How to begin decluttering your house

A few months ago I began a short column in our local monthly newspaper about decluttering. (It's easy to get published when you live in a really small town.) This is what I wrote for this month.

I've had a number of different reactions around town since I started to write this column. Quite a few people are with me and say that they too are starting to de-clutter. Others, however, look at me with a bemused expression and say something like, "Well it sounds good and everything, but I wouldn't even know where to begin."

When you think about decluttering a whole house and garage and shed and perhaps even a farm, yes, I agree, the task seems huge.

Even cleaning out our own garage this month was hard work, both physically and emotionally. There are a lot of blocks and barriers, including knowing how to make decisions about items, knowing where to put them and then working out how to get rid of them. There are old emotional attachments to things and memories associated with family members or loved ones who have died. There are souvenirs of happy times and holidays. There are things you think might come in handy one day and things that you just don't want to waste.

If you want to de-clutter but you don't know where to begin, a very easy, small and simple approach is to simply de-clutter one item from your house per day, every day.

The item you choose to get rid of can be as small as a paperclip. It really doesn't matter. Just by picking it up, thinking about it and then choosing to be free of it, you are beginning a new habit which will only have good effects on your life.

Another way to begin could be to use the one-in, one-out principle. (My father, who is a long-time declutterer tried to encourage me to do this with my clothes when I was a teenager. At the time, he was speaking to deaf ears.) Simply, if you bring something new into the house, get rid of the old one in the same transaction.

If you are a list kind of person, you could begin by walking around the house with a piece of paper and a pen and make a list of every cupboard shelf, drawer and surface in each room. Stick it on the fridge and begin with the first item on the list. Go through one shelf, one drawer or one surface at a time and cross them off the list when you have done them. You might do one a month or one week or one a day, depending on how you feel inspired.