Inside: Decluttering your home is one thing, but maintaining it is next level. Here are 5 strategies to help you maintain a clutter-free home.
I wouldn’t call myself a “runner” by any stretch of the imagination. However, one thing I really start to miss this time of year is a morning jog as the sun rises.
A couple weeks ago, my husband and I had the pleasure of visiting our friends in Florida. While it’s been a relatively mild winter here in Michigan, there is nothing quite like sticking your toes in the ocean during the middle of February.
On our very first morning in sunny Florida, I eagerly slipped on my running shoes and ran down the beach. The sun was warm, but not too hot, and I could see dolphins gliding above the water, moving down the beach with me. It was perfect.
Now, my usual summer jog is roughly a 1.5 to 2 mile loop. (See, I told you I wasn’t a runner). However, I was so enthralled with the gorgeous morning and energized by the sun I hadn’t seen in weeks that I ended up jogging two miles in one direction. That meant in order to get back home, I’d have to run another two miles back.
By the time I made it home I was achey, exhausted and completely sun soaked. I forgot to put on sun block as the sun had barely peeked above the cloudy horizon when I set out. However, by the time I made it back home, it was in full UV force.
As a result of my overly zealous morning exercise, I woke the next morning to a sunburn and extremely sore muscles. Because of that, I didn’t make it back out for another morning jog the remainder of our trip. Oops.
Consistency Beats Intensity
Going too far too fast is an all-too-common mistake we make when making positive changes in our lives. Instead of curbing processed sugar, we commit to a juice cleanse. Instead of waking up a little early, we set our alarms for an overly ambitious hour and end up hitting snooze twelve times. Instead of decluttering our homes at a sustainable pace, we overcompensate, ripping the whole place apart, donating more than we intended to and “investing” in an over-priced organizational system.
Rather than take the time to develop better habits surrounding material possessions, we go all-in without a plan to help us stay the course.
Here are five steps to help you maintain the decluttering progress you’ve made in your home.
How to Maintain a Clutter-Free Home
1. Ignore Trends
It seems as though every time I start to develop a positive habit, life throws a curve ball and undoes it. Every time.
When I’m working to spend less time on my phone, something always happens and tries pulls me back in. Maybe it’s a family conflict, health incident or global crisis, but the next thing you know I’m carrying around my phone all day as if it’s my life support. Or perhaps I’ve started waking up early to work-out before my kids get up. It doesn’t take long and suddenly they’re all sick. Instead of rising early, I’m up at all hours of the night managing reactive airway issues or holding a bucket.
I can almost promise you that the moment you decide to embrace minimalism and lean into contentment, someone you know will upgrade their kitchen or a new trend will emerge. One day you’re sitting in your living room, marveling at your clutter free home. the next you’re glaring at your “dated” backsplash or wishing you could refinish your dark hardwood floors.
It’s much easier to fight this battle when you know it’s coming. Besides, the reason you’re decluttering your home in the first place is to spend your time, attention and resources on the things that last rather than the hottest material possessions. Don’t let the allure of trends pull you back in. You’re on the right path. Stay there.
2. Stop Bringing Unnecessary Items into Your Home
Sure, there are things you are going to need. By all means, buy those things. But if you want to maintain your clutter free home, you’re going to have to start reevaluating what it is you think you need.
Your home is cluttered for a reason. Perhaps you’ve had to absorb some items after a family member passed away or your good-willed mother-in-law keeps dropping off her garage sale finds. However, I’m willing to bet much of the clutter in your home is a result of you assuming you need stuff you don’t.
How can I be so sure of that? Because that was our problem as well. We accumulated all kinds of clothing, decor, and kitchen gadgets without ever pausing to question whether they were actually items we needed or wanted to care for.
If you want to maintain your clutter-free space, you have to stop bringing in new clutter. Plain and simple.
3. Set Realistic Expectations
Just as I probably should have jogged a more realistic distance on day one of our vacation, it’s important you set realistic decluttering goals as well. Staying the course and maintaining a clutter-free home depends on it.
Having kids in your home, how old they are, the state of your health, the season of life you’re in, whether your S.O is on board or not, etc. all play a role in the amount of stuff you own.
This is not only my home. I’ve got four other humans living in here, and humans come with habits, hobbies, and opinions. As nice as a perfectly curated home may look and feel, I much prefer my humans remain humans and not robots.
To stay the course and not grow discouraged by the amount of fabric your crafty daughter insists on keeping or the number of stuffed animals your littlest has quite literally adopted, it’s vital you’re willing to adjust your expectations to align with your real life.
4. Remind Yourself of the Hard Things You’ve Done in the Past
When I feel like quitting, avoiding a hard phone call or I simply feel overwhelmed, I like to quietly list some of the hard things I’ve done in the past…
“Rachelle, you wrote a whole book during a global pandemic with your kids home doing remote learning. You can do this.”
“Rachelle, you already survived the most embarrassing moment of your life, (the time I was dragged fifteen feet up a chair lift at a ski resort in front of a crowd of one hundred+ people. Someday, I’ll write about this one. It was mortifying.) You can survive this.”
“Rachelle, you pretty much quit sugar and wine. You have the ability to take this on as well.”
The practice of intentionally living with less is nothing compared to some of the stuff you’ve worked toward. You can do this, and you’ll be so grateful you did.
5. Create a Donation Drop-Spot
I’ve been at this minimalist thing for over six years now, and I still have a box in the corner of my bedroom ready to take to our favorite donation site. Not because I’m continually accumulating things, but rather because I’m continually pruning things. This box contains clothing my kids have outgrown, books I’ve finished reading, board games we are no longer interested in playing and even a kitchen pan I no longer use.
In time, decluttering will become a habit. As you move about your day, you’ll start to subconsciously run everything you own through a sort of minimalist filter. Do I need this? Is this just getting in the way? Are we done with this? Do I like looking at this? When is the last time I’ve worn this?
Designate a closet, corner, or shelf to house the items you’ll be letting go of once you’ve gathered enough stuff that it’s worth the trip.
Decluttering your home is one thing but living a clutter free life is where it’s at, friend. If we don’t want to find ourselves back at square one every January, joining yet another decluttering challenge, we’ve got to maintain the progress we make.
For a grace-based approach to living clutter free, read: Messy Minimalism. Available where books are sold (and borrowed).
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