3 Ways to Reduce Clutter in the New Year

If you’re like me, reducing clutter is likely one of the items that makes your annual list of New Year’s resolutions.

That’s because I love the feel of an organized environment—but don’t always manage to keep it that way if I get busy with a writing project or something else.

When I was a kid, I distinctly remember the two images in my Brownie handbook: one in which the girl is overwhelmed because her bedroom is a chaotic mess—and the other in which everything has its proper place and she’s smiling as she closes the dresser drawer on a stack of neatly folded clothes.

Although I always wanted to be the latter, I was more often the former.

When I was a teenager, our house was broken into while we were all out. Although the burglars had turned most everything inside out looking for something of value—it didn’t appear that my room had been touched.

But it was so messy that the working theory was that one burglar probably thought the other had already tossed it.

Fortunately, I became more orderly as I got older—a trend which started with having roommates in college who were neater than me.

At this point in my life, I really love order—so much so that I started my business over a decade ago not as a writer, but as a professional organizer. When I found out that people actually make a living organizing someone else’s stuff, I was elated and jumped in with both feet.

There’s a longer story to why I’m not still doing that, but the bottom line is that I still enjoy an orderly environment, which means I’m always looking for ways to cut the clutter that gets in the way.

Here are three ways you can do that, too:

1. View what’s “old” as “new.”

I have a lot of books on the single bookshelf in my study—some which I’ve read and have kept because they’re favorites, and some which I look forward to finishing at some point in the future.

Those which I cherish most belonged to my mom and dad. In particular, they had a wonderful collection of Bible study resources that I love to pull out and use for my own study.

In addition to benefiting from the wisdom and expertise of the scholars who wrote them, I get to savor the wisdom of my parents as I enjoy their various highlights and notes.

Although my first instinct may be to look for something new to fit a particular research or study need—which may only add to my clutter—what I often realize is that something “old” that’s already at my fingertips perfectly fits the bill.

And that’s a principle that can be applied beyond the books on my shelf.

2. Evaluate the potential to collect dust.

Although I love a clean environment, I can’t say I love the process of getting or keeping it that way.

It’s not that I mind cleaning, it’s just that there are lots of other things I’d rather be doing than removing the layer of dust that will start reaccumulating not long after I’m done.

But I’m not really talking about the act of dusting in this context—rather whether the item that’s cluttering things up is something you really need.

Now, if something’s more sentimental than practical there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. We have lots of sentimental stuff in our home and cherish it all.

That’s not what I’m talking about.

Instead, I’m referring to the stuff that’s taking up space that you’re pretty sure you’ll never use.

Things that don’t really serve any purpose other than, yes, collecting dust.

If you have that kind of clutter in your life, consider whether it may be time to open a donation bag and give it to someone who may actually use it, instead.

3. Evaluate the obligatory mindset.

I have a pillow hanging on the door of my study that says, “Leave your coulda, woulda, shoulda at the door.”

Which is another factor in the clutter scenario.

If you’re hanging onto a clutter item from a sense of obligation or guilt, you might want to consider why that is and whether that’s a helpful dynamic or not.

In this case, there may be more significant issues underlying your need to hang onto something that’s cluttering up both your physical and emotional life.

And exploring that possibility in some way (perhaps with the help of a professional or trusted family member or friend) may end up leading to a sense of freedom that makes that the most valuable item of all.

When we let go of the things that no longer serve a purpose other than cluttering up our lives, we can make room for that which helps us be more effective in fulfilling the purposes God has planned for us.

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Sue Montgomery is a Christian writer/content creator who's also been a hospice nurse, family caregiver, health coach, and professional organizer. Now she's helping Baby Boomers like herself embrace the Boomer Continuum™ of agile caregiving, graceful aging, and peaceful dying—with Christian faith and simplicity to focus on what matters most.
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