Declutter Your Life Challenge Overview

By Leo Babauta

Decluttering has been one of my favorite things I’ve done to change my life. I started about 8 years ago, and did it a little at a time. And while decluttering is an ongoing process that never really ends, these days my life is simpler, more peaceful, with more space because of decluttering.

This month, we’ll take on the Decluttering Challenge to get the Decluttering habit started!

First, let’s picture a house with very little in it — some key pieces of furniture, a computer, some well-chosen artwork, not much else. The flat spaces are clear — the floor, table tops, counter tops, desk tops. Shelves have very little on them. This is a peaceful space, without a lot of visual distractions that stress you out. It’s a place where you can read, meditate, write, have tea with a friend, without distractions.

Of course, this is just an ideal, but it’s good to have a picture, and then see what we can do to whittle things down to get closer to that picture.

Clutter also comes in other forms — too many things to do, too many distractions, too much information coming in. We’ll get to those as well.

Let’s look at why decluttering is important, the kinds of decluttering, and some guiding principles, before talking about what we’ll be doing this month.

The Benefits of Decluttering

The things I’ve gotten from decluttering (physically and otherwise) are too many to list, but here are some that I find important:

  1. Fewer distractions. Clutter distracts you. Too many things around you are visual distractions, as is clutter on your computer, and having too many incoming things and too many things to do is also distracting from the important work you want to get done. When you declutter all of this, you’re left with a better ability to focus.
  2. Less stress, more peace. Having less clutter means you are less visually distracted (visual distractions lead to stress), but what’s more, clutter usually represents some kind of procrastination. A stack of bills means you still have to sort through those bills. A pile of clothes on the floor or dishes in the sink mean you need to get to those. A stuffed closet represents a bunch of decisions you’ve decided not to make right now. When you declutter, you make those decisions, and they are then off your mind, which greatly reduces stress.
  3. More space for what’s important. When you clear up space (physical and time), you’re clearing away things that aren’t important, to make more room for those that are. This is a huge change.
  4. Visually pleasing. For me at least, an uncluttered space is much nicer to look at. I’ve had numerous visitors remark on the beauty of my home, simply because it’s uncluttered (I’m not a good decorator). This is true of a clean workspace as well.
  5. Less maintenance. When you have less stuff, that means you have less to take care of. For each thing, this might seem a minor benefit, but cumulatively it’s fairly major. It has saved me hours per year in cleaning, maintenance, storage, moving stuff. This also saves money.

That’s just the start. Knowing where things are is a big benefit, as is spending less money on buying new things (because once things are cluttered, you don’t want to clutter it up again). I could go on and on, but instead, let’s do an overview of the kinds of decluttering, then look at the guiding principles we’ll use.

The Different Types of Decluttering

When we think of “decluttering”, we mostly think of physical clutter, but there are other kinds as well, and even physical clutter can be broken down further:

We’ll try to cover as much of this as possible, at least to get you started, but as you can see this is a process that’s best done over the course of months, not days.

Luckily, getting started is easy — we’re going to start small. Let’s start by reading the Declutter Your Life plan.