Life Events to Spark Decluttering

Many of us have experienced that moment when we look around our home and wonder, where the hell did all this stuff come from?  We are surrounded by books we never read, clothes we never wear, and a George Foreman Grill that hasn't fought fat since the last millennium. 

While an urge to purge can strike at any moment, some events in life can act as a catalyst. In this article, I'll mention a few times of change that are ideal for decluttering and home organizing. 

1. Moving In Together

You're love-struck and ready to get serious. As the Spice Girls put it, this is when 2 Become 1.  

For most people, going from one to two is not accompanied by a doubling of living space.  Cluttering your new love-nest with old crap is not the ideal way to kick off your life together.  Use this opportunity to review your possessions and decide what will go in the moving van and what can be donated or sold.  

A good place to start is duplicate items.  You and your partner likely both own similar kitchen gadgets, electronics and furniture. There's no need to store one set of these away (unless you're hedging on your relationship, in which case, maybe you need to rethink this whole thing).  Compromising with your partner on whose to use and what to keep or discard is a good test run for cohabitation. 

2. Having a Baby

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a bunch of stuff you don't need including a brand-new baby carriage, which you should have bought second-hand for a lot less money.  Yes, babies and accumulation seem to go together, but I'll save that story for another day.

What I'd like to propose is that the impending arrival of a baby provides a great opportunity to declutter.  There are many reasons for this, including:

  • You need to make room for a new person.  Relative to their size, babies and their stuff take up a disproportionate amount of space. While you can try to limit the number of new objects, it's inevitable that you will need some extra room. 
  • A clutter free home is easier to maintain. New babies bring a constant stream of visitors and this can be stressful if you're worried about a messy house.
  • This can be an opportune time for reflection.  If you're fortunate, you likely have some time off work before the baby arrives. Use it to consider what kind of "nest" you want to create.  Of course you will add some items to your home to get ready - but consider decluttering as part of this process as well.  

Let`s call it "reverse nesting". 

3. Renovating

I spoke recently with interior designers at a major industry trade show.  I happened to be the only organizer there and many of the designers expressed their feelings about the impact of clutter on their work.  They all said that a cluttered home made for an especially challenging project. They can redesign a kitchen or living room, but if there's too much stuff, it will never have the right look and feel.  

The key is to declutter before beginning the redesign or renovation process. By reviewing everything in your home, you provide the designer a clear vision of what art, objects or pieces of furniture you want them to incorporate or highlight.  They will also get a better sense of how much storage they will need to add or keep in each room.

4. Downsizing

“No matter how wonderful things used to be, we cannot live in the past. The joy and excitement we feel here and now are more important.” Marie Kondo

You build the nest, then you deconstruct it and eventually you leave it.

A serious decluttering at this stage can be as emotionally challenging as it is necessary.  Downsizing parents are parting ways with a family home full of memories and a collection of objects that remind them of their now grown children.  

As difficult as it can be to discard these items, it's almost always necessary to ensure your belongings fit in your new, smaller home. This may be a good time to ask for help from a professional organizer or consultant. For example, in our KonMari Consultant training, we learn how to support the process of choosing whether to let go to some of these objects.   

This can also be a happy time to reflect on the next stage of your life and what objects you want to bring into it.  Yes, you'll want to keep a few mementos from your kids, but maybe it's time for your long forgotten skis or art supplies to occupy a more prominent place in your home. 

Hopefully you found that these life events resonated as being good times to consider a fresh start with your stuff.  If you`re looking for some help in getting started, or for someone to walk with you through the entire process, please get in touch

Quick Fire Bonus Round

These are also great times to examine your possessions.

Divorce: You’re already discarding a pretty major item (your spouse), so why stop there?

Mid-Life Crisis:  Sell books, clothes, sports memorabilia etc. to afford that new Porsche.

Retirement:  That gold watch they gave you probably isn’t real, so start with that.