How to Declutter and Live a Fuller Life with Less Stuff

I used to love having stuff. I was happy to see my bookshelves piled high, my closet bursting, and my drawers overflowing. Books were always my greatest weakness and it wasn’t unusual for me to spend way too much buying new ones in order to “build my library.” That all changed a few years ago when I took my first long trip to Europe. Living out of a bag for 4 months really changes your perception of how much stuff you need to live happily on a daily basis.

As soon as I got home, I got to work on decluttering my life and I haven’t stopped since. Some of the benefits I’ve gained by living with less stuff:

The stuff I do have is much easier to organize, which makes it much easier to find what I need.

I don’t spend a lot of time agonizing over what to wear because my wardrobe consists only of items that I look and feel good in.

I waste less money stocking up on items, especially when I forget I have them or when I switch products.

It’s quick and relatively painless to pack when I travel or move.

I spend less money because I think harder about whether I need something before I buy it.

I generally feel more relaxed. (Stuff can be stressful!)

In this article, I want to take you step-by-step (and room by room) through the process of getting rid of clutter — and staying rid of it in the future.

Start Small

The decluttering process can be overwhelming, so take your time and start small. Whenever you sort through something, make three piles: keep, maybe, toss.

Your “keep” pile should only include things you use regularly, things that you know (not just think) you’ll need in the near future, and things that have irreplaceable sentimental value (baby pictures, old love letters, high school yearbooks, one-of-a-kind souveniers, etc.).

The “maybe” pile includes everything you still like but haven’t used in a long time, everything you’re not quite ready to toss, and things that you think you might need, but don’t know if or when.

Be generous with the “toss“ pile. Include everything you haven’t used in a few months, everything you’re surprised to find (if you’ve forgotten about it already, you won’t miss it in the future), everything that’s old, broken, worn-out, or generally past its prime (make a note of things that need to be replaced), anything you don’t like, and anything with bad memories attached to it.

Now, divide the ”toss“ pile into things you can sell (try Craigslist for larger items, eBay or Amazon for smaller items that can be shipped easily, and a yard sale for everything that’s left over), things that are okay to donate, and things that are going into the trash. Don’t get too hung up on selling stuff — pick the items that clearly still have value and that can be sold for a decent price (check the sites to see what comparable items are selling for). Remember, donating stuff is good for the soul (and a nice tax deduction, too).

The key to the ”maybe“ pile is that you don’t let it wander back into the ”keep“ pile. This is the stuff that you’ll box up and put in your basement or the back of the closet for a while. Chances are you won’t miss it. Give yourself a firm deadline (say, 6 months) and everything you haven’t retrieved from the ”maybe“ boxes by that time is an automatic ”toss.“ No renegotiations.

Here are some specific guidelines for deciding what to keep and what to toss.

Books & Other Media

Keep: Is it one of your favorites and do you read/watch it regularly? Does it have sentimental value (collector’s edition, first edition, signed copy, special gift)? Is it not available anymore, in case you toss it and change your mind (out of print, foreign language media)? Is it a valuable reference with information not available elsewhere? If you still have trouble paring it down, pretend you’re moving. Grab a few boxes and tell yourself you can only keep what fits.

Toss: All magazines (clip favorite articles), all videos and otherwise outdated film media (digitize family films and anything else that’s sentimental and not available on DVD, then get rid of your VCR as well), books you don’t intend to read again, reference volumes with information easily available online (dictionaries, language books, almanacs, encyclopedias), books/films you don’t like or care about that much (old text books, gifts, random paperbacks you picked up on sale, etc.). Try selling used books if they’re in good condition.


Keep: Do you wear it regularly (honestly)? Do you feel particularly special/beautiful/handsome in it? Does it serve a special function that you know will come up (formal dress)?

