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The thought of parting with belongs can bring peace to some, and stress to others. But everyone shares one common trend – it’s rather easy to let belongings pile up, often beyond what we can comfortably store. And when emotional attachments are involved, it can make tidying messes trickier than it should be.

Thankfully, there are plenty of ways you can cut the unnecessary items from your life, and live a in a happy, welcoming and clutter-free home. To help you get there, we’ve put together a simple guide to decluttering and organising with minimal stress.

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Ease your way into it

It’s important to accept that removing items from your home can be an emotional undertaking. According to Julie Morgenstern, author of When Organising Isn’t Enough, SHED Your Stuff, Change Your Life, “It’s a big mistake to dismiss clutter as junk. These are things that were once important to you, to who you once were or who you wanted to be.” So, start in the rooms where you aren’t emotionally attached to the clutter – this could be a bathroom or linen closet. You’ll usually find it easy to strip back items you don’t need, and experience the joy of simplifying the space.

Have a plan for tough decisions

Undoubtedly, there will be times when you’ll be undecided on whether to give something up or keep it. When this happens, consider how often the item brings you joy, and whether your day-to-day life would notice if it stayed or disappeared. 

If the object is sentimental and difficult to let go of, question if it’s the best way to remember a loved one or memory. You can usually honour special memories and people without keeping every keepsake from the past.

Simplify sorting into small endeavours

Sorting a house can be overwhelming, but sorting a single drawer can be done without breaking a sweat. Practise the “one-task-at-a-time” mindset recommended by co-author of Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home, Linda Hetzer.

She recommends going through a closet one shelf at a time, or an office one drawer at a time. “Doing it one small task at a time gives you a sense of accomplishment and encourages you to move on,” she says.

Give what you don't need to those who do

Passing your used clothing, books or other household items to those in need is a great way to turn the anxiety of decluttering into the fulfilment of helping others. Perhaps your old office attire could go to a not-for-profit helping the disadvantaged get jobs. 

Your old books might be sent to third-world countries to help educate students. There is no better feeling than decluttering your life, and knowing your work is spreading joy around the world.

Keep essential items in the family

There are items that may be too significant to your family to simply dispose of, or give away. For those items, why not pass them onto those who will feel the same way you did about them? 

Family photos, heirlooms, jewellery, or simply significant moments of your ancestral history can be fascinating finds for your future family and are worth keeping treasured.

Have your family remove their things

It’s tough to clear things out when some of the stuff taking up room in the home isn’t even yours. From grown children’s primary school projects to stuff they couldn’t fit into their first apartment, ask your children to pick up or throw out their things. 

It’s also not unfair to give them a realistic deadline to do so. If they insist you make the call, put a few essential things aside you think they’ll want, and remove the rest in the most appropriate means possible.

Allow a small amount of "short-term" stuff

Not everything you discard must find a new residence right away. Perhaps there’s a massive art canvas your child wants, but they won’t be able to take until they’ve moved into a bigger place. There’s no shame in holding onto a few select items temporarily rather than tossing for the sake of tossing. 

But to help ensure this doesn’t just create more clutter, set a limit on how many “short-term” items you’ll keep, and set a used-by date for them. If they don’t look like being claimed when that date rolls around, it’s time they go.

Remember, you don't have to go it alone

If you’re overwhelmed by the decluttering process, find someone to help you weed through it all. Someone with an objective set of eyes, such as your best friend or a family member, can really make the process easier. Or hire a professional organiser to get the job done. 

The Art of Decluttering — an organisation based in Sydney and Melbourne — can help you find a decluttering expert in your area.

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