Decluttering Cure

Try This Slow-and-Steady System for Decluttering Your Biggest Mess

updated Sep 9, 2019
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Credit: Anna Spaller

Apartment Therapy’s September Sweep is a free 15-day decluttering program, guaranteed to leave you with a lighter, leaner home by the end of the month. Sign up here so you never miss a lesson, or go here to view all of the assignments so far.

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That old tale about the tortoise and the hare has endured for centuries because the lesson it teaches is so universal and true: Slow and steady wins the race.

It’s true about decluttering, too. Sure, maybe a whirlwind weekend spent in a twister of trash bags will get your space sorted faster than spending a month decluttering slowly. But the real winner here isn’t the person who drops the most stuff off to Goodwill on Friday; the true victor is the one who uncovered a new lifestyle that allows them to be perpetually uncluttered. That’s why we do this: The sole mission of the September Sweep isn’t a cleaner home (although that’s part of it). The greater goal is learning techniques and dictums that allow you to maintain better habits long after the month is over.

Today’s Assignment:

Identify your monster zone and remove three things from it.

The “monster zone” is September Sweep language—it basically just refers to your biggest cluttered mess at home. I can’t tell you what that space is, but it may be very obvious to you. 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 test:

The gadget test: Say you opened up a brand new gadget and wanted to store the box it came in… where would you put it? That spot is your clutter monster.

So part one of today’s assignment is to identify your monster, then part two is this: Remove three things from it. 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.

If you’re struggling with what to get rid of, use the rules from yesterday’s assignment to help you stay brave and ruthless.

Every weekday for the rest of the September Sweep, we’re going to remove three more things from our monster zones. At the end of the month, our biggest messes will be almost 40 things lighter. I’ll drop monster zone reminders into every post from here on out. All I need from you is your commitment to conquering this beast once and for all!

The lesson to take away here is that you don’t have to wait for a capital-p Project to discard an item or two. If, in the course of everyday life, you come across something you don’t need—get rid of it. Eventually you’ll climb the mountain.

All month long, we invite you to share your progress here in the comments and on Instagram with the #septembersweep hashtag. Or join our Apartment Therapists Facebook group to start your own conversation.

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