Some Tips for Decluttering and Simplifying

Simplification. Decluttering. Minimalism. These are some buzz words that are frequenting our society these days, as some people strive to find a reduction in the clutter in their lives. Often, it takes reaching a point of feeling overwhelmed with life to want to try to simplify it, and these past few years, I’ve been on this bandwagon. Mentally, I had a feeling like I couldn’t overcome all of the busyness of my life, while finishing my degree program, working, and with my husband and I raising our son and trying to make time for one another, as well. As the finish line for college was in sight, I took that opportunity to begin evaluating what I wanted in my life, (and didn’t want) and that included stuff, routines, processes, and habits. I had already found some ways to increase my personal productivity and stay sane during that time, but it was also an opportunity to practice some “out with the old, in with the new”, even if that “new” meant an idea, new habit, or, giving myself permission to give something else the heave-ho.

So here, in no particular order, here are some things that I’ve done to simplify my life.

  1. I decided that I didn’t need to hold onto everything. Books I’ve read and loved and kept because I may want to read them again. Clothes that weren’t my favorite. Jewelry I no longer wore. Kitchen gadgets that I barely made use of. Most all of them were kept with good intentions. But keeping it all for a “just in case” scenario simply didn’t make sense anymore.

2. Automate my email filters. I have my Gmail account set to filter airline travel deals, shopping promotions, and other non-essential emails that are okay to be tucked away in case I want them. When I subscribe to a new website and hence start getting emails from them, I setup a filter based on that first email I get, so that I’m not littered with more junk in my inbox. Because of these processes and habits, my inbox is not overwhelming and typically has very few emails in it, which are emails that I need to take an action on.

3. Keep a donations box. With the practice of decluttering becoming more of a marathon than a sprint, it turns out that there’s usually one or more items around the house that need to be donated. I keep a box around for us to gather items into as we find they’ve lived a good life in our household, and when the box is full, it gets dropped off at a donation center near our home.

4. Become comfortable with who you are. This tip might sound silly, but settling more into my comfort zone has rid me of the stress of trying to be someone I’m not. I’m mostly a jeans and t-shirt kind of person, large crowds overwhelm me, and I learned long ago that I’d rather have a few close friends than buckets of acquaintances. I tend to be an early to bed and early to rise person, I typically follow rules, and I don’t like surprises. It’s a work in progress, but I decided to stop apologizing for these aspects of my personality.

5. Figure out a housekeeping routine that works for you. I’ve developed routines within housecleaning that allows me some flexibility, while also providing that I’m not doing chores all day long. Some shortcuts here include daily cleaning and pickup, washing a load of laundry everyday or every other day (depending on your household size and amount of laundry produced, you may need to adjust this) and spending 15 minutes speed cleaning an area when it needs to be done.

6. Keep a meal planning notebook. I’ve got a notebook that I use as a meal planner and keep past week’s meal plans so that I can refer back to them as needed for inspiration. I have a page that lists our favorite meals so that I have additional inspiration as well. On top of all this, I review my family’s upcoming schedule on a weekly basis and meal plan around that schedule accordingly.

7. Declutter your schedule. I purposely avoid making things more difficult on myself and my family. If we have a lot going on in a certain week, I don’t commit to additional things. If my son is invited to two birthday parties back to back on opposite ends of town, we probably choose one. Our son also is enrolled in one extracurricular activity at a time.

8. Enlist help! Long are the days where the housecleaning is the wife’s sole responsibility. My husband pitches in with a whole lot around the house and my son has set chores and additional things he helps with as well. I never feel like taking care of the house is all on my shoulders.

9. Turn off the TV more. If only every so often. Engage in a different hobby, play a board game with your partner, or read a book. TV watching can be expensive, if you have cable. If you have the ability to cut your cable plan all together and become a cord cutter, I guarantee your finances will thank you. We have plenty to watch between Netflix, our HBO subscription, and Amazon Prime content, and cut the cord 2 years ago and haven’t looked back.

10. Digitize your documents. It took me a long time to get to this point, but I’m starting to do away with filing every.piece.of.paper. I used to spend hours in our office filing, shredding, labeling, and purging, (and then having to do it all again sometime later) and I simply grew weary of it. I scanned all of our tax returns and supporting documentation for storage on an external hard drive, and I lightened up some of our already filed paperwork by getting rid of user manuals (and downloading the manual off the internet and storing on external hard drive), warranties that had expired, receipts for items that we no longer have, and I shred paystubs at the end of the year after we’ve received our W-2s. I don’t keep past years Social Security statements or bank statements, I keep only 12 months worth of monthly bills in my budget binder, and I register for products that have that option in case there is a recall or warranty problem. It’s still a work in progress, but I definitely spend less time sorting papers now.