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4 Rules to Declutter This Spring

Spring is a great time to declutter your home. Sanjaya Saxena, MD, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine in La Jolla, estimates that 2 million Americans have a hoarding problem. Over time, we tend to accumulate a lot of stuff, including things we may not even want, or in other terms “junk.” For most of us, when we are confronted with making the decision “to keep or not to keep,” it’s always easier to keep. And so, before you know it, the whole house is filled with the kept things that you never use, look at, or even remember.

Purging the excess, however, brings many benefits. For one, it is therapeutic. As you get rid of the surplus and the unnecessary, you’ll feel lighter, calmer, and a sense of accomplishment. Since clutter tends to be very unorganized and distracting, it can cause unnecessary stress in your life. Removing it, however, enables you to relax, refocus and concentrate. This means that you’ll save time and be more productive. Not only will you be able to find the things that you need more quickly and easily, but you’ll also spend less time cleaning, straightening up and doing other household chores. Finally, clutter detracts from a space’s look. It can make your space seem smaller, dysfunctional and chaotic. Removing the clutter and organizing your space will give it a cleaner, fresher look, help you reclaim space once lost, and allow you to relax and enjoy your home.

Your possessions technically fall into three categories: 1) your necessities, 2) things that bring you joy, and 3) the clutter, aka stuff. Your aim is to remove the third group, which will allow you to enjoy the second group more and get more use out of the first group. To make the decluttering process a little bit easier, consider these three rules:

Making Decisions:Before you launch wholeheartedly into stripping your house clean, you’ll want to create some structure around how you make decisions about whether something should be kept, should be kept but stored away, or should be given or thrown away. In short, anything you keep should have value to you. Ask yourself if items provide any of the following:

  • Functional Value: The item makes life easier and is necessary for everyday living, such as a coffee pot, television or a vacuum.
  • Historical Value: An item that is important due to its attachment to your personal or family history, such as an heirloom or a yearbook.
  • Personal Value: An item that is important to you for your own reasons, such as clothing or books.
  • Aesthetic Value: An item that creates beauty or an aesthetically pleasing environment, such as art, decorating elements or a special piece of furniture.

If an item doesn’t provide any of these four values, it isn’t worth keeping. If an item has no value to you, but may have value to someone else, then you should give it away or sell it. And finally, if something has no value to anyone, or is unsalvageable, it should be thrown away.

  1. Create a Plan: Sit down and list out all of the areas you want to tackle. Then, prioritize them. Put time limits on each area, so that you stay productive. Although it might be tempting to tackle those areas that seem easiest first, you might get a lot more out of organizing those areas that are in the worst shape. Cleaning up the most cluttered spaces will give you a bigger sense of accomplishment than tackling those areas that are less cluttered.
  2. Have Gear Ready: For each area of your home, you’ll want to have the proper tools to organize your belongings. Make sure you have garbage bags on hand. And for papers, magazines, and newspapers, have a recycling bag or bin. You might want to purchase a paper shredder for confidential papers that need to be discarded. Get some cartons or boxes for fragile items that you want to give away or throw out. As you declutter each space, continue to purchase whatever necessities are required to help you make progress and remain productive.
  3. Finish What You Start: As you go through this process, don’t abandon one area to start another. Finish the areas you start so that you continue to have a sense of completion.

Are you a hoarder or minimalist by nature? What is your secret to keeping your space neat and organized?

52 Small ChangesAdapted from 52 Small Changes: One Year to a Happier, Healthier You. Make real, lasting change with this easy to follow, week-by-week guide to healthy change. Get it now at

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