Declutter Your Mess and Your Stress


A woman sorting items to declutter and keep.I read an article recently about the stress levels of moms being directly correlated to the amount of stuff they have in the home.

I had an epiphany. I was visually overstimulated with the amount of things lying around the house, in addition to the workload being much higher than it needed to be with laundry, closet organizing, toy storage and management, and even little things that may not require too much attention.

For example, I had about 15 cutting boards. I certainly didn’t need that many, even if they fit nicely in the drawer built for them. Downsizing the number of objects you own for yourself, for the kids, and the home is not as easy as it can seem, particularly when you add an emotional component to the age-old question of keep or ditch.

I interviewed a few of my favorite organizational experts (aka my friends who keep a super decluttered house) and watched a lot of Maria Kondo to bring you my favorite tips on taking the plunge and letting things go.

1. It’s not that special.

Our emotional attachment to things we perceive as meaningful or essential is natural. Humans have been doing this since the dawn of civilization, so you shouldn’t take your emotional feelings as proof of something’s importance.

Ask yourself, will anyone care about this when I am dead? It’s morbid, but I have seen enough medals, uniforms, and silver spoon collections at estate sales to know that my descendants won’t care about the St. Andrew figurine that I thought used to ward off my nightmares in college.

Unless it has social and cultural historical significance, for example, Bob Dylan’s jacket, ditch it. What you find meaningful will likely end up in a bin labeled “free” while your kids whisper, “What is this?” repeatedly.

2. The test of time.

It may never feel good to part with a toy your child loved in her younger days, but it is essential to remember that other children could benefit from the toy now, and it would be a much better use for it because it won’t last forever. Most toys and other objects for kids were not meant to last as heirloom quality toys. So, before the plastic breaks off or the colors fade, let the toy find a home where it can be used while it lasts.

This can be applied to clothing and paper memorabilia like letters or ticket stubs. You may think you are guarding a treasure trove of your time on Earth, but the reality is that all of that fades, yellows, and eventually becomes illegible. Do yourself a favor and throw them out, or donate clothes and toys while they can be used.

3. How many do you need?

Most of us know how many individual cardigans or black flats we own. Even though we might think that we love changing our cardigans every day for 365 days, you will love NOT having that many cardigans to wash, fold, and manage in your closet even better.

We acquire things en masse, through gifts, mystery left-behinds, and our purchases that are either impulse or retail therapy-driven more than need-based. If you sit and count how many black pants you own or how many beach towels are in the linen closet, you will likely find that you have excess.

When I put away my clothes, I love having only five pairs of pants in the drawer. It is much more enjoyable than having 15 pairs of pants stuffed into a drawer. It is a nightmare to pull things out or put things into. I am not Miranda Priestly so that I can have five pants instead of 15.

4. Follow The 90/10 rule.

Nothing is more difficult for me than downsizing my children’s creative work. I would sooner throw all but one change of clothes into a donation bin than get rid of even the tiniest little scribble my children make. I am that mom, I know. However, after I filled about six 20-gallon containers with my then 1-year-old’s “art,” I realized this was not sustainable. I came up with a new routine.

I sort through their creative work once a month (ok, sometimes once a quarter). I allow myself to keep a maximum of 10% of the art, and the rest has to get thrown out. Even though I have wallpapered my house with their work, it has at least reigned in the amount I keep a great deal. Having this rule also takes away the emotional piece of it.

They love their work, and throwing it away gives me a lot of guilt. But having this rule to blame takes that off my chest. Granted, I must do this on Recycling Day, and only while they’re sleeping because if my daughters ever discovered their work goes into the bin, they would never speak to me again. But I have followed this routine for two years now, and I have to say, I am so much happier now than when I anxiously stared at the towers of art, wondering how I would manage their life’s work.

I won’t write about downsizing makeup because that is beyond my will or ability, but perhaps another day. In the meantime, happy tossing!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here