By Leo Babauta

Whenever I walk into most people’s houses, I’m reminded of my former life — cluttered, messy, with lots of things I planned to organize or put away or file but never got around to.

I am reminded of what clutter is:

  1. Procrastination — we put off deciding on things, organizing them, acting on them, putting them away, cleaning them.
  2. Distraction — it’s hard to find focus in a sea of clutter.
  3. Stress — it’s hard to find calm in the middle of all this visual distraction.
  4. Money — it costs money to buy all that stuff, but also to have room for it, store it, clean it, maintain it.

By simplifying, you can find a bit more calm, focus, and financial savings, and start to be on top of your life.

That’s what we’ll be working on this month. It’s not about getting to perfection. Nor is it about changing everything overnight. It’s about starting — starting to clear space and learn how to deal with things in a more focused, organized way.

Our plan is to take one small step at a time.

To start out with, I ask you to think about Why. Ask yourself why you want to declutter the space around you.

I’ll offer some of the benefits of decluttering here, but you should figure out why this is important to you.

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.

Advanced Declutterers

If you’ve taken this course before and your spaces are very decluttered, I will offer some advanced challenges during this revised course that you should feel free to try if you like. However, if you still have lots of decluttering to do, just do the basic steps of this course.


Today, just take the first step and write down on a document (text document, paper, Evernote, Google Doc, etc.) why decluttering this month is important to you.