Toss: Anything that makes you feel unattractive, has holes/stains/is worn out, doesn’t fit, is in a fabric that’s difficult to care for, is from high school, is clearly out of style, doesn’t match anything else in your closet, you’re keeping ”just in case“ (you lose weight/it comes back in style/your child may want it when they’re older/you feel like wearing it again someday)


The key to avoiding toiletry clutter is to get real about what you really use. Women are especially guilty of buying lots of products just to try them, and then never using them again, but not tossing them either. Don’t be afraid to trash old toiletries! If you don’t use it, don’t like it, it’s past its expiration date (especially make-up, sunscreen, nail polish, and medications), and it’s not part of your regular routine, it shouldn’t be taking up space in your bathroom.


The best course of action for any and all paperwork is to digitize as much as you can. Scan it, if you have a scanner. Take photos if you don’t. I suggest you make digitizing your paperwork an ongoing process — starting now. Once you get in the habit, you can go back and digitize older, sentimental stuff like greeting cards, postcards, letters, diplomas, and certificates. Some people go so far as to throw out everything after they digitized it, but I use the same keep/toss rules as outlined above, with the difference that the stuff I keep usually gets boxed up and put in out of sight (if it’s digitized, you won’t need easy access to it).

Even super important documents, like tax records and contracts, should be digitized. Sign up for paperless billing and statements whenever you can — your bank and credit card companies should already have all your statements digitized, so go ahead and shred those. Keep one year of pay stubs and toss them when you get your W-2s. If you keep spending records for a business, your life gets a lot easier as well when you digitize and label receipts instead of sifting through shoeboxes full of papers at the end of the tax year.

Stuff Drawers

You know those drawers that are always overflowing with odds and ends that you need once in a blue moon? I’m talking about the random tools, batteries, light bulbs, extension chords, instruction manuals, post-its, scissors, and who knows what else. The biggest culprit in stuff drawer overflow is lack of organization. Once you know what you have, you’ll stop buying duplicates and finding what you need will get infinitely less frustrating.

Start by getting some small boxes to get this stuff organized. One box should be office supplies — these are essentials like pens, markers, scissors, tape, paper clips, post-its, batteries, and whatever else you know you need to have around. Another box is tools — this should include a hammer, nails, a few screwdrivers, a set of pliers, some glue, and whatever else you reasonably need. A miscellaneous box or two is okay as long as its contents are carefully selected and not just thrown in willy nilly. Remember to leave your keep/toss hat on throughout this organization process.

Staying Clutter Free

So, you’ve cleared the clutter, pared your stuff down to the essentials, and are now living blissfully simply in a house that contains all (and only) your favorite things, well organized and easy to find. But how do you keep the clutter from coming back?

My favorite method of staying clutter free is the one-in-one-out rule. Basically, you only buy something new if a) something you own needs to be replaced or b) you throw something else out to make room for the new acquisition.

It’s amazing how much stuff you can continue to get rid of, even after you’ve been a devoted declutterer for a while. Our likes and dislikes change over time and so do the things we consider favorites. Once you start living a simpler more clutter free life, you become less attached to even those things you used to think were essentials.

Another way to stay clutter free is to enjoy stuff without owning it. Who needs a bunch of DVDs when every DVD you’ll likely ever want to watch is available from Netflix? The library is also a great resource for book lovers because the selection is usually great and, of course, it’s free. For those that still want to own books without the bulging bookshelves, an e-book reader like the Amazon Kindle is a good option.

Owning less also means you think harder about the things you do buy. I find that I’ve become more willing to invest in quality pieces because I know that each piece will get more use. Instead of buying tons of cheap t-shirts, I invest in more expensive items that I know will look and feel better and last longer. Living a simpler life doesn’t mean living poorly — it means focusing on quality over quantity.

Likewise, there has been lots of research that confirms that buying stuff does not bring us happiness. Researchers say that experiences and the wonderful memories they create make people happier in the long run than investing in material goods. When you take your focus off your stuff, you’ll have more money and energy to live a fuller life overall.

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How to Make Your House Look and Feel More Spacious

Make A Room Look Bigger!

Have you ever been to an Ikea and seen how they can fit so much functionality into a tiny room? I have done some research to find out how they have done it. Ikea is a Swedish company.

Most homes in Sweden are very small compared to the homes in the United States. I looked to the experts to see how they do it. Some of the tips include: decluttering, lightening the space and having functional, smaller furniture.

