Day 31: Clutter Free Forever
I’ve said it before, but I will say it again: the biggest problem and roadblock when it comes to living an organized life is not a lack of space, but too much stuff. Our modern lives lend themselves to clutter with the overabundance of materials, technology that is constantly changing, a culture of consumerism and the need to constantly have more.
We often struggle to manage our time and our households, and our health and relationships simply because of excess. Every now and then we just have to take a step back in order to stop the flow, prioritize our lives and think about the way we truly want to spend our time.
No one ever looked back on their life and wished they had more stuff to manage and take care of. Instead, most people tend to look back on their lives and wish they’d spent more time on their relationships with their families and strengthening their faith. They wish that they’d studied more, been more creative, and spent less time working hard to afford more.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be one of those people who looks back at my life full of pretty things with nothing but regret.
Today marks the end of our thirty-one day challenge, but it is only the beginning of a clutter free life. To truly live clutter free forever, we have to commit, today and every day, to stay that way.
Adopting these four simple strategies from here on out can make all the difference in the world:
1. Stop the Flow
Just a simple trip to Target reminds us how easy it can be to mindlessly fill our carts with things we don’t need. Temptation is everywhere, and for most of us, when like something, we buy it. What does it matter if we don’t really need it? Our desire creates the need
Thus, the first step in living a clutter-free life is to commit to stopping the flow. We have to vigilantly guard against the sheer number of things coming in. For me it has meant avoiding my favorite stores; for others it may mean avoiding the thrift stores or no more garage sale hopping. It means winning the mental battle and convincing yourself that what you have is already enough.
2. Ruthlessly Purge
Paring down the number of things you already have is the next phase of the battle, and luckily we have just spent an entire month decluttering our homes, which is a huge head start. Continue to give yourself permission to only keep the things that are currently useful, despite who gave them to you or how much they cost. This can be really hard, especially at first. That’s where the ruthless part comes in.
As you continue to sort through your things, ask yourself these questions:
- Do we use it, wear it, or play with it? If it is clothes, does it still fit?
- Is it in good working condition?
- Does it enrich our lives in some way?
- Does it have sentimental value?
- Could someone else use it more?
As you sort, it can be helpful to divide your things into four piles—things to keep, things to donate, things to throw away, and things to put elsewhere (such as a keepsake box items, seasonal storage, or things that belong in a different room). Once you’ve cleared an area and put away all the items that belong elsewhere, move on to the next area. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
3. Set Strict Limits
We live in a time of more excess and waste than ever before. We think nothing of a closet full of clothes, where our grandmothers and great-grandmothers only ever had a few dresses and a single pair of shoes to get them by. Holidays and birthdays are accompanied by piles of gifts rather than just one or two, while our kitchens and bathrooms are packed to the gills with gadgets, accessories, and products.
Our grandparents didn’t have to set limits because they were already limited by their finances and by what was available. In an era where everything is available and affordable, we have to be diligent about setting our own limits. One way I did this was in my bedroom closet, where I limited my clothing to what would fit on forty hangers. Compared to the closets of a century ago, forty hangers is probably still a lot, but for me–and for most women today–getting rid of that many clothes was a pretty drastic change.
We also set some pretty strict limits when it comes to our kids and toys. After taking their toys away last year, we have tried to be very careful about the number of toys they have access to. This means limiting Christmas and birthday gifts and, when necessary, swapping out something they no longer play with when they do get something new.
4. Value Quality over Quantity
I think sometimes we have become so accustomed to the steady flow of cheaply-made junk that we forget that quality really does matter. Being incredibly selective, but then spending a little more to buy something that will stand the test of time is not only more frugal, but it is the way things simply used to be. At some point our standards lowered so much that we no longer think twice when a motor stops working after a year, or when our t-shirt gets a hole after just a few washings, or when another toy breaks after only being played with for a week.
When you do find yourself in need of something new, commit actively seeking out things that are well made from quality materials. Take the time to read reviews or to find things that are made locally rather than overseas. Choose long term value over short term savings.
Commit to rethinking consumerism as a family—build memories and experiences rather than accumulating “stuff.” Spend a day doing an activity and bring nothing home but memories and strengthened family bonds.
Staying organized and committing to an organized life takes practice. It takes repetition. I suggest that you revisit your progress each month. Start at the top of this list and rework your way through. Focus on cleaning, tidying and revisiting the loose ends each month. Keep it as an ongoing priority and you’ll be amazed at how wonderful clutter-free can be.
And friends, that’s it. The end of our month-long challenge and the beginning of your clutter-free life. Don’t forget to continue to share your decluttering successes on social media with the hashtag #LWSLClutterFree, and be diligent and intentional about keeping your home, mind, and schedule clutter-free from here on out.
Here’s to you, and a clutter-free life!