Have you ever felt like you needed a change in your life? Look around and look inside; tell me what you see. You might just realise that your unhappiness is mostly caused by the clutter in your life.
You may already know that you’ve been hoarding lots of unnecessary things, and you may not even remember that you acquired most of those things in the first place. They can also be the things that have always been with you, and although they no longer make you happy, you treasure them as memories.
What about non-material possessions, such as bad memories or experiences, grudges, and resentments towards the people from your past that will drag you along the path of unhappiness?
If all of these things sound familiar to you, it’s definitely time for some serious decluttering. Excessive clutter is unhealthy for your mind and well-being, and although it’s useless, many of us tend to keep a lot of unnecessary things. The question is, since they no longer serve you, why keep them? Not only is clutter distracting, it also takes up too much of your space.
It’s understandable that many people think that decluttering is not an easy task, which is why you should take it slow and not rush. If you rush, you’ll panic and get even more stressed out. That’s not what decluttering should do for you!
Likewise, every change needs to be done step-by-step. Devote a little of your time to reduce your clutter, and soon you’ll notice that you’ve pretty much cleared out everything you aim to be clutter-free. The experience is sure to be rewarding, and it’ll lead you to a happier and more mindful life.
Whether it’s your home, digital space, or mind that you need to clear, take it slow. Here are 20 things you can do to slowly declutter your life. And remember: Whatever you do, don’t rush!
1. Delete old emails – One of the most cluttered areas where most people hoard tons of stuff they don’t even remember about is unsurprisingly their email accounts. If you find yours overloaded with old and useless messages (especially junk emails), delete them right away. I’ve done this already and I must admit that the journey wasn’t easy. It’s indeed time-consuming, but once it’s done, the whole experience is totally worth it! Again, don’t rush!
2. Declutter your computer – Whether it’s personal or work files, if you don’t use them anymore, remove them from your computer, home, or workspace. If your desktop is filled with files, let me remind you that your desktop looks ugly and messy. Clean up the mess so you’re no longer looking at hundreds of things the minute you switch on your computer. Remove unnecessary icons as they’ll only slow everything down. Should you need to search for your files on your disorganised computer space, I recommend a program called Google Desktop.
3. Use folders to organise your files – If you don’t prefer to wipe out all of your old files (say, for record-keeping purposes), you can sort them out on folders. Organise your files in specific locations so you can easily find them in the future. Not only will you have a tidier set of records, you’ll also save time when you have to find them someday.
4. Uninstall apps/software you no longer use – Apps and software can consume much of your digital storage, so it’s always best to keep only the ones you need or are currently using. If there is one kind of software that does pretty much the same thing as something else, perhaps it’s best to purge the excess and keep only the best.
5. Delete inactive social media platforms – If you have an account on a social platform you don’t use, there’s no reason to keep it anymore. Social media platforms are meant for social interactions after all. Therefore, if you don’t socialise with anybody on Myspace, it no longer serves its purpose.
6. Sort out your friends list and notifications – Whether it’s unknown Facebook friends or friends you’ve met from multiple events in your life, it’s best to only interact with the ones who truly matter. Having too many friends on Facebook, for instance, will deter you from seeing updates of those who you care about. While having lots of friends was ‘cool’ in high school, I certainly don’t need lots of people viewing my supposedly private digital space. If you want to break away from the tediousness of the always scrolling news feed, you can get notifications from only your good friends by selecting them as “Close Friends” on the “Friends” dropdown menu on their profile (see screenshot).
7. Unsubscribe to marketing emails – Gone were the days when emails were mainly used to send greeting e-cards to our friends and family, receive important announcements, and stay connected with our business contacts. Today, we mainly use email for work, to keep in touch with friends who aren’t on Facebook or Instagram, and to receive special promotions from select companies where we get our products and services. While all of these reasons are good in their own ways, getting frequent alerts from marketers is rather unnecessary, especially when you have no intention to spend money on more things. Opt out from these alerts and only keep the ones you need. The good thing about newsletters is you can subscribe and unsubscribe to them anytime you want.
8. Throw away material possessions you don’t need or use anymore – As a child, I’ve always lived in a physically cluttered environment. These conditions turned me into a hoarder; but not for long, as I’ve promised myself to not live like that anymore. I have purged so many items that no longer serve me with my current purpose. Doing that gave me great relief. I have more space in my home, and I no longer spend hours cleaning.
