It’s the new year and time for some New Year’s resolutions. If you’re feeling overwhelmed about all the things in your life you want to change, try starting by cutting down on some of those things. Make the new year a time to declutter your home, your office, and your life. If you feel like you’re constantly drowning in stuff, take this new year as the opportunity to say goodbye to some of those possessions and live a happier, healthier, less stressful life.
Life accumulates. We don’t just mean stuff, though we do also mean stuff. But we’re talking about life in general. When you think of all the things you collect just by living life, you will find that most of those things are neither serving a purpose nor bringing you joy. And if they are not doing one of those things, then they are just taking up physical, mental, and emotional space that could be used in other ways to make your life better.
Just think of all we accumulate.
We accumulate items that fill our houses. Some are things we buy, some are things that work their way in—like mail, receipts, and random paperwork—and some are things we receive. We can certainly agree that not all of it is important, yet we let it pile up. Soon, our homes are filled with things that are neither useful nor enjoyable.
We also accumulate things that don’t take up space. Think about your digital life. We accumulate digital stuff even faster than we accumulate physical stuff. Our phones are bloated with apps we downloaded to use once and never got rid of. Our computer desktops are covered in icons and files we never put away. And let’s not forget the thousands of unread emails you have from websites you never cared about in the first place.
Then there are the more abstract things that we accumulate. We accumulate commitments. We accumulate friends. We accumulate habits. These things can be harder to declutter, but not impossible.
So where do you start? For this New Year’s resolution, let’s start at home.
Decluttering Your Home
Your home, believe it or not, is actually one of the easier parts of your life to declutter. When you’re trying to declutter your home or any part of it—a room, a closet, a shelf—it all comes down to two questions: Is it serving a purpose? Is it bringing me joy? If you didn’t answer yes to either of those questions, you probably don’t need it. Of course, going through your house item by item and asking the questions of each one can seem overwhelming, so we recommend sorting into three easy piles:
These are the things that have no purpose and bring you no joy. They don’t need to be broken or unuseful, they just aren’t useful to you. Often, you can divide this category into two smaller categories: trash and give away.
If something is broken, half used, or just not appealing to anyone, it’s trash. If it’s working just fine but not serving a purpose for you, give it away. Create a bag or a box for your favorite charity. If you think your friends might like some of it, let them have a first go at it before you haul it away. If you think something is really valuable, you can try selling it, but don’t just let it sit around. Give yourself a deadline to either sell it or give it away.
This is a tricky one. It’s so tempting to put all of our stuff into the storage pile. But before you store something, ask yourself whether you really want to see it again. If something isn’t useful now, don’t store it with the idea that it might be useful later.
The storage pile is best for things that you know you want to keep, but don’t use often. This may be a good spot for sentimental items. However, you don’t have to store every art project from your children’s grade school years. Instead, take pictures of things. Scan old finger paintings and classroom doodles. If a project is bulky—like an old ceramics experiment—take a few photos and toss it. Consider whether you would get any less joy by looking at a photo of it than you would by holding the item in your hand. Often, it is the memory and the idea of the item that is valuable, not the item itself.
If you use something often, or if it brings you joy on a regular basis, keep it. However, determining exactly what is in use can be a bit of a challenge. Often, the simple question to ask yourself is “When did I use it last?” There are also some tricks to help make the determination.
One classic trick involves determining which clothes you actually wear. At the beginning of your decluttering project, take all the clothes in your closet and hang them backward, with the hooks facing you. After you’ve worn something, put it back the right way, with the hook facing away from you. After six months, look at which clothes are still facing the wrong way. If you haven’t worn something in six months, ask yourself if there is really some occasion you are saving it for. If you can’t come up with a strong, firm yes, then you can add it to the toss or giveaway pile.
Libraries are a bit of a gray zone. If you have bookshelves full of books, chances are that each book individually is rarely removed from the shelf. However, books can also contribute to interior design. If you have a large bookshelf that contributes to the overall design of a room, there is no need to throw out books you aren’t currently reading. But if you have overflowing piles of books in multiple areas of your house, you may want to weed out books that you will probably never look at. Limit your library to a particular space or a few bookshelves. If seeing a library in your home, or even a wall full of books, is bringing you joy, keep them.
