Decluttering Is Hard—But There’s One 2-Minute Way to Make it Easier

published Jan 6, 2021
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Apartment Therapy’s January Cure is a free 20-day program all about loving on your home and preparing yourself and your space for the new year. Sign up now to get daily lessons sent straight to your inbox!

If you’ve ever embarked on a mission to pare down your possessions, you know it’s not easy. There’s a physical toll, of course. (Does anyone else feel achy after clearing out the closet, or is that just me?) But there are also plenty of emotions that come into play when you’re making decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of.

The mental, physical, and emotional workout is a lot, all at once. But it doesn’t have to be.

Something you can do to make the hard part of decluttering easier is to spread out that work load. And yeah, one way to do that is to spread the work out over several days or weeks (I mean, that’s why we do the Cure!). But it’s also a good idea to separate the physical work from the emotional work, too.

Think about it this way: I have a hard time making good decisions when I’m tired or hungry. So why would I trust my just-did-a-hundred-squats-cleaning-under-the-bed self to decide if I’ll really wear that dress from last year? The better move is to set aside the dress—for now—and make the decision later.

Taryn's Tips

Decluttering is a physical *and* mental effort, and you’ll make better decisions about what to keep when you’re not exhausted from emptying and sorting. Filter out a big pile of “maybe” things to declutter, and make the tougher choices another day.

And the secret to that delayed-decision type of decluttering is simple…

Day 3: Set up an outbox and put one thing in it.

Take two minutes to establish a place where you’ll put your cast-off items aside during the Cure, and then find one thing—just one—to add to it today.

It will be like a decluttering purgatory. Throughout the Cure, as you declutter different areas of your space, you can put things you’re getting rid of, or just thinking about getting rid of, into the outbox.

Your outbox doesn’t need to be an actual box. It can be a bag (those big IKEA bags are clutch), an unused room, the trunk of your car, or any designated nook or corner. Someplace that you can allow to be messy for a little while.

Once you’ve got your outbox set up, I want you to add one thing to it. Look around your home and zero in on one item you’re thinking about letting go of—a trinket, a kitchen tool, a sweater, anything—then put it in the outbox with abandon. Don’t think about it too much, just… into the outbox. You’re not getting rid of the thing (yet, or maybe ever), so don’t hesitate to put the thing in the outbox if it crosses your mind.

But for now, just set it up and feel good about putting that first item in, knowing you’re on your way to letting go of things you don’t need.

Once you’ve got your item in your outbox, you’re done with the Cure today!

More Ways to Participate in the January Cure: