Some people can whip through their house and find items to donate or throw away with ease. Others might find the task a bit more challenging. If you fall in the second category, fully preparing yourself to declutter and recognizing roadblocks will help you be more successful through out the entire process. So, grab a piece of paper, a pen and your calendar and let's get started.
First, decide why you want to declutter and write it down. Think of it as your mission statement. Do you want to spend more quality time with your family? Live in a less stressful environment? Get rid of the excess clutter that has literately piled up? Next, write down your goals like: clearing the dining room table off so we can eat dinner as a family, sort through the boxes from Grandma's house that line my hallway, Eliminate my paper piles and create system to make paper flow better. Whatever motivates you to declutter, write it down so if you find yourself off course, your mission statement and goals will remind you of why you started and keep you motivated.
Next, before you even begin decluttering, keep writing down answers to these questions. When? Decide on a date and write it in your calendar. I've often said "If it's not on the calendar, it's not going to happen." Most likely if you don't set a specific date and time to declutter, other events have a way of creeping in and keeping you from even starting the process. Where? If you have difficulty letting go of stuff, start in a small space like a drawer or cupboard, because lots of small successes will help build momentum and keep you motivated. Hold off on large spaces like the garage, or the "whole house", and save emotionally charged items for last. If you have to pick between 2 or 3 rooms, choose the "easiest" room first. Who? Who is going to be working with you? If working with someone else, be prepared to compromise on what stays and what goes. If you are working on your own, resist the temptation of getting rid of other people's things without their consent, If you live with someone who has strong attachments to items, the person might get angry with you or replaces the items you toss out and then acquires even more items. You should only declutter your own items, but you can always encourage others to let go of their possessions. What? Decide what you are going to let go and write that down because interestingly enough, sometimes when you touch/hold something it can be more difficult to let it go, so having a list of must go items written down before handle them will help you actually let those items go. How long? If you are new to decluttering or have a difficult time doing it, set a timer for 15 minutes and build up from there. Keep your sessions down to a couple hours a day so you don't feel overwhelmed and lose your momentum. Slow and steady wins the clutter race.
Use a set of Guidelines to help you make decisions. Multiples of items, things that don't fit; either too small or too large, broken, stained, moldy, or expired items are all good factual/non emotional guidelines to have written down. Supplies. You'll need bags for trash and for donations, use bags for soft items like linens and clothing, and small boxes for heavy items like books and medium boxes for breakables, pointy or awkward items. Be aware that larger boxes might be too cumbersome for you to manage on your own.
When you are actually decluttering, watch out for 3 of the most common roadblocks that might come along and stop you from being successful in your efforts. Emotional attachments can be very strong. Recognize that if you let go of a item that reminds you of a loved one, the love for that person will not disappear when the item does. Your love and memories of that person live inside of you and not in the item. Monetary value or "perceived" value makes people want to keep an item because they paid good money for it, or they want to hold on to it to sell it "later". Remember, you are not a retail store and you will not get retail value from your items. Weigh the cost of time and energy trying to sell something with the realistic price you will receive for it, and remember that "later" may never come. Usefulness. Most "things" we buy are useful, but if they are stuffed in the back of the closet or boxed up in the basement and not seen the light of day for years, their usefulness is not being...well...used. Pass on it's "usefulness" to someone else who will be thrilled to receive it and will put it to good use.
After you have decluttered your area, evaluate it from time to time. Is the space staying clutter free? Is the system you put into place working? Is the family following along or do I need to reeducate or make a compromise somewhere? Just remember that daily life happens, and no one or no household is perfect. Do the best you can and keep going, cause you got this!!!