More Than Resolutions: Declutter

31 Days of Organizing for a Better 2010: Declutter

Join us all month for More Than Resolutions!

If you’ve been an Organizing Your Way reader for very long, you know how I feel about stuff. I define stuff as things you don’t need that waste time, space and energy.

Let me clarify that I personally don’t think there’s anything wrong with owning things in general. We have hundreds of children’s books, and it’s a collection I hope to continue to grow and one day pass on to my children and grandchildren. We have CDs, DVDs, electronics, bins and bins full of craft supplies and enough toys to open a daycare.

But we only keep the things that we consider valuable, have space for and actually use, and I regularly declutter as part of my cleaning routines.

If you’ve declared 2010 the year that you’re going to declutter, where do you even begin? Let’s look at some simple steps to make your goal a reality:

1. Set a concrete, achievable goal.

Amy at The Finer Things in Life has set a goal to get rid of 730 items this year (an average of two a day). As she says, that number will certainly stretch her, but goals should stretch us. Maybe your goal is to give away a box full of stuff every month or to clear off all of the flat surfaces in your home and keep them that way. Maybe it’s to sell, give or throw away one thing every time you bring something new into your home. Maybe you want to take an even more drastic approach and limit yourself to owning 100 things.

Your goal doesn’t have to be the same as anybody else’s. The important part here is not what your goal is; it’s that you set an actual goal, one that you can measure and evaluate throughout the year.

2. Focus on today.

Maybe decluttering comes easy for you and you’re excited about taking your minimalist approach to the next level this year. But if it doesn’t and the thought of decluttering is a little bit terrifying, the key is to get started today. Don’t worry about decluttering for the whole year or how many things you’re going to get rid of when it’s all said and done. Focus on today and use one of these Decluttering 101 methods to take that first step.

It’s also important that you don’t wait until you have time to declutter your whole house — or even your whole kitchen — to get started. When you get to the bottom of this post, pick a drawer or cabinet anywhere in your house and clean it out. Sell, give or throw away any items that are broken, don’t get used or just take up space. Waiting for the perfect time to declutter often means it won’t get done at all, but you can easily clean out a drawer or cabinet while dinner’s in the oven or while straightening as part of your evening routine. Every little bit counts!

3. Have someone hold you accountable.

Whether you partner with a friend who also wants to declutter in 2010, create a family goal sheet so that your whole family can participate in decluttering or post on your blog like Amy did, it’s always easier to achieve a goal when you tell other people about it and ask for their help in staying on track.

4. Expect setbacks.

There are 365 days in a year, and chances are you’ll have days when you don’t feel like decluttering, when you cling to your stuff a little more tightly or when you go on a shopping binge and bring more stuff that you don’t really need into your home. Think about the setbacks and how you’ll handle them now so that you’ll have a plan when they happen.

I’m not talking about expecting failure or giving up before you get started, but all goals have setbacks from time to time, and one problem with resolutions is we allow our perfectionist tendencies to discourage us if we get even slightly off track. Prepare for these setbacks ahead of time so that you can push through them and continue working towards your goal rather than coming to a standstill because you haven’t achieved it perfectly.

Is decluttering one of your resolutions in 2010? Share your concrete, achievable, measurable goal with us in the comments!

The 31 Days of Organizing for a Better 2010 series is sponsored by Get Organized Wizard. Find ready-made action plans, organizers and checklists for more than 200 projects in the  Life & Goal Organizer.