Most guides to decluttering take the same basic approach: go through your items one by one and decide what to keep and what to toss. Marie Kondo tells us to ask which items bring us joy; The Minimalists advise us to ask what provides value to our lives. While these are great questions, they don’t take into account one important factor: the amount of space we have in our homes. It’s completely possible to carefully consider every item you own, keep only the things that you use and love, and still be left with a cluttered mess. If your efforts to get organized in the past have failed, why not take a different approach? Instead of starting with your stuff, I propose you start with your space.
For each cluttered area in your home, first look at your options for storage. What is the optimal amount of stuff that can be kept there that would allow you to easily access the things you need? Keep the items you use frequently front-and-center, and try to avoid stacking them or hiding them behind other things. Once you have a plan, think about how much your storage space can reasonably hold. That is your limit for the items you can store there. This seems obvious, but it's easy to live in denial about how many things we can keep!
You can start small, in the kitchen cabinet where you keep your coffee mugs for example. If it’s currently jam packed, look at the space available and decide how many mugs will comfortably fit there. Remove all the mugs and select just that number from the entire collection. This allows you to shift your focus from the items you want to get rid of to the items you want to keep. If you only have space for 10 mugs, which 10 are important enough to fill that space?
This approach can be applied to any area in your home. Your book collection is limited to your bookshelf. Your clothes are limited to your closet space. Toiletries are limited to the medicine cabinet or bathroom drawer. Sheets and towels are limited to the shelves in your linen closet. While this may seem restrictive, the truth is that in order to keep a tidy home you need to work within the confines of your space. Having limits forces us to prioritize and make decisions about what is most important to us. If your home is always messy, remember that you don’t need more space, you just need less stuff.
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