8 Ways to Declutter and Organize Your Life

“People cannot change their habits without first changing their way of thinking.” –Marie Kondo

Spring is traditionally the time when we give windows, patios, and yards a good old-fashioned deep clean. As the flowers bloom, leaves sprout, and the air warms, it’s only natural to also feel motivated to tidy our homes, be more productive, and turn over a new leaf. Unfortunately, making those good intentions stick is the hard part.

One of the reasons our best-laid plans for renewal are often short-lived is because we’re so disorganized. In our homes, there are endless piles of unfolded laundry, unopened mail, kids’ toys, bank statements, and phone chargers. It’s no wonder the promise of spring never lasts. We have so much stuff that we can hardly see straight. 

In fact, a 2011 report by The Journal of Neuroscience showed that a cluttered environment literally restricts our ability to focus and limits our brain’s ability to process information. Multiple stimuli in our field of vision competes for our attention and makes it harder to focus on tasks. Clutter also leads to difficulty processing information and has a negative impact on working memory. 

Decluttering takes planning, perseverance, and time. Here are eight ways to declutter and organize your life.

Discard before tidying. Marie Kondo, author of the bestselling book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” suggests the best way to choose what to keep and what to discard is to ask: “Does this spark joy?” If it does, keep it. If not, toss it.

Organize by category, not by room. Some professional organizers advise to organize your home room by room. Kondo suggests otherwise. Sorting what to keep and what to discard by category—such as clothes, books and papers—is more efficient and less repetitive than sorting by room.

 

Save mementos for last. Make a plan for decluttering in terms of categories, and make mementos the last area you sort through and discard. The emotional weight of mementoes can derail the tidying up process early on, especially for newbies.  

When it comes to sorting papers, discard everything. Newspaper clippings, old bills, bank statements—the piles of papers in a household can be overwhelming. Kondo advises to dispose of anything not in the following categories: currently in use, needed for an unlimited period of time, or must be kept indefinitely.

Don’t scatter storage spaces. Store items of the same type in the same place. Kondo says to sort by clothes, books, documents, miscellaneous, and mementos. Separating storage spaces by family member is encouraged.

Remove all files from your desktop daily. Not all clutter is tangible. In today’s digital world, we have clutter on our laptops and phones. If you work on a computer, a cluttered desktop can hamper your productivity. Make a habit of removing every file from your desktop daily by either deleting it or moving it to a folder. As David Neild of Gizmodo says, “Keep the desktop sacred.” On your smartphone, delete unused apps.

 

Unsubscribe from emails you receive but never read. An overflowing email inbox is another form of digital clutter. By unsubscribing from email newsletters and promotions that you never read, chances are you won’t miss them. You’ll also find that unsubscribing is one step toward a more manageable inbox.

Give something away, one day at a time. Colleen Madsen at 365 Less Things says this approach will help you create a space that feels fresher and lighter every day.

With these tips, you can make your home and life clutter-free all year long.