Clearing out your house, organizing your junk drawer and going through your countless messages are all projects you tell yourself you’ll get to one day—but rarely do. Make this year different, and get past the anxiety and intimidation that can leave you feeling mentally and physically unfocused.
“Some people really enjoy the purging process, while others hate it,” explains Beth Penn, a professional organizer and founder of BNeato Bar, a Los Angeles organizing firm. “When people have a hard time letting go, it could be for sentimental reasons.”
Whether you decide to work with an expert or do it yourself, here’s how to make your home your sanctuary.
Check Your Emotions
When it comes to decluttering, fear is one of the biggest factors keeping us back. People often worry that they’ll discard something important. Penn works with her clients to figure out how to hold on to memories while getting rid of objects. “You aren’t really honoring your stuff or something someone important left you by letting it sit in a closet,” she says. One way of following through is to digitize old letters or memorabilia by taking photos of them and creating a file in Dropbox.
Consider a purge partner: Tackle cleaning together with a friend at each of your places. “It’s much easier to let go when you have an audience,” Penn says. “People think, Oh, this is so personal, but it’s nice to be able to part with stuff in the presence of someone.” You are also more likely to stay on task and have someone to help you load up the car so you can donate items immediately. “You don’t want that temptation to go back in the bag,” she adds.
Take Your Time
At the onset of your decluttering mission, Penn suggests you create a game plan to decide what you want to do and set your priorities. Be realistic about the number of hours you will need to accomplish your goals. “Taking on too much at once can lead to burnout,” she says. “We all want things done quickly so we can see results fast, but that’s not how good results happen.” Pace your work and limit distractions by turning off your cell phone and not checking e-mail while you purge. And for you, busy moms: Delegate someone to watch your children until you’re done.
Purge Paper Piles
After helping thousands of clients, Penn considers paper- work one of our toughest obstacles. “A lot of people will just throw things in a closet, close the door and not worry about it until it becomes too much to deal with,” she says. “Use an app like FileThis to store your bill statements in one place. That way you can get rid of paper copies.”
Live Light Online
E-mail management is the gateway to digital declutter- ing. Delete items you don’t need and use folders to organize what’s left. “Many people don’t realize that cluttered e-mail accounts prevent them from moving forward in other areas,” explains Penn. “If you are spending a lot of time checking e-mail, you’re not getting any real work done.” Lessen the stress that comes with living in a digital world. Find a task management app like Wunderlist to keep you focused, unsubscribe from unwanted newsletters using Unroll and put your photos into a cloud storage. Google Photos is free, syncs with multiple devices and offers unlimited space.
Maintain the Clean High
Once your area is organized, make sure it remains that way. Penn likes to use the “one in, one out” rule: If you buy a new pair of shoes, you have to let go of an older pair. “It’s about being constantly aware of your space,” she says. Other rules to remain clutter-free include using a list whenever you go shopping and considering whether the item has a “home” in your space. When things don’t have a rightful place, they tend to end up anywhere. Commit to creating Zen in every area of your life.
This feature was originially published in January 2016 issue of ESSENCE.