in the kitchen or games in a chest. This not only helps you get your bearings more quickly, it also saves you the tiresome task of having to clear away the things on top when you take something out. The aim is to be able to get hold of things in just a single movement.
Boxes, containers, partitions etc. are worth their weight in gold: they help you keep order, move your belongings around quickly whenever necessary and clean your home more easily. Make sure you like them and that they’re practical and big enough to store things that belong together. It may also help to label them, depending on the situation.
Is your PC overflowing with files? If you google “Duplicate File Finder” you’ll find several programmes that enable you to find and delete duplicate documents and pictures. Then save all the files in one place. Next, create a new, clear folder structure from scratch for what you really need. After this, transfer the files you still need into this new structure instead of going through them all one by one.
Every single item that has found its way into your life has served you well. It may have brought back memories, reflected a particular phase in your life, or shown you something about yourself (even if it’s just that an orange t-shirt really does suit you – or not). By expressing your thanks inwardly or even out loud, you are showing you’re appreciation of the item – and this allows you to take leave of it more easily.
Even the final process of decluttering – the actual disposal itself – will give you greater pleasure if you do it appreciatively and deliberately. Who might still benefit from your old things? Maybe someone you know? Or would you like to donate them to a good cause – such as a particular foundation or institution? It’ll make you feel good if you know your things are going where they’re needed and appreciated.