The Ultimate Guide to Decluttering Your Life

It’s all too easy to accumulate “stuff” – from sentimental hand-me-down items you used to furnish your first apartment and family heirlooms you’ve inherited over the years to the plunder from countless shopping trips to stay on top of the latest trends and all those gifts that were never really “you.”  Not only is today’s interior design aesthetic clean and uncluttered, but studies have shown that cluttered environments can have a negative impact on your mental health. Too much stuff can cause unnecessary stress, accumulate dust and take up space that might otherwise have a better, more meaningful use. Of course, this doesn’t mean you need to start tossing everything out and filling up your local landfill. By tackling the clutter strategically, you could actually be breathing new life into many of your items – a la “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Need a little help cutting the clutter? Gwinnett Clean & Beautiful has pulled together a list of five valuable tips that will minimize both the mess and the stress in your home…

Make a List

For a little inspiration, search the internet for interior design and home organization photos that really speak to you. Look closely at those photos and consider what it is you really like about them. Then take a good look around your own living spaces. Instead of feeling overwhelmed, strive to feel inspired. You can do this! Go room to room with a notebook and pen in hand. Begin making note of which items you can do without – both those you can see out and about AND those tucked away in drawers and closets. Once you’ve completed your list, mark each item for donation, disposal, sale, recycle or gift. If you have some valuable antiques that are in fairly good shape, you can contact local antique stores to see if they’d like to come out to your home to see those items and give you a price. There are many worthy charities that would love to accept your gently used furniture, décor and clothing. Do you know someone who is going off to college? They might love that stack of dinner plates and love seat you no longer adore. Some items may fall under the recyclable category – like those half empty gallons of paint taking up space in your garage. For a comprehensive list of accepted items and the places you can take them for recycling, click HERE. If you’re a fan of yard sales, you can host one and make a little money from those items you no longer need. For those items you can’t sell, donate, recycle or give away, you may have to make a run or two to your local landfill. For a full list of local landfills, transfer stations and recycling centers for hard to dispose of materials, click HERE. 

Take it One Room at a Time

What’s the best way to eat an elephant? Take it one bite at a time. Trying to tackle decluttering your home from a big picture standpoint can seem overwhelming, making it easier to put it off. By taking it one room at a time – or even one closet, one drawer, one cabinet at a time, you can celebrate all those small victories along the way. Use your list you made and do your best to stick to it. You may find that – as you really dive in deeper – there are more items you can part with that might not have made the original list. Have you ever heard of “Döstädning”? Also known as Swedish Death Cleaning, it’s a form of decluttering that is inspired by making things easier on your family in the event of your untimely death. While we hope that your time on Earth is FAR from over, Swedish Death Cleaning is a highly effective approach to getting rid of stuff for which you no longer have an attachment, and you doubt anyone in your family might want. When in doubt, simply ask them. Author of The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, Margareta Magnusson, suggests starting with the stuff you have tucked away in storage units, garages, attics and basements – then work your way to the other rooms. You’ll want to leave your photographs, journals and letters to last. Magnusson writes, “”Let me help make your loved ones’ memories of you nice — instead of awful. A loved one wishes to inherit nice things from you. Not all things from you.” While that may seem morbid, it will provide a fresh perspective of your stuff and what to do with it. The great news is, you don’t have to be Swedish NOR do you have to be dying to employ this tactic. Create staging areas for the items you are shedding based on your list – an area for items to donate (then make regular runs), an area for items to sell at a yard sale, an area for items for disposal (then make regular runs) and so on.

Take Advantage of Local Recycling Events

Gwinnett Clean & Beautiful is proud to partner with Gwinnett County Solid Waste and Department of Water Resources on a number of recycling events to benefit our neighbors and this little corner of the world we share. From our Earth Day Recycling Event in the Spring to our signature Bring One for the Chipper “treecycling” event in the Winter, be sure to like us on Facebook to stay up-to-date on the latest events. On November 5 from 9 a.m. to noon, we’ll play host to our annual America Recycles Day event at Coolray Field. For a full list of items we’ll be accepting, click HERE! We hope to see you there! You should also check with your city or neighboring cities to see if they are hosting similar recycling events throughout the year. They are a wonderful way to declutter your home and protect the planet at the same time!

Pledge Not to ADD to the Issue

While you work your way through the act of decluttering your home, you should put the brakes on acquiring NEW stuff. Use that as your reward for successfully decluttering your home to make it reflect that design styles that really spoke to you in your initial research. If you simply can’t wait, consider only decorating the rooms you’ve completed. Declutter-Design, then move on to the next space. You can use this same approach to incoming mail. Since an estimated 5.6 million tons of catalogs and direct mail wind up in landfills each year (equating to roughly 100 million trees), you can request to unsubscribe from junk mail by registering with the Mail Preference Service of the Direct Mail Association. This won’t completely eliminate junk mail from finding its way into your mailbox, but it should cut down on the accumulation significantly. For those items that DO find their way into your mailbox, don’t simply throw them away in the trash bin. Junk mail, magazines, catalogues and brochures can all be recycled in Gwinnett. 

Enlist Help from a Professional

If your clutter is just too overwhelming for you, there are service professionals out there in the world who can cut the clutter on your behalf. Yes – really! Simply ask around in your circles or perform an internet search “Declutter Professionals for Hire.” If your clutter is to the point that it could be classified as hoarding, you might also want to consult with a psychologist or psychiatrist who specializes in hoarding disorders. If you are diagnosed with a hoarding disorder, psychotherapy and anxiety medication may become part of a treatment plan that will help keep you from pursuing hoarding tendencies in the future. You are not alone. Studies show that an estimated 2-6% of the U.S. population is contending with a hoarding disorder – that’s roughly anywhere from 6.785-20.297 MILLION people!

We wish you the best of luck in your Diminish the Mess Quest! For more helpful tips, be sure to visit our blog often at www.GwinnettCB.org. If you have any questions about how to rid your home of certain items that are not addressed on our website, we invite you to call us at (770) 822-5187!

Reference Articles: A Beginner’s Guide To Swedish Death Cleaning (buzzfeed.com)

Ways Clutter Negatively Affects Your Health (webmd.com)

How and Why to Stop Junk Mail (goodgoodgood.co)

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