Here's What ~Decluttering Your Life~ Really Means & How To Do It, According To Experts

by Julia Guerra

Add “decluttering” to your list of trendy vernacular, friends, because Marie Kondo has sparked a major phenomenon that’s literally sweeping the masses. Tossing items from your closet that don’t immediately spark joy is basically Kondo’s way of encouraging you to practice what was once referred to as “spring cleaning” year-round, rather than just once a year. Of course, getting your sh*t together by finding ways to declutter your life and eliminate the excessive junk weighing you down isn't exactly a new concept, but it’s definitely one you could benefit from, and what better time than the present to give it a try?

Ironically enough, I’m the queen of hoarding, but I also find so much satisfaction in throwing things away and organizing the crap out of, well, the crap I keep in my apartment. I've always enjoyed tidying up, but it wasn’t until my husband expressed an interest in minimalism and in scaling back on our possessions based on which things truly had value to us and served a purpose in our lives, that I could let go of clutter. I mean, I loved clutter. I essentially collected it. Clutter is called clutter for a reason, though: It’s litter, it’s a mess, and it needs to be cleaned up.

But here's a plot twist for you: While "clutter" implies "untidy," and "untidy" is typically associated with objects, Susan Petang, a certified stress management and transformational life coach and author of the book The Quiet Zone, tells Elite Daily that your mind can become cluttered, too. "A disorganized mish-mosh of tasks to be remembered, thoughts about past events creeping in, [and] worry about things in the future that haven't happened yet, or may never happen," can all contribute to a cluttered brain, Petang says. So when you approach "spring cleaning," no matter what time of year it is, organizing your mental space is just as important as decluttering your physical space.

Just in case the extent of your decluttering typically stops after your closet's been color-coded, here are a few expert tips to declutter your life just in time for spring, and every season thereafter.

Declutter Your Mind With A Brain Dump Before Bed

Acacia Parks, Ph.D., a psychologist and chief scientist at Happify Health, tells Elite Daily that one of the best ways to declutter a jumbled mind is to jot down everything and everything running through your head before it’s time for bed.

“Keep a notebook next to your bed to write down distracting thoughts to handle the next day,” Parks suggests. “Right before bed is typically when your to-dos pop into your head for the next day, and writing them down gives you permission to stop thinking about them until then.”

So, when in doubt, write it out, and you’ll wake up in the morning with a clear conscience and a clean slate to work with.

Let Go Of Toxic People Once And For All

Letting go of anyone you have a history with is never easy, and there’s really no “good” time to do it. However, with spring looming with promises of a fresh start, if there’s someone in your life who brings you more headaches than anything else, or who you’ve grown apart from, you might want to consider plucking up the courage to cut ties altogether.

Rest assured, though, the process doesn’t have to be as harsh as it sounds. In fact, wellness coach and yoga instructor, Morgan Balavage, tells Elite Daily that hosting a kind of "goodbye ceremony," before officially blocking them on social media, deleting them from your phone, whatever version of distance works for you, could be a great way to find closure.

“Light some candles, write a letter about the wonderful things that person brought to your life, and imagine an energetic cord connecting your sternum to theirs,” Balavage explains. “Let all the images of that relationship swirl around your thoughts. Wish them well, look directly at them in your mind's eye, and imagine a giant pair of scissors cutting that energetic cord.”

Or, just rip the figurative bandaid, and let that sh*t go. Whatever works for you, boo.

Surround Yourself With People Whose Goals Align With Yours

Want to rid your life of bad juju? Surround yourself with people who can keep you uplifted and motivated. This applies to friendships and family, of course, but it especially applies to your professional aspirations.

To put this in perspective, Vinay Saranga M.D., a psychiatrist and founder of Saranga Comprehensive Psychiatry, explains that, if you desire something along the lines of more success, money, better health, and the like, spending time with and hanging around people who do have these things can be an excellent motivator for you to get what you want, too.

“Their good habits and behavior can have a direct impact on you and move you that much closer to whatever it is you are trying to attract,” Dr. Saranga tells Elite Daily. “With that said, if there are certain people in your life, maybe those who are always asking favors of you but are never there for you when you need help, it might not be a bad idea to distance yourself from these individuals.”

