by Diana Eastty

We spend the first half of our lives collecting “things,” and it often takes the second half of our lives to get rid of it all. The challenge for most people is where to start when it comes to decluttering.

An excellent place to start is to evaluate items in your home by asking three basic questions: “Do I need it? Do I use it? Do I love it? If the answer is “no” to any of these questions, then there’s a good chance the item no longer serves you, and it’s time to donate it, give it to a friend or family member who can put it to use or toss it.

But, it’s important to understand upfront that letting go is a process!

Here are seven steps to get you started:

  1. Identify the space in your home that is bothering you the most. Is it an overstuffed closet? Is it the basement or attic? Or how about a kitchen cabinet or pantry? Start with an area that doesn’t contain items with high emotional value. Get your decluttering muscles in shape first!
  2. Gather three containers to move around the house with you. Identify them as “To Donate,” “To Give Away,” and “To Toss.” These containers can be plastic storage bins, boxes or trash bags—whatever you have handy.
  3. As you start decluttering, you may want to work in short bursts of time. Set a timer for 20-30 minutes and see how much you can accomplish.
  4. Begin by tossing things that are obviously trash or can be recycled.
  5. Evaluate each item individually by asking yourself the need/use/love questions. If it’s an item of value to you, put it back in its place. If not, decide which container to place it in and quickly move on to the next item. The goal is to move as fast as possible and clear away as much as possible.
  6. When your timer goes off, take a deep breath, notice how good it feels to have reduced the clutter, and either stop or start the timer again.
  7. At the end of your allotted time, take the toss container to the garbage and recycle bin and
    put your “To Donate” box in the back of your car so you can drop those items off the next time you drive by a donation location. Take pictures of the things in the “To Give Away” container with your phone and immediately send them off to family or friends to check if they are interested in them. If they decline your kind offer, move them to the “To Donate” container in your car.

Now it’s time to celebrate what you have accomplished and schedule a time to repeat these same steps. There are many reasons to consider decluttering, but the most important reasons are these:

  • Clearing the clutter relieves you of what is weighing you down. In most cases, you may not even realize what is weighing you down—like those boxes in the basement or attic that you don’t see every day or those old paint cans in the crawlspace—but they are still there.
  • Clearing the clutter uncovers what’s truly of value to you. When you intentionally and systematically evaluate everything in your home, you start to look at everything through a different filter.
  • Clearing the clutter allows you to surround yourself with only the items you love, which, in turn, make you feel good.
Like most things in life, it’s hard to visualize what an activity is really like until you experience it. What are you waiting for?