I believe strongly in organizing and decluttering and (to a certain extent) purging… but I also believe that not all clutter is material possessions or “stuff.” Clutter in your emotional life… bad habits, too many commitments, or a job you hate, to name just a few… can sap your energy and cause more stress than a disorganized house with overflowing closets ever will. That is why I believe that any purging or decluttering effort should always target emotional baggage as well as material possessions.

So where to begin? The answer will be different for everyone, which is why I am not a fan of the “one size fits all” purging guidelines. I think a better idea is to try to determine what you would like your life to be… and how that ideal differs from the life you have now. The easy answer then is to purge everything that doesn’t fit that ideal. The hard answer is that the easy answer isn’t enough… just getting rid of “stuff” isn’t going to solve the underlying problems.

Common foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)

Most people think purging should be their first step, but if purging is a new concept for you, I would advise starting very slowly and cautiously.

  • Work on only one area of your home or your life at a time.
  • Organize and declutter that one area to be the best it can be.
  • Then decide what to do with whatever is left.

For material possessions…

  • If an item is something you really need or feel strongly about keeping, it isn’t clutter… find or make a place for it.
  • If the item is something you don’t use very often, store it in a more out-of-the-way space that is still accessible for those times when you will use it. Although you may use an item only rarely, it makes no sense to get rid of it if you know you will be using it again.

You are the only person who can decide what should stay and what should go. Don’t let anyone else’s purging guidelines determine how you organize your life. Purge only the material things that you don’t need or want… reorder your emotional life to be as stress-free as possible… and work towards achieving the balance that suits YOU. The peace, contentment, and happiness will naturally follow.