After a few small declutter sessions, you might look around and start to wonder, “How am I ever going to get to all of this?” It can feel overwhelming.
First, take a breath. Be present with your body. Let go of the story that it’s “overwhelming” or “too hard,” and just be present, and take one small action.
You can let go of the story if you bring yourself back into the present moment. What does it feel like to be alive right now? Can you appreciate the progress you’ve made, just getting started?
The trick is to take one little step at a time â€” because that’s all you can do. You can’t conquer the mountain all at once.
That said, there are a couple of ideas you can use to tackle the mountain, one step at a time.
Let’s take a look at those ideas.
Enlargen Your Zone of Serenity
I talked about this in the webinar recently, but one of the most useful ideas when I first started decluttering came from FlyLady.net, who advised that you start by cleaning your kitchen sink. Clear it out, scrub it, make it shiny!
It’s such a simple idea, but one that was magic for me. Start with one small area, and make it clean and pleasing. It motivated me to want to keep it clean. Then I started clearing the kitchen counters around the sink, and made sure to keep those clean too.
I started thinking of it as my “Zone of Serenity,” and the bigger it got, the more accomplished I felt. I always wanted to keep that zone clear and clean, because it made me feel really good.
Slowly I spread this zone, one chunk at a time, to other parts of the house. I couldn’t declutter my kids’ stuff or my wife’s stuff, but once they started to see the benefits of decluttering (I talked about it, and they saw it as the Zone got bigger), it became easier to convince them to try a small experiment themselves. But just the common areas, or my own stuff, was enough to create a beautiful Zone of Serenity.
It doesn’t matter what you call it, or where you start. If your bedroom becomes your Zone of Serenity, that’s perfect! Or perhaps your living room. Whatever is in your control, and whatever you’ll enjoy the most. Or perhaps, whatever is easiest!
Peel Back the Layers
Another method that ended up working well for me was to work in layers. In this idea, you don’t get a complete “Zone of Serenity” right away (or maybe the Zone has to be limited to one room at first) … but you can go over other areas outside the Zone a little at a time.
Let me give you an example:
- You cleared your kitchen sink and then slowly cleared the counters and floors in your kitchen. Amazing! You have a Zone of Serenity.
- But it’s harder to spread the Zone from there, so you take a pass at your bedroom. Perhaps you don’t completely declutter it, but you find 20 items to let go of.
- Then you take a pass at your closet. You find 20 more things to get rid of!
- And so on, going to different rooms, closets, drawers, cabinets. You are a machine! You get a lot of easy, low-hanging fruit on your first pass around the house. It’s a great month.
- Then you go over everything again, one space at a time, and this time you’re more ruthless. You are much better at letting go of the sentimental items, the “but I spent too much money on this to donate it” items, the “someday I hope to be a world-class skier” items, the books you’ll never read (at least, not in the next 5 years), and so on.
- Finally, on your third pass around the house, you go into your deep dive. You really get each space down to the essentials. Now you’re a minimalist! You peeled back the last layer.
Now, this is just one possible example. Maybe it takes 5 passes around the house, peeling back layer after layer. Maybe you take passes at your living room and bedroom, but not the rest as it’s all shared spaces. Maybe you take passes, peeling back layers, while also expanding your Zone of Serenity. Lots of possibilities!
Sell & Donate All the Stuff
Another approach is to find everything that’s of any value, all over the house, and start selling and donating them.
You gather them in boxes and bags. If you’re like me, you split up the work between you and your spouse and your teenage kids.
Then you pick things and sell or donate them in one of these ways:
- Amazon: If you have lots of books or other things that are packaged nicely, you can sell them on Amazon (Amazon Seller Central). You add them to your inventory, and you can even let Amazon fulfill them for you â€” ship them to one of Amazon’s warehouses, and when someone orders the item, Amazon ships it to them.
- Ebay: If you’re willing to ship things to people yourself, list them on Ebay. I would do this for anything worth more than $40-50. You snap a few pics on your phone, write up a description, fill out a few shipping details, and post it. I’ve sold a few things like this, it’s not too hard.
- Craigslist: I’m sure you’re familiar with how Craigslist works. This month we’ve already listed a bunch of furniture, toys, exercise equipment, and even our minivan on Craigslist. It’s super easy to list something. If you have something that’s popular (our barely used rowing machine, for example), you might get a couple dozen emails the next day of people excited to take it off your hands.
- Garage sale: We recently had a garage sale. To be honest, it’s not the best way to sell things, as you’ll rarely get good value for what you’re selling. But we got rid of a chunk of things this way, and it’s not hard to do â€” put a garage sale ad on Craigslist and possibly your local newspaper’s website, plus some signs around the neighborhood, and then lay everything out in your garage and driveway.
- Donate to the library: As one member said, if you donate your books to the library, you know it’ll be there if you ever want to read or reference them!
- Donate to charity: We just donated a whole vanload to Goodwill and another charity. It feels so good to get it out of our lives, and let others have them.
As you do this, it takes a little time, but you can make a little money back and most importantly, have the satisfaction of seeing all these things float out of your world and into the homes of people who will actually use them.
All of these methods can be combined. They are all awesome!