Dabble In The Art Of List-Making

For me, to-do lists are a saving grace, and according to Dr. Saranga, they can be an extremely eye-opening tool, specifically in the context of time management. For instance, let’s say you’re looking to declutter your calendar. The first step to becoming more organized and weeding out the time-sucks, Saranga explains, is to start by listing your daily schedule by the hour from the time you wake up, until the the time you go to sleep. “This can be a very eye-opening experience where you will quickly see the smaller details that eat up so much of your time,” he says.

The next step is to make a second, separate list comprised of the things you really want to engage in more. In doing this, you'll have some tangible ideas and tasks that you can compare and contrast, and from there, you can “cut out items from your first list that don’t serve you well, and substitute for the things on your other list that you really want to partake in,” Dr. Saranga explains.

Keep A Close Eye On Digital Clutter As Well

Most people are connected to technology almost 24/7, so it would only make sense that, if you’re going to go through the physical folders stuffed into your desk drawers, then you’d likely need to do the same for your digital folders, too, right?

But why stop there? Professional organizing expert Anna Bauer suggests going through your emails, social media, and virtually anything else that might be a digital stressor in your life. “Unsubscribe from those pesky newsletters once and for all. Create folders within your inbox and set up rules so that each email that comes in goes into a specific folder (personal, business, finance, social, etc.),” Bauer tells Elite Daily. Keeping a close eye on your inbox so that you can delete useless messages as they come in, and unfollowing people on Instagram who you don’t really care about (let alone know IRL), can be a huge relief in the long run.

“Once your digital life is up to date and sorted,” Bauer explains, “you’ll begin to see the big impact it has on your life.”

Don’t Rush To RSVP

There’s nothing more satisfying than canceling plans you didn’t really want to follow through with in the first place. That being said, there’s also nothing more stressful than saying “yes” to plans too quickly, and later realizing the event isn’t actually something you’re into. To save yourself the headache (and sharpie space in your planner), Laura Weldy, an ICF-credentialed life coach, says it’s OK to be more reserved about your “yes” RSVPs. In fact, she encourages it.

According to Weldy, this approach to decluttering your calendar ultimately boils down to self-awareness, so think about how you really feel around certain people, and what you’d be sacrificing by saying yes to an invite.

“If you imagine yourself at the event or obligation, are you enjoying yourself or finding your time worthwhile? Or are you glancing at your phone every three minutes, desperate to get out of there?” she says, giving me some food for thought in regards to my own social calendar. “If that distracted, unhappy presence is what you're bringing to your commitments, then it may ultimately be less hurtful to someone to say no straight away.”

Unhaul Your Overflowing Closet

Trust me, I completely understand that parting ways with certain clothing items can be hard — but you don’t have to strip your closet of your favorite pieces. That’s not what decluttering is about. Decluttering means ridding your life of clutter, aka the pieces in your closet that you have not, and will not, wear.

The reality, says Unbound Merino co-founder Dan Demsky, is that “people tend to hoard clothes but only wear a fraction of what's actually in their closet,” which is why finding ways to eliminate items that are just sort of hanging around your wardrobe is key. “Clothing that can go through multiple wears while staying clean, fresh, and wrinkle-free can make all the difference,” Demsky tells Elite Daily. In other words, it’s important to invest in high-quality pieces that can actually stand the test of time, and that you know you’ll get a ton of wear from over the years.

As for the trendy pieces you wear once before tossing into the donation bin? Those can probably go.

Designate A Specific Space For Everything In Your Home

The keys you toss on the dining room table, the unopened mail you add to a pile on your desk, the socks you kick off at the end of the day, adding to the collection at the foot of your bed — there's a space for these things, and everything meaningful in your home. If it doesn't have a space, either make one or take it as a sign that something doesn't belong, professional organizer Felice Cohen tells Elite Daily.

"Giving everything you own a 'home' inside your home will help you keep track of your stuff, and will save you time when looking for things," Cohen explains. "Time you can spend doing more of what you love."