I coach people who own too much stuff, and here are my 10 rules for decluttering:

1. Get a helpful book
By far, my favorite book on this topic is The More of Less. by Joshua Becker. I think it’s his strongest book (and I’ve read most of his work). Five stars awarded from me. Add to cart. Select quantity two for gifting to a friend or family member as a subtle gift. #freetips #merrychristmasyouhoarder

I give this book to my clients when they begin their decluttering journey and I always receive lots a great feedback. The book is not an overwhelmingly long read. Bonus: his words are more fluid than mine and LESS SHOUTY IN ALL CAPS like yours truly. Now, he’s not as funny as I am, but we can’t all be. You go to him for wisdom, you come here for first grade word usage bathed in sarcasm and terrible puns. You should invest $12.23 on Amazon learning from him.

But what about the Konmari method, you ask? She does have a small piece of my heart but there are some topics we aren’t fully united on such as directly thanking items for their use and also folding nearly every clothing item. I’m not folding my dresses, guys. I’m not folding my Hilary Clinton power-suit blazer. Nope. Not interested. “But what if you just fold them the right way . . .” Stop. Not listening. You know what doesn’t wrinkle? THINGS ON HANGERS.

2. You go first
Start with your own possessions before you tackle your family member’s stuff. You’ll make faster decisions and need not an ounce of feedback from the hecklers. You require precisely zero permission to get rid of your own stuff. It’s all yours. OUT OF MY WAY FOOLS. CALL ME NEHEMIAH FOR I AM DOING A GREAT WORK AND I CANNOT COME DOWN. #oldtestamentjokes

Speaking of Bible references, we see Luke 6:42 says “How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.”

We can’t be critical of everyone else’s piles if we glaze over our own. Sorry the tower of your children’s Play-Doh is bothering you, but it will bother you less when you go deal with your own crap closet.

Final thought on this step: lead by example. HOPE TO GOD your family sees what you are doing and takes initiative to purge their own dang things. #futileprayers

3. Realize the Process Ain’t Pretty 
It’s going to get worse before it gets better. It just is. Sorry. Not sorry. Pulling everything out and sorting makes for a disaster. It’s like little tiny ants made piles throughout your home and they just get moved around room by room. Am I even making progress here, Amee? Yes, you are. You just can’t see it. Therapists always say the first step is acceptance so turn those palms upward and receive the above message I bring you.

Keep holding those palms out. Don’t you put them down just yet because there’s more bad news bears. Also, your car will not be spared from this madness. Your tailgate will be full of donation drop offs and trash runs. Accept this. Embrace this. You won’t remember the color of your vehicle’s upholstery because it wont see the light of day for some time.

However, do not despair. The Lord says, “Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the Goodwill drop-off lane.” Matthew 28:20/Amee’s Revised 2018 edition.

4. “Hold 30”
We all know about Whole 30. This is “Hold 30”. It’s the same except you can eat all the sugar and carbohydrates you want and there won’t be any noticeable changes in your bathroom habits. Take one month and stop bringing things you don’t need into your home. Thirty days of no purchasing items EXCEPT for what is absolutely essential. I know. I’m a monster for even suggesting this. But you probably aren’t reading this post because you want comfort; you are likely miserable and I’m trying to reach my hand down to you in the pit of despair. Take my peace-offering. What does this look like? Yes to toothpaste, no to tank tops. Yes to soap, no to sandals. If you can get through the 30 days, your urge to spend and bring new things into your home will lessen. Remember that every time you bring something home, it requires maintenance. Upkeep, dusting, sorting, or picking-up. Don’t be fooled. EVEN FREE THINGS AREN’T FREE. There’s always a hidden cost. Best to just not bring it inside. This shouldn’t feel like an easy or natural 30 days, but YOU CAN DO HARD THINGS.

5. Just walk away
After you’ve finished “Hold 30”, you can move to this step. You made it through a hard “no” for 30 days, now its okay to say yes. But there are some catches. Keep moving when you come across items you would normally jump at purchasing without a thought. Give yourself permission to hang the item back on the rack or shelf for a few days and come back later to purchase. If you still feel the same about the item, you know its something you truly want but likely with time and space, the feeling of owning that specific item will fade. If it’s the last item available or only size left in stock, most stores will hold it for you through the end of a day. You’ll save yourself from buyer’s remorse or a long and inconvenient return process should you not take the item home with you right that minute. I’m not saying to tell yourself “no” all the time, I’m just trying to make you work a little harder for a “yes”.