If you have never visited an Ikea store, they are huge. They are filled with small functional furniture, furnishings and utensils. They have everything from utensil hooks to bedroom furniture for you to purchase. They even showcase how they would decorate a 300 square foot apartment with everything you would need. I come out wondering why I need so much space in my house.

Follow these 7 simple steps that follow to give the illusion of a larger room!

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

1. Declutter

Get rid of anything you don’t need or that does not belong in that room. If you have tons of knicknacks, only keep a few sentimental ones.

If you have tons of books stacked up, buy a vertical bookcase. Show as much of your floor as possible. Get rid of rugs to show off the floor below.

2. Brighten Walls

Use light, bright colors. Darker colors will make a room look smaller and cozier, but if you are trying to make a room look larger, light, bright colors will do the trick.

Try not to put too many things on the wall. Put a special picture on the wall, but do not fill it with pictures. It will clutter up the room and make it look smaller. Use smaller pictures or wall hangings to create the illusion of a larger wall space.

3. Smaller, Functional Furniture

Get rid of large, clunky, mono-functional furniture. Do you have a large, horizontal dresser or book case? Trade it in for a lighter, vertical one. Do you have large, bulky furniture? Replace it with smaller, more functional furniture.

When I am talking about the functionality of furniture, I mean to say that it has more than one function. A coffee table that has storage space. A small couch that pulls out into a sleeper bed.

A storage shelf that can hold books and can hold canvas baskets to hold other small items. These are all great ideas for making more than one use out of your furniture.

Mirrors Create The Illusion Of A Larger Room

4. Lighting

The brighter the room is, the larger it will look. Try to get as much light into the room that you want to make look larger.

Some of the ways you can do this are by making sure you windows are not blocked by furniture. Keep windows coverings open during the day to let sunlight in.

If you don’t have a ceiling light, buy some small table lights to put in the dark corners.

Put mirrors up on the walls. They reflect light to create more spaciousness. Find areas of the room where the light hits the wall and try to put the mirrors up there to reflect the most light.

5. Arranging Furniture To Create The Look Of A Larger Room

Arrange larger furniture against walls to make more room in the middle of the room.

Make sure there is a walking path from the doorway to the other end of the room.

Try to keep the middle of the room free of furniture.

Wall Shelves Can Help Draw The Eye Upwards.

Burnes of Boston LL2932 Level Line Black 3 piece Ledge Set

6. Shelving

Instead of putting up horizontal shelves, use vertical shelves. It draws the eyes upward which creates the illusion of a larger room.

Put items that you don’t use as often on the top shelves if they are hard to reach. Put items that are used more often within your reach.

If you have a tall bookcase that you use for shelving, consider using a wall anchor on the back just in case a small child has the urge to try to climb it.

Use light colors

Light colors and natural light make a room look larger. | Source

7. Fabrics

Use light and airy fabrics around the room to brighten and make the perception of more space.

Get rid of heavy curtains and replace them with curtains made with a lighter fabric. Use bright or neutral colors and stay away from heavy patterns.

Make your house look bigger!

Decorating Small Rooms – How to Make Rooms Look Bigger
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How To Declutter Your Finances

declutter your financesDecluttering and getting organized are not just concepts that apply to your home – they can apply to your finances as well. If you have:

– missed paying bills on time;
– been surprised to have a credit card payment declined;
– paid penalty interest and late fees on cards and accounts; or
– been late filing taxes

then chances are you need to declutter your finances.

There can be a number of reasons why finances become disorganized, including being overrun by paper clutter, not having a budget, and being generally disorganized. The good news is that you can take steps to overcome those problems.