9. Keep your home simple – Every soul in this world deserves to live in a positive environment. When our homes are clear from clutter, cleaning, tidying, and organising becomes a lot easier. We no longer collect dust. Having more space for ourselves also means that we’ll be able to focus on the things that truly matter.
10. Stop making unnecessary purchases – Before shopping for anything, it’s always a good practice to list down everything you need to buy. That way you’ll be able to make a better decision on every purchase you make. It also makes budgeting easier for you. You can save time when you plan your shopping. You’ll know what to buy and where to get it — you’ll likely only buy things within your financial reach. Also, it will be unlikely that you’ll waste food since you won’t be over-buying groceries anymore.
11. Consider giving your possessions to charity – People usually realise that they have too many things when they do spring cleanings. That’s because we have been made to believe that we need more to be happy. If you find you’ve got too much to keep, I suggest you give your things away, even the things that you like. I know it’s hard, because I’ve been through it, too. The experience was, however, rewarding. Try it and you’ll feel the changes yourself.
12. Nurture good habits – Good habits always start at home. Aim to adopt good habits that will change your life forever. Try making your bed every day when you wake up in the morning. Before you tuck yourself into bed, make sure that your kitchen sink is clear from dirty dishes. Trust me, you most likely won’t clean up all that mess the next day. And you’ll have to continually fight procrastination.
13. Use containers to store your things – If your home has a storage room, you might think that it’s okay to keep everything you have in there. Nobody will see any of it anyway, right? You may be able to keep the items behind closed doors, but the thoughts will always stay in your mind. If you’re hiding your physical mess, deep down inside of you, that mess still exists. Likewise, be mindful about what you want to keep. Make use of storage containers to store your belongings. Currently, I don’t have a cupboard and I keep nearly everything, including my clothes, in storage containers.
14. Consider recycling – Reuse, reduce, recycle. Those are three of the only things I still remember from school. Not only will this practice help us appreciate what nature has given us, we’ll also learn to be more responsible towards our material consumptions.
15. Forgive the people who have hurt you in the past – Clinging to past memories can either be good or bad, depending on how you look at it. If good memories make you happy, cherish them. Bear in mind that sometimes, even the good ones can make us sad. We don’t have to forget any of them, but we can use the experiences to learn from our mistakes so we won’t repeat them ever again, and hopefully we’ll be able to even forgive those who have hurt us in the past.
16. Be thankful – Stop complaining and appreciate the things you have. Honestly, this is a bit tricky. Don’t let this practice confuse you and stop you from pursuing the greater things in life. It’s okay to want to have more in life if it’s for a great cause and for the benefits of all beings. It gives your life a purpose. Whatever you do, don’t let greed define who you truly are.
17. Allow the past to teach you how to move on – Painful histories teach us many life lessons that most of us don’t always learn in school. Rather than dwelling in the past, aspire to change your life and inspire others to also do the same. The world is a mysterious place, and as we grow, we learn things that make us realise that we were never alone in whatever circumstances or life turbulence we’ve gone through. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
18. Value the good people around you – Friends come and go. While there are people who will continue to be with us, some will eventually leave. Of course, they leave for all kinds of reasons, even though we don’t always understand why. However, don’t let their departures demotivate you. Not everyone who leaves us wants to hurt us. If the people who used to be in your life have decided to keep their distance from you, the only thing you can do is wish them well. As for the ones you don’t wish to remember anymore, it’s entirely up to you to cut all ties with them. At the end of the day, you only have a little bit of time to spend with the people you love. Let’s not be over-ambitious about relationships, thinking that we can keep up with everybody’s life. Last but not least, value the ones who have always been good to you.
19. Appreciate your time – Time is gold. We may already know that, yet, we tend to to spend too much of our time playing with our phones or looking at other people’s Facebook updates. How much of the day do you spend really caring about what some distant high school friends had for breakfast? Ask yourself what your time really means to you; if it means so much to you, use this precious resource for yourself, or share it with those who really matter to you.
20. Avoid procrastination – As a writer, I’m always procrastinating and because of it, I’m still far from all the things I want to achieve. The best way to fight procrastination is to get enough sleep, prioritise one thing each day, challenge yourself, and remove distractions.
How do you remove distractions? Declutter your life today!