6. Purge in 2-3 hour increments
Longer than that and you’ll end up with a case of decision fatigue. Less time feels like why the FLIP did I even start this. Don’t organize for an entire day. LEARN FROM THE MISTAKES OF THOSE WHO HAVE GONE BEFORE YOU. You’ll burn yourself out and end up rocking in the fetal position while balancing a glass of wine.

Purging is more mentally taxing than you think. Every item you put in your hot hands will require brain power. How many of these do I own? Have I used this? Will I use this? Do I even like this? Does just looking at this here item strap me on the rocket ship of reminiscence? It might. Two or three hours is best. You’ve accomplished something here today but you can still function as a person afterwards.

7. Start in small spaces first
Bathroom cupboards, linen closets, or under-sink cabinets are great places to begin. These can go from start to completion in one morning or afternoon. Areas like these take the least amount of time and provide almost instant satisfaction. On this journey, you are going to need quick gratification and a reward system.

If you’ve never run in your entire life, you don’t send in your registration form to the Chicago Marathon. You find a nice little local 1-mile fun-run that incentivizes the endeavor with donuts or beer at the finish line. Single cupboards and linen closets are the 1-mile fun-run of organizing. There is no sprinkle donut awaiting you should you choose to begin in an oversized basement storage area. When you tell me, “I’m going to start my purging journey by tackling my entire garage today,” you will be met with “NEW PHONE, WHO DIS?”

Spoiler alert: large spaces take F-O-R-E-V-E-R. Save that for when your confidence is a little higher and you are faster in your decision process.

Keep your childhood keepsakes or highly sentimental items toward the end of your purging journey. It’s going to be easier to say goodbye to a raggedy old beach towel than your memory filled, favorite childhood Raggedy Ann doll.

8. Release, don’t retain
If you are on the fence about tossing something (particularly if it’s not sentimental), buh-bye. We can all learn a little something from precious Elsa and LET. THAT. SHIZ. GO. Haven’t we all heard the line “If you love something, set it free”? TIME FOR YOUR TRASH TO SPREAD ITS WINGS.

If you think long and hard enough about an item, your brain won’t have trouble giving you reasons to put it in the save pile. Fight this urge. Give yourself permission to buy it again should you really need it. I’ve only had “giver’s remorse” maybe twice and only one time had to actually re-purchase an item I wish I would have kept. Not a high enough percentage to change this rule of thumb.

9. Choose quality over quantity 
Always, and in all things. One Kate Spade purse > five Target purses with cheap interior lining. RIP to your lipstick if you ever endure a hole in a purse liner. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you have lived a very, very blessed and privileged life and maybe have never owned a crap-tastic purse.

Also, stop judging me. It’s not always about keeping the name brand, it’s about choosing to keep whichever item will last longer and require the least amount of maintenance. You know which items these are that you own. I trust you, dear reader.

10. Keep your donation receipts
This is going to be the least sexy tip of all 10, but nonetheless, an important one. A few donated items here or there aren’t a big deal, but if you are purging big time, DOLLA DOLLA BILLS Y’ALL. Write actual real words on the receipt regarding what was donated and the quantity because Lord knows you wont remember in February when you give them to your CPA. “Oh but I’ll remember, Amee.” No, you won’t. YOU ARE SO FALSE. Before you leave the donation drop zone, you pull that car over and get out that pen. Following through on this tip can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars at tax time. You are welcome.

So there you have it. GO! You can do this. I believe in you friend.

Godspeed to your garbage.

Originally published on the author’s blog

You may also like: 

This is Your Mom Brain on Clutter

I Love My Kids But I Won’t Miss This Mess

3 Ways To Get Organized Now To Keep You Organized All Year-Long

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Amee Yost

Amee Yost is a native Omaha, Nebraskan who writes about simplification, community developement, hospitality, marriage, and faith. When shes not spending time with her entreprenuer husband and kids, you can find her at a coffee shop. She'll be the one with a non-fiction book, annual planner, hot beverage, and large earrings.

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