I know, I know. Decluttering is all the rage right now, and it’s a bit grating hearing all of your friends boast about how “zen” they’re feeling after giving away some clothes they don’t wear to a charity shop. But… Maybe this is a bandwagon it’s worth climbing on, especially if you’re prepared to do it well. The thing is, making stuff neat and organised can be great for your overall “life efficiency”. It can make stuff easier. But focusing too much on this aspect of decluttering may lead you astray into the realms of procrastination, where your efforts to keep everything organised inhibit the tasks that organisation is meant to aid. The focus should be on parsimony. On stripping down useless possessions. You do this one step at a time — don’t build it up in your mind as an insurmountable task. Step one: clothes. Go through your wardrobe, identify the stuff you love to wear or need and make a space for them. Then form two piles, the no pile and the maybe pile. The no pile should be easy; have you not worn it in a year? Can you not think of a time you will actually wear it in the coming year? Is it irreplaceable and essential? If not, chuck it on the no pile. Next, the maybe pile – things that fall between no and yes. This will probably have lots of stuff in it. Aim to get most of it into the no pile, as most stuff like that seems important until it’s gone – once you don’t have it anymore, you shrug and realise that it was an option that complicated your wardrobe, rather than enhanced it. Once the no pile is complete, go through it and find stuff that you may be able to sell on eBay (is it a good brand and has it hardly been worn? If so, list it!) or give to a local charity shop. Put the rest in a clothes bin and move on!
Step two: workspace and computer. Clear everything off of your desk and take everything out of the drawers. Same simple system as before: place into piles of essential and non-essential, and the dreaded maybe pile. It’s often the case that most old documents lurking in your desk can be chucked away without any consequence. One tip here is to photograph (or use a photo scanning app on your smart phone) documents so that you keep the potentially valuable information, without keeping the hardcopy. File the important hardcopies and the essential desk equipment (that you know you will need in the next six months or so). Try and have as little things on the surface of your desk as possible – the clearer it is, the more productive you will be when it next comes to working at that desk.
As for your computer, take time to organise you documents and media files into clear folders, back them up and then remove all of the junk. There are plenty of programs on offer that will help you clean up your hard drive. Remove most or all of the icons on your desktop page, as this is visual clutter, and clear your browser, bookmarking what you know you will need to find easily in the future, and closing the rest. If it was that important, you would’ve read it already or you’ll remember it and be able to find it later. For me, this part was the most satisfying parts as I’m one of those people who has a hundred tabs up on my browser and tonnes of half finished documents open on my word processor. Going through and putting stuff into folders and accepting that a great deal of the stuff I was keeping open were things that I wouldn’t ever read or finish writing, and they were slowing everything else down.
While you’re on your computer, take a moment to go through your email subscriptions and check your online banking for direct debits that you probably shouldn’t be paying. Maybe this will, in the abstract, move you to think of ways to cut frivolous spending from your budget.
Step three, declutter your house. Get a memory box for sentimental stuff and go through your house and round up all the loose objects you keep, like ornaments and nik-naks, and make sure that you don’t horde more than you need to remember the events or people these things connect you with. Then go through all of your things looking for instruments that you unnecessarily have more than one of or the things that you will only use once in a blue moon or things that make one rare task easier, but aren’t even essential to completing that task (think pizza cutters, letter openers, shoe horns, etc.). If you can part with these things, do so.
Next in your house is your media collection. There’s still a great opportunity to sell dvds and cds you don’t need anymore. Copy the ones you love onto your computer and sell them via sites like “music magpie” or on amazon, eBay or at a local bootsale. This isn’t as hard as you might think – even people with gigantic collections can shed most of them for some pocket money in the afternoon. You can even do this with those books you won’t ever read. Having a small, curated collection of these things might make you more inclined to actually watch, listen or read them and will provide visitors to your house with a more succinct display of your tastes.
There are plenty more steps you can take in this direction – the above will get you off to a good start. Once you’ve decluttered in these ways, you must be vigilant to cluttering up your life again – don’t immediately start cluttering up your desk and computer or buying clothes and ornaments you don’t need.