The golden rules of decluttering are meant to be guiding principles for you to operate from––rules that help you decide what to keep and what to say goodbye to during the decluttering process. My clients mention them often, and there are a few I rally behind and a few I frequently reframe. There are three decluttering golden rules you can ignore, and two that you should absolutely stick to.
Three Decluttering Rules to Ignore
One in One Out
This rule is meant to prevent you from being overwhelmed with things in your home and to help you be more aware of your purchasing habits. The idea is that for every item you bring into your home, you need to part with one that’s similar. While this rule can sometimes help people who enjoy clothing shopping, the practical use of this rule just isn’t there. Some people tend to justify why they should keep an item rather than part with it and others find the rule difficult to actually implement and abandon it altogether.
Do this instead: Set aside time to declutter quarterly. You can remove all donation items at once instead of slowing collecting items over time.
Digitize Nostalgic Items
Rather than using this as a hard and fast rule, I think it comes down to personal preference. You have permission to not digitize everything. It’s ok to have hard copies of photos and physical copies of your children’s artwork. However, if it’s important to have a backup of everything then digitizing may be your best bet.
Do this instead: Use these questions to inform your decision rather than living by the hard and fast rule that you must digitize all of your documents.. How do you want these items to be used in the future? Where do you want to look if you need to reference something? Do you want to hand anything down to loved ones? Do you need backups?
Don’t Have a Maybe Pile
This rule is meant to help you eliminate a step in the delustering process and to force you to make a decision. However, I think a “maybe” pile for some categories is perfectly fine. Sometimes, we just need to sit with our thoughts before we make a decision and that’s ok! Keep in mind that your “maybe” pile should never be the same size (or larger) than your keep pile.
Do this instead: Establish a deadline to have your decision made by, so you don’t accumulate a maybe pile for months on end. For most items, giving yourself a few days or even a couple of weeks is enough time. Set a reminder on your calendar.
Two Decluttering Rules to Stick Implement
Get Donation Stuff Out of the House ASAP
Before you start a decluttering session, know where you’re going to donate your items and set a reminder on your calendar to drop items off. The final step of getting items out of your house is often one that is left unchecked for weeks on end. Remember, simply putting items in trash bags and letting them sit in your garage does not mean the task is done. Some find it helpful to keep a box in the car for donation items. That way, when you see a clothing drop-off box, you can get those items out of your life for good.
Don’t Buy Containers Before You Declutter
When people get bit by the organizing bug, the fun part of the process is to go out and buy all of those cute containers you’ve been eyeing. However, if you do this before you’ve decluttered and measured your spaces, you’re giving yourself a problem. Honor your time by waiting to purchase items until you know exactly what you need to find homes for.