There’s a growing stack of envelopes on one table, a closet brimming with unused clothes, and a drawer filled with wires and cables that you “just might need someday.” All this clutter is making your space look a little smaller and stressing you out, but so does the thought of getting rid of it.
Saying goodbye to stuff can bring on a ton of anxiety, especially if they’re things that have some nostalgia attached to them. But getting rid of clutter not only frees up space–it can also be good for your health. Studies have shown that there’s a link between clutter and stress, exhaustion, and frustration. If having an uncluttered home isn’t enough to get you moving, maybe the thought of a clear head will. Pick one of these methods to get you started:
1. KonMari Method. Marie Kondo is a Japanese cleaning consultant who wrote the New York Times-bestselling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up. Her method, dubbed the KonMari Method, entails going through your stuff one by one and asking: Does this spark joy? “If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it,” she writes.
It sounds like an overly simplistic and somewhat radical approach to years of accumulated clutter, but Kondo believes that the ultimate goal of tidying up is to bring you happiness, so you should only surround yourself with things that make your heart sing.
She outlines the KonMari method in her book: Sort by category, not by room, starting with clothes, then books, papers, komono (miscellany), and lastly, things with sentimental value. This way, you start with items that aren’t too close to your heart and you build the emotional strength needed to tackle the more meaningful things.
Take each item, ask if it sparks joy, then proceed accordingly. Kondo says it’s important to say thank you to the things you’re throwing out for their years of service and to treat the ones you decide to keep with respect.
2. Swedish Death Cleaning. Swedish Death Cleaning isn’t as morbid as it sounds. In The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, Margareta Magnusson writes about putting your stuff in order so your loved ones won’t have to deal with this difficult task when you’re gone.
The “80- to 100-” year-old artist writes that it’s a process you can do over time, not necessarily in one go. Start with the things you have in storage; tell loved ones you’re letting stuff go and that they’re free to take what they like. Dispose of anything that might be upsetting or embarrassing for your family to find. Leave sentimental items, like letters and pictures, for last. You can keep things that have a special meaning only to you, but instruct family members that they can be disposed of when you’re gone. Magnusson writes in a humorous tone, so her book is not only helpful but also entertaining.
3.The 12-12-12 challenge. Pick 12 items to throw out, 12 items to donate, and 12 items to return to their proper place. It may not seem like a lot, but imagine getting your whole family or your roommates in on the challenge—you could potentially free up a lot of space!
4. Project 333. Courtney Carver, a former ad executive, encourages people to “be more with less.” When she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, she decided to get rid of things that were making her anxious, like clutter. She eventually pared down to a capsule wardrobe that has simplified her life and reduced her stress levels.
Her website encourages people to have a capsule wardrobe of just 33 items every three months (or every season). Read her blog to get some ideas on how to tweak her system to suit your lifestyle. Skeptical? Read about one woman’s experience when she tried it.
5. 1 item a day. Another number you can keep in mind: 365, as in say goodbye to 365 items. Pick one item to dispose of each day. It doesn’t have to be big items (like that electric fan you haven’t gotten around to repairing)–you can start with small items like expired lipstick, a receipt in your purse, or an old battery in your drawer. By the end of a year, you would have gotten rid of hundreds of stuff.