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How to Organize Your Space to Boost Emotional Well-Being

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In today’s world, where there are products for virtually every need imaginable, it’s easy to over-accumulate items that you don’t end up using. Over time, these items not only take up space in your home, but they also take up space in your mind. According to research, clutter is well-known to lead to depression, procrastination and mood disorders. A study conducted at UCLA found that trying to manage clutter raised people’s stress levels substantially. Another survey conducted by the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals found that 54% of Americans feel overwhelmed by the amount of clutter they have, with 78% saying they have no idea what to do with it. 

 

Thankfully, you don’t have to resign yourself to living in a cluttered space and dealing with the negative mental side effects that come along with it. Instead, you can reap immense therapeutic benefits by decluttering your home. In this article, we’ll walk through tips on getting rid of unnecessary items so you can feel more in control of your living space, improve your mental clarity and have an easier time focusing on tasks throughout the day.

In This Article:
  1. Start Small
  2. Categorize Items
  3. Try a Different Decluttering Method
  4. Get Rid of the Items You Don't Need
  5. Reorganize the Items You Want to Keep
  6. Sell or Donate Excess Items
  7. Move Other Items Into Storage
  8. Complete a Second Pass If Needed

1. Start Small

Instead of trying to tackle your whole house at once, consider going room by room to break the task into more manageable chunks. You can even zoom in and tackle just one section of a room (like your kitchen counter or fridge) per session, especially if you have limited or prefer to organize in short bursts. It’s also important to set realistic timelines for how long it will take to complete your decluttering project. The sooner you organize your space, the sooner you can feel at ease and enjoy the peace of mind that comes with a decluttered home. If you need a little extra inspiration, consider building your own cleaning playlist to put some pep in your step while you’re sorting through everything.

2. Categorize Items

The simplest way to declutter your home is by using the Three Pile Method. In each room, separate belongings into one of three piles or boxes: keep, donate or discard. The key to this method is that every item must end up in a box. If you can’t decide what to get rid of first, consider automatically donating or tossing anything you haven’t used in over a year. 

Next, don’t be afraid to say goodbye to items that you rarely use or just don’t love. Whether your style has changed since you bought some of the pieces in your wardrobe or you just never found a good use for that clearance item you picked up at Target, give yourself permission to part with items that aren’t useful or enjoyable for you. 

Tip: Looking through your pantry or freezer is another surefire way to get rid of items — simply toss anything that is past its expiration date or donate canned foods that haven’t expired to a local food drive. Have gifts from a friend that you don’t use but are hesitant to part with? You can always keep them in storage until you decide what you ultimately want to do with them. 

3. Try a Different Decluttering Method

The Three Pile Method isn’t the only way to declutter your space. If you’re looking for a new technique to spice up your organizing routine, try one of these other methods:

  • Marie Kondo Method (KonMari). This method involves decluttering by category (not by room or location), starting with clothes, then books, papers, miscellaneous items and finally, sentimental items. The goal is only to keep things that “spark joy.”
  • Minimalism Month Method. This method makes decluttering a gradual process and a bit of a game. Start by getting rid of one thing on the first day of the month. On the second, two things. Three items on the third, and so on, until you’re getting rid of 30 things on the 30th day.
  • One-Minute Rule. If a task can be done in one minute or less, do it immediately. This method is great for daily maintenance and preventing clutter from accumulating, such as hanging up coats, sorting mail or washing a few dishes.
  • Box-and-Banish Method. Place items you’re not sure if you want to keep or get rid of into a box and set it aside for a predetermined period, such as three or six months. If during this time you haven’t needed or missed any of the items in the box, it might be easier to let go of them, as you’ve proven to yourself they aren’t essential.
  • Cleaning Sprint Method. This method gives you a set amount of time — usually 15-30 minutes — to do as many decluttering or organizing tasks as you can. Once the timer goes off, you have to stop. You can repeat this as many times as you want throughout the week.

4. Get Rid of the Items You Don't Need

Now that you have a “discard” pile, you’ll want to make sure you’re properly disposing of the items to reduce your environmental footprint. For the most part, you’ll likely be able to throw items away in your standard garbage bin. But for large items that can’t simply be thrown away, such as furniture or electronics, you’ll need to call in junk removal services or coordinate a special pick-up from your city. For smaller items, take the time to double-check what can be recycled and what needs to be safely disposed of. Hazardous materials like batteries, paint and chemicals should never be thrown in regular trash, and many communities offer special disposal sites or pick-up days for these items.

5. Reorganize the Items You Want to Keep

Once you’ve decided which things you’re planning to keep, consider whether you need to assign any of them to a new home. For example, you might want to keep winter clothes in boxes under your bed or stow some of your kids’ toys in an ottoman with built-in storage. Remember that you don’t necessarily need to part with a lot of items — instead, you might be able to find ways to store them in a way that feels less cluttered and helps you feel more at ease. (Sometimes, keeping things out of sight can go a long way in helping you feel at peace!)

Some experts suggest implementing a one-in, one-out rule by getting rid of something whenever you bring a new item home. Remember that the goal isn’t necessarily to become a minimalist but rather to build a home that feels inviting and relaxing.

6. Sell or Donate Excess Items

If you want to make a bit of extra money, you can list some of the things in your discard pile on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist or another third-party platform. If you have a large amount of stuff to part with, you might even want to have a garage sale. 

Alternatively, you can donate lightly used belongings to a thrift shop or a charity that works with people in need. You can also give away items to friends or family members who are looking for particular pieces. Regardless of which route you go down, it’ll likely feel like a weight off your shoulders to get rid of things you no longer use.

7. Move Other Items Into Storage

If you have belongings you want to keep but rarely use (such as holiday decorations), you can stow them in a basement, attic or self-storage unit to keep them out of sight until you need them. That’s also a good place to keep sentimental heirlooms, important documents, artwork or other items you don’t currently have a use for but may want to access at some point. Keeping some of your belongings in storage can go a long way in alleviating the stress that can stem from cluttered rooms and closets.

Tip: Don’t forget to organize your self-storage unit as well to maximize the space!

8. Complete a Second Pass If Needed

The goal is to keep only the things that you truly want and need but don’t be too hard on yourself if it’s hard to find much to throw away at first glance. It can be helpful to start by throwing away the things you absolutely don’t need anymore and then coming back later to part with any other items. After you’ve gotten rid of the first round, you may find it easier to part with future items to help clear up space. 

Moving forward, make cleaning and decluttering your home a regular part of your routine so things don’t build up. Remember that decluttering, like many other things in life, is a journey instead of a destination. Give yourself grace and celebrate the small wins along the way. You can think of it as just one way to build a sustainable self-care plan that helps you relieve anxiety, promote a clearer headspace and design a more fulfilling life.

For more tips on organizing your home, head to the SmartStop blog. Happy decluttering!

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