I’m not sure if it is the mountain of Amazon boxes piling up in the hallway six feet from where I study or the lack of vacant counter space to put something down on in the kitchen, but something has to change. But at the same time, I'd rather just stay in bed all day and not worry about clutter, or really anything else for that matter.
It’s also at that point in the school year where every single second of every day revolves around school and academic success. I’m pretty sure that the clutter I have let myself live in has given me high-blood pressure, at the very least.
A quick Google search led me to Marie Kondo’s book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing,” which I read over spring break.
Organization and structure seem to be the only things that alleviate the clutter-induced anxiety, so as I prepare to conquer the clutter around my house and in my life, here are 7 ways I plan on doing it – and sticking to it.
1. Prepare yourself mentally and make a list - know that it can’t all be done in one day.
Hands down, this is the hardest step for me. I want to see a difference immediately, but when I begin to think like this I find myself relocating the endless clutter into what looks to be organized chaos, but in reality, I just make way more work for myself in the long run.
Kondo’s book breaks the idea of decluttering and how to achieve it into eight steps, but as a college student, I felt there were just a few more necessary milestones along the way. The general consensus is as follows: if you haven’t used something in over a year, get rid of it, if it doesn’t bring you joy in some way, get rid of it, and if it can be replaced for under $5, definitely get rid of it.
Make a list of things you want to realistically achieve each day, and stick with it. I began the first day of my new life, as I call it in my head, by removing all of the obvious trash and recyclables from around the whole house – including breaking each box down from Mt. Amazon. I had one industrial-strength contractor bag for trash and one for recycling.
I found myself trying to get things done while trying to get the obvious stuff out of the way - like going in the laundry room for the empty detergent bottles but then also trying to go through the clothes just habituating in that area – but after feeling overwhelmed after just a few minutes, I ended up carrying a pad of paper and adding the side-task I was trying to embark on to a different day of decluttering.
2. Break up the next few days by room in the house, or by one task to accomplish in each room.
I just went for delegating a day of decluttering to a room, rather than each task in a room (like going through dresser drawers) throughout each room in the house. I’m not sure it was more productive than accomplishing one task per room, but if I could go back I would probably do one task per room on that declutter day.
Running around in one room for a few hours made me feel like I was going insane, but I really did like seeing the progress I made by spending the day in that room. Before I began to declutter for the day, I made a list of things I wanted to do in order and slightly modified that list as I was actually decluttering. I started with ground space and making sure nothing was just sitting in the corners of the room on the floor, then I moved to counter space, then drawers, and then cabinets, but not including the closets. I have been dreading going through my closets, and the kitchen, because I know that they have become a storage facility, so I have slated one day just for closets and kitchen stuff that I have yet to reach on my timeline for decluttering.
3. Declutter your phone.
I’m one of those people that buy the iPhone with the most storage capacity because I don’t want to constantly deal with not having enough storage…. shout out to AT&T Next.
But, with all of the benefits 256gb of storage reaps, it also comes with endless and useless clutter. Backing up photos and the content of my phone is something I’m on top of - also shout out to iCloud for doing this by itself – but going through my phone and getting rid of pointless apps that I haven’t touched since 2015, like the Drake Shake app, is something I need to work on.
Take an afternoon to back up your phone and get rid of the apps you aren’t using. I spent a few hours reorganizing my home screen and putting things into folders once I went through all of my apps and WHO KNEW you could actually learn to find apps without searching for them.
4. Declutter your email and social media.
There are always going to be those people that post something that gets to you for no reason other than their stupidity, and those pages that you just don’t care about seeing that bog your feeds down, so now is the time to take a break from the physical work and scroll through your social media to clean it up. Start with those annoying people on Snapchat that just use the platform to rant, especially if they use the wide-mouthed filter. GOODbye.
I didn’t realize how much better this would make me feel. It has allowed me to create a newsfeed of content that has the potential to add to my life, rather than distract me from it, and I didn’t think this kind of thing was possible.
The sweep function, and creating “rules,” have not only made the thousands of junk emails sitting in my inbox go away, but it also keeps them away. Yes, I definitely need to get the latest Target and Forever21 emails, but without even thinking about it, the most recent email from the sender is kept in my inbox and anything older than 10 days is automatically deleted from the specific senders I set the rules for.
In summary, unfollow and unsubscribe from anything that isn’t adding to your life. It makes a huge difference.
5. I avoided the closets for this long, so let’s just get it over with.
I’m not going to lie, I’m still working on this. I took a few hours to go through everything and put the things that I knew I would never wear into a donate box, but that is about it. I’ve set a little hamper that is too small to be an actual, everyday hamper in the closet so I can add things to the newly designated “donate” hamper as I come across them.
I should probably preface this with the fact that I live out of the laundry room when it comes to anything wardrobe, but I’m working on it, seriously. When I revisit the closet next, I’m going to start with going through every item, subdividing them by tops, bottoms, dresses, etc. and then rehanging and folding from there. I’m not the best when it comes to keeping on top of laundry and putting things away once I wash them, but I’m hoping to work on this and learn more as I go.
6. Moving on to the kitchen and the pantry…
Along with the closets, I am not a fan of decluttering the kitchen. It’s a tough area to declutter alone if you live with roommates, especially when you frequent this area of the house much less than everyone else, but it still needs to be done.
I started with the pantry and purged everything that was expired and tried to reorganize things based on what they were, like cereal and breakfast foods in one area, etc. When I couldn’t reach some of the higher shelves – I’m almost 5’9, so there isn’t much I can’t reach in my house – I tapped out.
I revisited this a few days ago and was sitting in the kitchen thinking, “do I use this?” or “do we have two of these?” and then I realized that if you live with roommates, this step should probably be a team effort with all tenants included.
I decided to start deep cleaning the kitchen and purging the fridge, but then I saw some seriously gross stuff in the fridge – I can’t even begin to describe what it looked like or what it could have been at one point in time – and decided this should be revisited as a team and probably with hazmat gear.
7. REWARD yourself for making it this far.
Even if you aren’t where you wanted to be on your declutter timeline, you are significantly closer to living a better, clutter-free life.
For me, unexpected things have come up like dogs getting sick or having to spend more time on academics than I had planned for and I’m behind schedule, but I went into this knowing that I had to have a flexible timeline for this to be a realistic thing I was going to achieve.
At the end of the day, any progress you make in decluttering is contributing to your overall physical and mental health, so make sure you’re giving yourself enough credit for the things you’ve accomplished so far.