On the other hand, we also tend to accumulate libraries of movies and music. If a wall of books is a stylish design feature, a wall of DVD cases usually doesn’t carry the same appeal. Upload as much music as possible to the cloud, where it can live digitally without taking up space on any of your devices. Movies are harder to store digitally, but if you are doing most of your movie watching online these days, consider whether you really need the physical copies. If it’s a movie that is hard to stream and that you want to watch again, keep it. If it can be streamed or even rented online and you rarely rewatch it, give it away.
Collections are also challenging. If you have built a collection over a long time—for the sake of this discussion let’s say Pez dispensers—it can be hard to give up. The reasons people collect things are complicated. Sometimes it is purely financial, and the collection is nothing more than a good investment. But usually, there is a lot of sentiment tied to a collection. You loved that first Pez dispenser you got as a kid, so you bought another one. Over time, you collected more and more Pez dispensers that each meant something to you, whether it was for their rareness or some other special feature. Decluttering your life doesn’t have to mean getting rid of things you care about. If you are going to display your collection, go ahead and make it part of your decor. If not, storage is a great option.
Don’t Make Storage Another Point of Clutter
One trap that declutterers can fall into is just moving their clutter into storage. While it helps to at least get the clutter out of your home, it is not a full solution. Storage is great for items that you want to keep but don’t use often. However, a storage shed or a rented storage unit can become a new point of clutter. It may be difficult to retrieve items from a storage unit, or even to remember what’s in there.
MyPorter is a member of the TrustDALE Circle of Excellence with a unique business model. With a self-service storage unit, you or a mover you hire brings all of your boxes to the storage unit. You pile them up, fit as much as you can into your rented space, and walk away. Any time you need something, you have to come back to the storage unit and dig through your stuff to find the item you need. Once again, you’re dealing with clutter, just in a new space where you don’t have to see it all the time.
MyPorter makes putting your belongings into storage more like storing files in the cloud. They come to your home and take all of your stuff, which you pack in special tubs that they provide. If you like, they can even pack the tubs for you. Then they take everything to their super secure storage site. It’s super secure because no one except MyPorter team members has access to the site. Not you and not anyone else who stores stuff there. Instead, MyPorter creates an online inventory of all of your stuff, including photographs of every item. Then, when you want something, just surf the inventory to select the items you need and MyPorter will deliver them to your doorstep. It’s like online shopping for your own stuff!
So if you’re ready to declutter, take this new year as your opportunity. There’s no time like the present!
Bonus Tip: Clear Out Your Gmail Account
We’ve only discussed decluttering your physical surroundings, but here at TrustDALE, we love a good life hack. This one comes from an anonymous Quora user.
If you have a Gmail account, you may have thousands of unread emails that you didn’t even bother to delete. You’ve read the important ones, but it would take hours to click on each unread message and delete it. Here’s a quick and easy way to delete all of your unread emails in just a few clicks. (You can also delete all of your unread emails before a specific date, in case you want to keep recent unread email.) Here’s how you do it:
- In your Gmail search box, type “label:unread” (without quotation marks).
- Instead of clicking the checkbox next to each email, click the checkbox on top to select all of the emails.
- Now, on the top of all the emails, click “Select all conversations that match this search” to select all the unread emails.
- Click on the trashcan can icon to delete the selected emails.
- All your unread emails are deleted and moved to Trash.
- If you’re worried you deleted something important, don’t worry. Your deleted email will stay in your Trash folder for 30 days after you delete it. After that, it is gone forever.
If you want to delete unread emails before a specific date, type into your search bar “before:2017/07/26 label:unread” (without quotation marks, and using whatever date you like). Then follow the instructions starting at step 2.
Quora.com. (2018). How to delete thousands of old unread emails from my Gmail - Quora. [online] Available at: https://www.quora.com/How-do-I-delete-thousands-of-old-unread-emails-from-my-Gmail.