Step 1 – Paper clutter

Like any other clutter in your home, paper clutter can seem overwhelming. But you can tame it one step at a time. Don’t try to sort it all out in one go – if you have piles of paper to sort through, allot yourself a certain time in which to tackle it – 30 minutes a day is a good start. You’ll need to have a few things before you begin:

– a container in which to store the papers you are getting rid of ( a box or bag will do);
– a container in which to store the papers that need to be shredded in order to avoid becoming the victim of identity theft (bank statements, anything containing your confidential information);
– a container (a tray or basket) in which to store the papers that require urgent attention;
– containers in which to store the papers that you need to keep but don’t require urgent attention (like receipts, warranties etc); you will need to sort these into categories like tax, health, warranty booklets; if you can’t do this right away, then one container will be fine, so long as you follow through and re-sort later!
– a system to store the papers you need to keep (filing cabinet, ring binder, concertina folder, or trays etc).

Your aim should be to quickly assess each piece of paper, handling it ONCE, and putting into the appropriate container. Pick it up, assess it, sort it, move on to the next one, even the papers that need to be dealt with urgently – this is an organizing session, not a dealing-with-it session! When your allotted time finishes (set a timer or alarm), stop. Take the papers to be thrown away and throw them away. Put the papers to be shredded near the shredder. Put the papers that need urgent attention somewhere where you’ll see them and make an appointment in your diary or calendar to attend to them. If you have storage solutions for your other non-urgent papers, put them away – if not, schedule a time in your diary or calendar to arrange an appropriate system. Continue these sessions until there are no more papers waiting to be sorted.

Step 2 – Making a budget

This doesn’t have to be complicated. Basically, you need to know how much money is coming into your household and how much is going out. You can do it on paper or on the computer, whichever you prefer. Your goal is to list all your income and all your expenses, then break them down into weekly, fortnightly or monthly – it’s probably easiest to align it with your pay period, so if you get paid weekly, calculate your expenses as a weekly figure. Once you’ve done this, you’ll know why you may be missing payments or overspending – is it because you’re spending more than you earn? Your budget will tell you that. Or is it because you overlooked the due date? Your paper decluttering session will sort this out for you.

Step 3 – Staying organized

Once you’ve sorted out your budget and organized your paperwork, you need to set up a system for yourself to stay organized. Open your mail daily and sort into the same categories as when you were decluttering (throw away, shred, urgent attention, keep but not urgent) and then attend to it or store it as appropriate. Have somewhere to keep bills and documents like invitations that require a response or a payment (near your checkbook, envelopes, stamps etc is good). Schedule a time each week to attend to these matters. Keep your finances decluttered and the paperwork tamed, and enjoy the extra time and money you’ve saved!

Four Things You Need Before You Start Decluttering – And Four Things You Don’t

storage boxes to organize your homeSo you’ve decided to start decluttering. Time to get organized! Here are four things you need before you can start:

1. Sorting containers – you’ll need at least three boxes, bags or other containers to enable you to sort through the clutter as you go. If you’re sorting through general clutter, the three main categories are items to be thrown away, items to be given away, and items to keep. If you have a lot of things that belong in another room in the house, then maybe that warrants another container for items belonging elsewhere. If you are going through paper clutter, your three containers should be papers to throw away, papers to be shredded (those containing personal information like bank account numbers etc), and papers to be kept. Tip: don’t make the containers so large that they’ll be too heavy to move when they’re full.

2. Time – for starters 30 minutes is ideal, but 15 minutes or even 5 minutes at a time will work. How you work it into your day is up to you – getting up a bit earlier, sacrificing some TV or online time, staying up a bit later, whatever – just make sure that your allotted time is dedicated to decluttering – no multi-tasking allowed!

3. A timer – so you know when your “sentence” is up. One with a buzzer or alarm is fine – like a kitchen timer, the clock on your oven, or the alarm on your cell phone. You’re only committing to a certain time, it’s much easier to get stuck into a task we dislike when we know that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

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4. Don’t I need to wait until I’m in the right mood? (Another excuse!) No, just get started whether you feel like it or not – it’s only for 30 (or 15 or 5) minutes!

You’ll be amazed how good you feel once you have made a start towards organizing your home and decluttering. Make sure you take the time to enjoy that sense of achievement – you’ve earned it!

Anita Z Lynch is an organization expert. Take a step in the right direction, go to for more information, ideas and helpful tips on decluttering

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