I started off the New Year realizing that I have TWO BIG PROBLEMS. Happy New Year to me, right? What could be wrong already, you ask? This:
- My mind is overwhelmed with my to do lists, crazy ideas and big dreams and
- My home is overwhelmed with stuff.
I realized that I big fat FAILED in one of my biggest goals when I decided to become a stay-at-home mom three years ago. I devised various mission statements for my home, family, marriage, myself and my blog. My home mission statement is to “create a peaceful sanctuary and fun playspace for our family so they can have great memories of love & fun when they think of home.”
Is it a fun playspace? Yes, totally! We have more toys than Toys R Us. But what saddened me is that our home is still not the peaceful sanctuary I longed for. I spend most of my time at home and it seems every nook and cranny is crammed with stuff. Stuff we don’t need and stuff we can’t find when we do need it. I dread the inevitable, “Mom, where’s the (fill in the blank)”? The home clutter is starting to stress me out and it just adds to the already swirling tornado of ideas fighting for my attention in my head.
So I’ve been taking steps to learn how to get focused to fulfill my mission for my home and hopefully, save my sanity. I’ve scoured through books, taken webinars and downloaded ebooks on my quest and thought I’d share the 5 Tips to Declutter Your Home and Mind that I’ve learned.
Note: This post contains affiliate links as indicated by an asterisk. Purchases from these links provides a small commission to me at no extra cost to you.
5 Tips to Declutter Your Home and Mind
1. Dream Big
The first step is envisioning what you really want. Not what others expect of you, what you want. This may not be what you expected to hear as the first tip. But focusing on your dreams will help you identify which ideas in your mind and things in your home are worthwhile to keep to achieve your dreams and which ideas are just “clutter.”
Me? I have no problem dreaming big. In fact, I have trouble being realistic. I make grand schemes in my head that I expect to be able to bring to life. Just ask my husband before any kids’ birthday party I threw…or a holiday…or even the butternut squash bacon pasta that sounded like a good idea but my boys still consider a form of punishment.
In January, I was completing the Passion Planner Roadmap for 2017. The roadmap is for us to write down all our lifetime goals and then focus in on the one or two that would be “gamechangers” for us. The “gamechangers” are the goals that “would have the most positive impact on your life right now.”
It’s then that I realized that my goal to live in our dream home did not necessarily mean I needed a 10,000 square foot mansion with a movie theater room and spa. But what I desperately wanted was our house, decluttered and decorated to create the peaceful sanctuary and fun playspace I dream of. Because I know myself, when my environment is decluttered, my mind is more at peace and I function better in my roles as mom, wife, and citizen.
Since 2018, I have been using my Powersheets to do some deep soul searching into my life purpose and what goals were most important to me. Part of that prep work exercise was to do a life evaluation on different aspects of my life so I could be honest with myself, and see at a glance what areas I wanted to improve on.
2. Let it All Out
Now that you’ve got your big dreams down, go ahead and let out all your other ideas too (and don’t worry you can add in more dreams if you want to). In Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen*, Allen teaches us that the first step in mastering our workflow is to CAPTURE every idea that is in our head. He suggests taking a couple days to write every idea down on a separate piece of paper including what a successful outcome would look like and any tasks associated with that idea.
The purpose of this exercise is to clear your head so that you can focus on any chosen task at the time. It is also designed to help relieve the stress of having to remember everything you need to do. How often are you doing one thing and your mind is going off in another direction? How many of your grand ideas and dreams are overshadowed by the mundane phone calls, errands and fires you need to put out every day?
I started the capture process by filling up index cards of ideas for my four categories (home, family, self and blog) and preparing a weekly running task list for completing the tasks I needed to and capturing any new ideas during the week.
Go ahead and get everything out of your head and onto paper (or a digital notebook like Evernote, Trello or Notion if you choose). Just make sure you regularly declutter your mind and capture your ideas so that they aren’t clouding up your focus when you want to ACHIEVE your dreams. As Allen suggests,
Keep everything in your head or out of your head. If it’s in between, you won’t trust either one.
