13 Ideas to Get Motivated to Declutter
Updated: Mar 1
In this blog post, I offer ways to get motivated to declutter and score the motivation to live with less. I write this post from the very center of my proverbial heart having lived with the pain of letting go and from living with the anxiety of massive amounts of clutter.
Two years ago, the joy of living with less became greater than the pain of letting go. I've donated, trashed or gave away thousands of items.
Decluttering gives you a fresh start in a space and gives you a dose of dopamine. I know first hand that decluttering can relieve stress, and living with an open space reduces my ongoing anxiety. Visual clutter has a scientific affect on our brains. Read more about that in this post: 11 Questions to Ask When Decluttering.
Sometimes motivation sparks when the thing we want is greater than the things we have. Recognizing that spark and allowing it to flame can get your decluttering motivation going.
We want it to be easier to get dressed in the morning, but the thing we have is a cluttered closet. A cluttered closet does not help our mental health. Our closet holds a wardrobe filled with clothes that do not fit, or it’s filled with clothes that are not part of our color palette. It’s filled with clothes that are stained or torn and when we put them on we just don’t feel good about it. However, the motivation to do something about that can be hard to drum up. Read Steps to Take to Declutter Your Wardrobe here.
In the kitchen, having to dig through a drawer to find the one utensil I need is a stress point for me. I need the kitchen - and cooking - to be easy. When I have to take appliances out of a cabinet to get to the one I need (like the toaster), then I know it's time to edit, declutter, and reorganize that cabinet.
There are two main steps of decluttering: deciding to let go of an item + removing it from your home/life. These two main steps carry branches of actions like processing guilt, putting it in the car, etc. but decluttering can be thought of in two main leaps: letting go + getting rid of things.
I shared five ideas to quickly motivate yourself to declutter in this video, 5 Fast Decluttering Ideas. These five ideas are included in the 13 listed below!
The motivation to declutter can be found in both steps. The decision to let go and the physical act of donating, trashing, or giving away. Let's go through ways to get your motivation going!
13 Ways to Get Motivated to Declutter!
Watch decluttering YouTube videos.
Set a goal of 10 minutes and tackle a pile of clothes on the floor or a drawer in the kitchen.
Remove duplicates from your kitchen. How many mugs do you actually need? How many spatulas?
Read decluttering books, and check out a few I have listed below.
Try the Clutter Basket Hack.
Reverse your thinking. Instead of what can I get rid of from this pile... ask what do I actually want to keep from this pile? See below for a Getting Unstuck video!
Pick one drawer or cabinet that overflows with stuff. Declutter and reorganize.
Declutter apps from your phone.
Declutter from your wardrobe. Find an item that doesn't fit well or one you don't like wearing.
Take your declutter choices to your local donation center right away. The feeling of letting it go can spark motivation to declutter more.
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Clean out the back of your kitchen cabinets. You'll likely find something in there to declutter that you haven't seen or touched in months.
Find trash. Check the junk drawer, your purse, your coat pockets, and under the couch.
Some of these ways can help you find your motivation or at least get some momentum going. We can turn decluttering momentum into ongoing motivation by making small decisions. Notice that shirt that silently speaks to us when we get dressed? The one that doesn’t fit and we haven’t worn in a year? You deserve to feel happy when you get dressed.
But letting go - even letting go of a shirt we do not even like - can be debilitating. We have to acknowledge it as a loss. Money spent. Weight we did not lose to fit into it. A gift from a friend or family member. A reflection of a size we used to wear (note that I did not write a "size we used to be" - size is something we wear, not something we are).
I once struggled to trash underwear that was too big for me after I'd lost weight. The fear of failure became a decluttering roadblock for me. Failure that if I put the weight back on, I'd have to buy new underwear (bigger underwear) again. I'd have to accept that failure and just the simple thought of it stopped me in my decluttering tracks. My inner bully took over and told me I wasn't worthy. I would probably fail and need bigger underwear again in the future. It was a decluttering roadblock and healthy weight hurdle I had to PUSH through. I turned on the camera and recorded the emotions.
This Closet Item Triggered My Inner Bully
As humans, we are inherently loss adverse. We do not like to deal with loss because it strikes as a negative feeling. There’s a feeling of failure associated in some decluttering decisions. We didn’t fit into the shirt because we didn't lose that weight we wanted, and then we start judging our bodies. We start judging our food decisions. That internal bully takes over and thrives when we are unhappy.
Small decisions add up over time and make life a little easier. Small declutters add up. Greg McKeown wrote a book about making life a little more effortless, and you can read more about that here.
Getting Stuck While Decluttering
Guilt and asking "what if?" when decluttering can hold back your motivation and even stop your progress. These kinds of roadblocks can stir up emotions and fear of letting go. I'm preparing a blog series for November 2021 discussing decluttering roadblocks and will link each post here as they are published. Subscribe to my newsletter to receive notifications about those posts!
When you are down the path of decluttering, you may get a bit stuck. Here's a video tackling #6 from above: reverse your thinking!
I love reading. It's a form of self care, "me time," and perpetuates learning. Here are a few recommendations that fit with sparking motivation to declutter. Here are three decluttering books that might spark motivation to declutter:
breathing room by Lauren Rosenfeld
The Declutter Code by Yvette Bowlin
minimalist moms by Diane Boden
After Deciding to Declutter
The second step after you've decided to declutter is actually removing the item from your life or home. Knowing where to take certain items is important. This list of 29 ways you can donate or give away items might help.
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