Whining about the faults of overconsumption is nothing new: we spend more than we can and we buy more than we need. And store it for years just in case. That is clear. What’s unclear is how to break out of it, and more important — is it even possible?
To find out if you’re in the danger zone, check out this list. If one or two things hit home, read on. If you’re steering clear from all of the things below, you’re good to go (though keep in mind that some people may secretly hate you for being so neat).
The warning signs your life might be turning into a dumpster
- You moved once. It was awful.
- Your room looks like a travelling circus has been staying over, and they tried cleaning up before they left but eventually gave up.
- When you can’t find something in its usual place, you panic because the thought of looking through the whole house terrifies you.
- Some places in your house stink. It doesn’t have to be the whole house; it could just be an old closet with grandma’s gift sweaters, or a sink where you occasionally pile up dishes, or that bottom drawer in the fridge that you’re just scared to look into at this point.
- You’re not sure what occupies half of your computer hard drive and you’re not sure you want to know. In the end, it works twice as slow as it used to because of the amount of nameless (not literally) files and folders.
- When you want to show a friend that photo of a racoon you took, it takes fifteen minutes of awkward silence and apologies before you can find it in your gallery. Nobody wants to see the racoon by now, not even you.
- You can swear there will come a day when you wear that uncomfortable expensive shirt you bought because the shop assistant wouldn’t take you seriously. But it is not this day. Maybe next week.
- You don’t know the names or the purpose of some of your kitchenware. For all you know, it could be a heirloom. Or a gift from somebody who assumed you know how to make lemon meringue pie. As if!
- Finally, the biggest warning sign of a cluttered life is simply feeling it. Too much stuff, too many things that deep down you know you could do without.
How to declutter your home by tricking your mind into cleaning
The trick with mess is that it grows from your house into your head. Good news is, it also works in reverse order — a clean living space makes for a cleaner mind.
However, let’s face it, if you truly wanted a tidier room you would have cleaned it up long ago. So how do you start? Well, there are a few decluttering tips you could use to get it done.
The Flood technique: accumulate dirt for days
If you’re sure you can’t bring yourself to clean the house as it is, try not cleaning at all. If you can, combine it with not washing, not making up your bed, and not doing the dishes.
At some point the level of smell and disgust will overcome your laziness and you’ll start cleaning up. Just let it flow from there; once you’ve started it’s much easier to go on. Keep polishing until you can see all horizontal surfaces.
Flood technique is pretty efficient, unless you’re that girl from Friends.
You don’t have to clean your computer (on your own)
Getting a cleaning app means delegating the hateful task of decluttering your computer. It’s like hiring a cleaning company and watching them deal with your dusty hard drive while you sip on a cocktail.
Let’s take a look at the best digital housekeepers.
If you own a Mac:
For general cleaning, finding useless files on hard drive, and speeding up the system, try CleanMyMac. There is something oddly satisfying about the huge “Clean” button in its interface that, once clicked, frees up gigabytes of space on your drive. I think the app is great, but totally not because I work for the company that made it.
If you have large galleries of photos or loads of documents and media, and you feel like losing track of it, try Gemini for duplicate file searches. You’ll be surprised how many times you’ve downloaded the same file or moved a folder with photos leaving a copy behind.
If you own a PC:
You have a few options, depending on your needs. There’s a great app CleanMyPC that can deal with caches, clean up the registry and temp files, and generally give your PC a push in speed and performance. It also makes sure that the apps that you install behave and don’t autorun without notice.
To deal with duplicate files that take up space and add to clutter, you can use CCleaner or dupeGuru, both are free and pretty handy. But keep in mind you might have to wait quite a bit while they scan all the files on your computer. On the other hand, they don’t block your usual work, so just let them run in the background.
Mind games: imagine you have to pay to keep stuff
Open your wardrobe and take everything off the hangers. Really, this won’t work if you don’t. Now imagine (but really believe) that you have to pay for each item that you get to keep. Imagine it will cost you $10. That’s not terrible, you probably paid more for most of your clothes. But, are you willing to pay again?
You’ll be surprised how easily you can get rid of tons of unneeded stuff with this trick. You could even donate them. There are people in this world who can really make use of a box of good clothes. Just google local donation centers and send what you don’t need anymore, you’ll feel so much better knowing they will be appreciated by their new owners.
The one-year-rule to get rid of stuff you never use
This one is good for the small things that occupy all the shelves. Walk into every room with a garbage bag, pick up every small thing in there, and ask one question:
“Did I use it the last year?”
If the answer is no, give it one last change, look deep inside your very soul and ask:
“Does this thing make me happy when I see it?”
If the answer is no, don’t ask any other questions, just put it in the bag. Be ruthless. We all have those small things of vague sentimental value and they end up consuming our living space.
Get a bigger bag for shoes and clothes. Dig into boxes and cabinets, draw the old trash out, you don’t need so much stuff and you know it.
To declutter your kitchen, stick mostly to the one-year rule. Throw it all away. Even the old jar that you used to steal cookies when you were five. It’s time for it to go.
Stop buying things because it feels good
Finally, when you’re done uncluttering your house and you’re out of garbage bags, you have to keep up the good work somehow.
One good thing to keep in mind before you buy anything that you’re not about to eat: it should have a purpose that is more meaningful than simply, “I like it”.
Less stuff is freedom, no matter what all the ads keep telling you.