Whichever system you choose to capture your ideas and turn them into context lists (again Getting Things Done* is a great resource for this step), be sure it’s complete so you don’t lose any of your brilliant ideas. Allen suggests a weekly review of all your lists to ensure all your ideas are captured.
Now that we’ve decluttered your mind, let’s work to declutter your home.
3. Make a Decluttering Plan
There are a few different ways you can tackle a decluttering plan depending on which method helps you get it done.
In Getting Things Done*, Allen tells us when you are completing a project, make a list of the next actions you need to take to complete it. In the case of decluttering, for example, my most important area is the laundry room.
The laundry room has become our catchall, hide it in there because company’s coming room. Do you have a room like that? Well every time I go to do the laundry (which is at least four times a weekday), I get stressed out just trying to walk in to get the laundry in and out.
Now that I’ve identified my most important area, I break down the area into a list of all the little things I need to do to consider this area complete:
- declutter the baskets we have stored on shelves
- replace or get rid of black table we have stored in there
- paint walls
- bleach the floor
- replace the floor (more of a wish list item)
- dispose of old paint
- disinfect sink
Whether I do it all at once or a little every day or every week, I’ve broken the area down into identifiable pieces and I know just what needs to be done next time I work on it. When I check them off of my goal tracker, I feel a sense of accomplishment and can visualize the results. I kept these pages in a ring bound bullet journal but I have since taped them into my Passion Planner so I have them handy when I work on my weekly to-do lists.
Another method for decluttering is the KonMari method named after author Marie Kondo’s teachings as described in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up* (FREE with an Audible Trial if you want to listen to the audiobook while you declutter, win-win). Kondo teaches us to keep only the things that spark joy in our lives.
While not always realistic for someone like me, I do like her method of gathering categories of items from throughout the house to declutter at once. For example, when you sort through books, you’d want to gather ALL the books from your various bookcases, Kindle, rooms, car, stored in the garage/attic/basement etc. before you start purging. It helps you know what you have and what needs to be put back (only the things you love) or given away/trashed. I think I’ll be using a combination of decluttering our stuff by location for the downstairs rooms and the KonMari method for decluttering paperwork, recipes, photos/kids artwork, clothing, toys, books and magazines.
The decluttering method I love and that really helped me is Dana White’s book Decluttering at the Speed of Life: Winning Your Neverending Battle with Stuff. Again, I listened to it on audio while I decluttered. But her container concept, two questions to ask when considering whether an item should stay or go and her philosophy to look at a space and ask how you can make it better simplified an otherwise overwhelming project.
4. Enlist Help and Say No
The only way for a space to stay decluttered is to put things back where they belong. If you live with others, you’ll need their help in maintaining a decluttered space. It’s easier to put a couple things back when you’re done using it or at least every night before screen time or bed than putting away a weeks, months or years worth of clutter (believe me, I’m working on 13 years of clutter over here).
I’m always nagging my kids to put their stuff away before they get screen time. I’m hoping the house rule of “if you use it, put it back where it belongs” will sink in some time before they leave the nest. Until then, bribery works.
The other part is to say no to new purchases. Impose a spending ban. Go to Target less often. Walk to the grocery store so you aren’t as tempted to get impulse purchases because you have to carry it home. Carry a reusable shopping bag instead of getting a cart to fill up in the store, you’ll think about your purchases more if you have to carry it around. Use cash instead of credit cards. Think about what you can do to resist the temptation of new stuff. Your wallet and your home will thank you.
5. Celebrate Your Small Victories
It’s the name of my blog and I’m all about celebrating your small victories. Whether you are motivated by ticking off things on a checklist or you need a bigger reward like a coffee at Starbucks, be sure to give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done.
Have a glass half full attitude. Refocus your attention on the things you checked off your to do list rather than the empty boxes waiting to be done. Concentrate on celebrating the small victories as they are each important steps in achieving your bigger goals. It won’t happen overnight, so enjoy the journey and recognize the efforts and progress you’ve made.
What do you struggle with decluttering in your home and mind? What prevents you from working through your decluttering goals? What kind of home and time management system do you hope to achieve? Let’s discuss what works for you and what doesn’t work so that we can help each other achieve our dream lives!