4 Very Good Reasons to Declutter a Little More Slowly Next Time

published Jun 19, 2022
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Credit: Minette Hand

Nothing feels quite as cleansing as a giant cleanout of your entire home. But unless you’ve been able to set aside the time and maintain the dedication to KonMari your whole place or you’ve recently undertaken a move that forces you to declutter, it’s not realistic for most people. Frankly, as nice as it sounds, the very thought of a whole-home decluttering marathon may be overwhelming and leave you stuck in your clutter status quo. 

A much more bite-sized solution is a methodical approach that breaks down your decluttering sessions into manageable but effective bursts of effort. In fact, this kind of slow decluttering, while it may not give you a jaw-dropping “after” in a mere few weeks, has many advantages over a dramatic, giant clearing-out of your entire space at once. 

It sets you up for success.

One benefit of decluttering slowly is that you’re setting yourself up for success. Committing to doing a little bit every day, and building in accountability for yourself in the form of a checklist or promises to text others proof of your progress, for instance, is a matter of showing up for 15 to 30 minutes a day rather than canceling all your weekend plans and filling up your free time for a month or more. By fitting in small bits of decluttering time into your days, your regular life doesn’t have to be put on hold and even the decision to start isn’t a big upheaval. 

It minimizes disruptions. 

Gradually decluttering also eliminates the disruption of having huge sections of your house out of order and even out of commission. For example, if you decide to sort through all your t-shirts one day, you can easily have the ones you decided to keep back in your drawer and the ones that are going elsewhere packed up for the donation center all within half an hour or so. This is in contrast to going through your entire collection of clothing at once, which would likely entail piles of clothes all over your room for days as you sort through every single thing. Decluttering a little here and a little there allows you to maintain a cozy, livable space while you’re undergoing your whole-house purge. 

It stops you from tossing out meaningful items.

While a slower decluttering endeavor may not have the same kind of frenetic energy to fuel it as an all-encompassing clear-out may have, it’ll save you from mistakes you would have made when going at a faster pace. If your whole house is upside-down and you’re missing your social life and downtime, you’re far more likely to get rid of things in a state of frustration, things that you might regret parting with down the road. I still remember the pressure I felt going through some of my things under a deadline and how I got rid of my Latin poetry translations and school yearbooks, both of which I wish I still had. (I’d love to show my kids my old yearbooks! I can’t explain why I miss my Latin poetry, but I do.)

It makes you feel accomplished.

Another thing you miss in a large decluttering overhaul is the “mini mood boosts” of taking on one project at a time. Incorporating a sustained and prolonged (in a good way) decluttering season into your daily life allows you to take full advantage of the sense of accomplishment that comes with each win, no matter how small. Imagine the day you go through your mug collection. You take it down from mugs crammed in every empty corner on multiple shelves to a tight collection of your very favorite pieces, which all fit neatly on their one dedicated shelf in your cabinet. Just looking at it will bring you joy and pride, motivating you to take on your next little project (and the next). It’s too easy to gloss over these small wins with a big cleanout, but every tiny step forward is worth celebrating! 

I believe that decluttering is the home-keeping task most closely tied to our mental and emotional state and honoring this connection is one way to take care of not only our homes but also ourselves. Being gentle in your approach to decluttering allows you to reach for and grasp the promise that a decluttered home is a concrete way, well within your control, to achieve a more peaceful home, outside and in.

This piece is part of Go Slow Month, where we’re celebrating taking your time, taking a deep breath, and taking a step back from it all. From deliberate design ideas to tips for truly embracing rest, head over here to see it all.