Tidying your physical space allows you to tend to your psychological space.” - Marie Kondo

When spring arrives, many of us can’t wait to scrub away winter by cleaning windows and porches, not to mention busting out the rake and hitting the garden. Returning leaves, blooming flowers, and warming temperatures often give us new energy to keep our homes cleaner, as well as make our lives healthier and more productive. As we all know, though, it’s easy to set goals - the trick is sticking to them.

One of the culprits that makes it hard to follow through is a lack of organisation. Our lives have never been busier, and it’s easy to neglect that pile of laundry, that pile of letters and bills, those tangled phone chargers. Add an over-abundance of stuff and the overwhelming clutter that comes with it, and our bold spring renewal can fade pretty fast.

In addition, a 2011 report published by The Journal of Neuroscience found that too much clutter actually affects our brain and reduces our ability to focus. Having too many things around us means that our attention has too much competition, and we can’t decide what to focus on. Too much clutter can even have effects on our working memory.

Okay, deep breath. The good news is that there are some easy and effective ways to declutter, get organised, and feel great. It takes some planning and perseverance, but you can do it!

  • Discard before tidying: Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, has a simple guideline when you’re starting to get rid of things. Ask yourself, “does this spark joy?” If the answer is yes, then keep it. If not, out it goes. This is known as the KonMari™ method, as seen on Netflix in Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.
  • Organise by category, not by room: Though some advocate a room-by-room approach, Marie Kondo suggests instead sorting by category - clothes, books, papers, etc - which she believes is more efficient and avoids repetition.
  • Save mementos for the end: Make mementos the last thing you go through. Mementos bring out emotions and going through them too early can slow down or derail the tidying, especially if you’re new to it.
  • Get rid of all that paper: Kondo says that all those piled-up papers - newspapers, bills, bank statements - should be thrown out or recycled right away. That is, unless they’re currently being used, or papers that should be kept indefinitely.
  • Don’t scatter your storage: Keep similar items together. Kondo suggests organising by clothes, documents, books, miscellaneous, and mementos - and breaking out storage by family member. She also has some great space-saving folding tips, which are well worth a watch.
  • Clean your computer’s desktop daily: Not all clutter takes up physical space. In a digital society, clutter on our phones and laptops is all too real and can hinder how productive we’re able to be. Set the goal of deleting unneeded files and moving needed files into folders every day. When it comes to your phone, be bold and delete any apps you’re not using.
  • Learn the art of unsubscribing: An inbox that’s always spilling over is another form of clutter that can bog you down. If you’re not reading certain newsletters, go ahead and unsubscribe; it’s unlikely you’ll even notice they’re gone. Plus, your inbox will gradually seem more manageable.
  • Give things away, one at a time: Writer Colleen Madsen from 365 Less Things is a big believer in this approach, which cuts back on how much stuff we have, and makes us feel good.  

Take it one step at a time and be kind to yourself as you get started. With a few small changes, and some dedication, you’ll be enjoying a clutter-free existence in no time.