Decluttering Cure

This Is the First Step to Decluttering a Really Big Mess

published Sep 21, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Apartment Therapy’s Decluttering Cure is a free 20-day decluttering program, guaranteed to leave you with a lighter, leaner home. You can sign up here to get all 20 lessons delivered to your inbox.

Small and frequent tidying-up sessions will go a long way towards keeping your home in a state of controlled and clutter-free calm. But simplifying your relationship to clutter is about more than knick-knacks and old t-shirts. Because most everyone has a “monster zone” at home that’s absolutely stuffed full of possessions you’re unconsciously hanging on to.

I can’t tell you what that space is in your home, but it should be somewhat obvious. It might be a closet, or your attic, or the basement, or a space under your bed. If nothing is obvious, or you have many and need help narrowing down a target, I like to apply the gadget box test: Say you opened up a brand new gadget—like headphones or a stick blender—and wanted to store the box it came in, just in case you needed to return it or something… where would you put it? That spot is your clutter monster.

And today, we begin to slay the beast…

Day 14: Identify a problem area, and set a plan to attack it.

Identify your “monster zone” problem storage area at home. You can employ the gadget box test, or just your instincts. The most important thing is that you’re psyched to finally tackle this space.

Decluttering Tip: The “gadget box” test can help you identify problem storage areas: If you wanted to save the box your new gadget came in, where would you put it?

→ Create Your Own Decluttering Workbook

Once you know where your monster zone is… no, I don’t want you to declutter the whole thing today. It’s a literal beast. And in my experience, the best way to tackle big messes like this is doing it a little at a time. So today, remove three things from the space. Just three! Open a box, dig into a drawer—do whatever you need. Find three items (big or small) that you don’t really need anymore, and send them on to their next life via the “sell” and “donate” boxes we set up on day one, or even just the trash or recycling bin.

Wasn’t that fairly painless? You can take just three things away and feel like you’re making progress. It’s like chipping away at marble to reveal a statue.

Decluttering Tip: You don’t have to begin a capital-p Project to discard an item or two. When you come across something you don’t need—get rid of it.

→ Create Your Own Decluttering Workbook

With that confidence and clarity, the second part of today’s assignment is to make a plan to remove one thing each day from this space and declutter it—or three things, or five things, whatever feels like a good pace. And to keep yourself committed, set an alarm or reminder on your phone to do this every day for a month, or once a week until it’s finished. You get to decide what plan is right for you—all I need from you today is the dedication.

More Ways to Participate in the Decluttering Cure:

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