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Downsizing and decluttering at home, work, and school

By Amy Bennett | September 26, 2018

Downsizing and Decluttering White BoardI have been downsizing, and I must admit, it feels wonderful. I sold my 4-bedroom house with a basement. Yay! There was no reason to have that much room or that much stuff. My son was out of college and living out of state. I had spent years and years buying and “inheriting” stuff, but at some point, I realized that I didn’t want that much stuff. 

Now, I didn’t go from a typical suburban house to a real tiny house – that’s just crazy to me. When I see those tiny house shows on TV, I get sucked in. Can two adults and two children actually live their lives in 500 square feet and still like each other? I don’t get it. I get claustrophobic just looking at the bedroom lofts in those tiny homes. The numbers that I’ve seen say that only 1% of the population lives in a house that’s considered to be tiny – 1,000 square feet or less; the average home size in the US is somewhere around 2,500 square feet.

Anyway, downsizing forces you to declutter, and that’s something that wasn’t easy. Why?

  • It was hard to know where to start. That large of a project seemed overwhelming. I’m sure you can relate. I decided I would start in the least cluttered area (the guest bedroom) and work my way to the most cluttered place (the basement). That way, I could see success quicker. You’ve got to start somewhere, right?
  • I never made it a priority. Plain and simple. I knew I needed to do it, but it took a while to move it up on my priority list.
  • I might need that some day. I kept thinking that some things could come in handy one day: Poster board from my son’s science project, a sewing machine (I can’t sew!), old mismatched dishes. Really? If I hadn’t used my Jack LaLanne juicer or my George Foreman grill in the past year or two, did I really think I’d use it anytime soon? Same thing with clothes. Was I really going to wear that power suit with the big shoulder pads from the 1980’s. Nope! I donated it all.
  • We attach memories to things. Getting rid of your children’s clothes or toys is difficult, but honestly, once they’re past that stage or size, why keep them? I know, it’s easier said than done. I kept my son’s Batman toys until he was 27.

I’ve also been downsizing at work. This summer, our whole department moved and our new offices are much smaller. It was quite the project for us all to purge. I decided that if I hadn’t looked at it for the past year or two, I was going to put it in the recycle bin. Is anyone really going to ask me about a project that I worked on 17 years ago or question my revenue budget rationale from 2005? Doubtful. 

So, what’s the upside to downsizing and decluttering?

  • I feel calmer. I can see the truly important things. With less piles, less files, and less stuff I don’t need: my space is more organized and I enjoy it more.
  • It’s liberating. The process of purging really does make you feel lighter.
  • I find cool things. I come across special items I had forgotten about, including my grandma’s pearl earrings and my “Best of Carole King” album.
  • I save money. I no longer keep buying pasta, because I can see the three boxes of elbow macaroni already in my pantry.
  • I save time. I no longer have any boxes to rummage through. I’ve read studies that say that the average person spends 10 minutes a day looking for “lost” items like cell phones, the TV remote, sunglasses, and keys. I don’t do that anymore as my space is organized.

For online students, having a clutter-free work space is crucial.

  • Build momentum. When your space is decluttered, you feel more energized, and you’ll be more likely to study when you need to.
  • Reduce stress. A clean and organized space reduces anxiety – you’re bound to write stronger papers and do better on exams if you feel less stressed.
  • Increase effectiveness. Your effectiveness will be maximized if you can find what you need. Keep all of your school-related materials together in one location!
  • Save time. Besides keeping your physical work space clutter-free, having a well-organized laptop or home computer will save you time and frustration.
  • Better focus. It’s difficult to focus when your space is cluttered. Lack of focus means studying will take you longer, and, keep in mind, lack of study time is one of the major reasons that adults don’t finish their college degree!!!

Author and guru of decluttering and organization, Peter Walsh, says it best:

“What I know for sure is that when you declutter – whether it’s in your home, your head, or your heart – it is astounding what will flow into that space that will enrich you, your life, and your family.” 

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