If you’re like me, your counters are covered with opened (and unopened) mail, your drawers are stuffed with a few (okay, a bunch) of sweaters you haven’t worn in years and you haven’t seen the surface of your desk in a decade. Maybe you diligently set out to organize everything at once, only to be overrun by the paralysis of your stuff. Or perhaps, you turn to Pinterest for some tips and end up with too many to follow. Clutter can add stress to your day and waste your time. But, making room for the things that matter to you can make all the difference.

There is an overwhelming number of decluttering methods, but the trick is finding what works for you. Here are three approaches to meet your persona and help make your decluttering expedition a little less daunting.

The Tiny Habiter—slow and steady
If you’re someone who is always looking for new ways to better yourself, you know it’s not always easy. Picking up a new habit or hobby takes time to develop, willpower to conquer and practice to make perfect. A habit isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing, it’s something we do automatically. In the morning, you take the dog for a walk without thinking. After you get in the car, you put on your seatbelt without hesitation. These are habits.

A Stanford professor, BJ Fogg, has devised a way to use these existing habits to change people’s behaviors through Tiny Habits. The Fogg Behavior Model puts together three key elements—Motivation, Ability and Trigger—in order to influence change. Fogg recommends taking an existing habit and using it as a trigger to build a new tiny habit.

This method works for creating habits in any area of your life, but it’s especially handy when it comes to organizing. A few examples of tiny decluttering habits you can try are:

  • After I walk in the door, I will hang my jacket.
  • After I make my grocery-shopping list, I will clean out the fridge and pantry.
  • After I pick out my outfit for the day, I will follow Oprah’s reverse clothes-hanger trick (okay, Oprah didn’t come up with the trick but she did popularize it).
  • After I get the mail, I will immediately sort and file or recycle every piece.

By striving to keep the clutter down little by little, you’ll be able to maintain a home that inspires and re-energizes you.

Man sorting shirts to declutter
Photo by Nite on Shutterstock

The Joyful Committer—all or nothing
You’ve probably heard of Marie Kondon’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, it was a #1 New York Times bestseller, a favorite blog, magazine and daytime television trend to debate and even a playful plot in the Gilmore Girls revival series “A Year in the Life.” But, what exactly is the magic behind this Japanese organizing consultant’s method?

Kondon believes the opposite of BJ Fogg. In her book, she states, “If you tidy up in one shot, rather than little by little, you can dramatically change your mindset.” This is the “KonMari Method.” The results you see will affect everything from your emotions to your thinking, habits and relationships, empowering you to continue keeping your space tidy in the future.

  1. Why do you want to declutter? Kondon advises her clients to imagine their ideal future, to think beyond “I want to live clutter-free” and get to the root of their desires. Take about six months to tackle your home, and make tidying a special event, not a daily chore.
  2. Does it spark joy? KonMari is most famous for its unusual decision-making process. Instead of deciding what to discard, you choose what to keep based on whether or not it sparks joy. Most people roll their eyes and dismiss this as silly, but once they start they’re surprised to see it works.
  3. Sort by category, not location—specifically in this order: clothes, books, komono (miscellany) and finally sentimental items. Why? Because when you declutter area by area, you may miss the fact that you have multiple sets of the same item stored in different areas.

    Woman fixing stylish apartment
    Photo by ElyseesEye for Bozzuto

The Intentional Eradicator—practical prioritizing
While Marie Kondo was the craze of 2015, Emily Ley’s A Simplified Life: Tactical Tools for Intentional Living is starting to be the talk of 2018. This new book comes from a busy wife, mom, entrepreneur and bestselling author who believes organizing should be about prioritizing your priorities and living intentionally. Ley walks you through the tactical process of simplifying ten areas of life—space, style, meals, schedule, finances, hospitality, technology, self, motherhood, faith—but her approach to each topic is the same. Ley’s three steps are:

  • Declutter distractions—take inventory of your life, rigorously eliminate distractions, remove the unnecessary, pare down to what truly matters.
  • Put tools in place—set up accountability, systems and resources.
  • Establish routines that work—create flexible routines so each part of your life works together rather than competes for time and attention.

You may identify with one of these personas, or you may find you’re a little bit of each, mixing and matching the methods that work best for you. Personally, I’m more of an Intentional Eradicator, but Kondo’s folding method changed my life (okay, maybe just my drawers).

Moving is the perfect time to hop aboard the decluttering train, giving you less to pack and unpack. Start with a clean slate.

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