I'm a hoarder. I know the feeling of having too much stuff. It can be overwhelming and stressful. When it's time to clean and get rid of stuff, how do you begin?
I used to keep everything and had a hard time throwing things away, especially clothes. I used to buy too many items that I didn't necessarily need before I got into minimalism.
It isn't a good practice to hoard as it consumes your space, time, and energy. If you have too many clothes in your wardrobe and nothing to wear, it's a good sign that you should start cleaning.
Decluttering your home has many advantages. It contributes to your well-being, it simplifies your life and gives it purpose. By cleaning things intentionally, you adopt a more mindful way of living.
If you act responsibly with your stuff, you do better for the planet, your wallet, and your peace of mind. Even small steps make a big difference. But it can be difficult when you are a hoarder like me.
Here are 15 tips to begin to clean.
1. Have a family meeting
Invite your family and your friends over to talk about your situation. Having a conversation with the people close to you that care about you is a great way to start with decluttering.
You can not only share ideas but also get help, support, and swap things with your friends. Show your family what you want to get rid of and they might even offer you money for it.
This is a no brainer. Organize a clothing swap with your friends over the weekend! It's a very fun experience to set up a pop-up shop at your house and invite your friends over.
2. Stay positive
Learning to deal with emotions is a big help in this situation. When hoarding too much stuff, you can feel plenty of negative emotions that prevent you to begin to clean.
Remember that this is a common problem and that you are not alone. People often feel stress, anxiety, anger, sadness, bitterness, resentment, and disgust when dealing with excessive shopping and the difficulty to declutter.
Try to stay positive and avoid negative emotions as much as possible. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. With the right tips, some self-help and support from other people, you will see it through. You can get in the right mood by putting on comfortable clothes and listening to music that you love.
3. Do a little every day
When you see how much stuff you still have to get rid of, it can feel overwhelming. Luckily, you don't have to do everything at once most of the time.
The best way to start cleaning is by beginning with small steps every day. Get into the routine of taking some time each day to declutter your home. Set a timer and make an appointment on your calendar.
It's a lot easier to get motivated and progress when you do a little daily over a long time. And it creates better habits that have positive effects on your quality of life.
4. Focus on one area at a time
When you keep your goals manageable, a large job becomes much simpler. Have success by completing small tasks focusing on one area at a time.
Pick one closet, drawer, box, type of item, or living space and work on it. If you want to organize your wardrobe but don't know what to clean, read up my list of 20 types of clothes to get rid of right now.
5. Find good reasons
Remember why you want to begin to clean. Do you need more time, space, or money? Do you want to feel better about yourself? Would you like to help other people?
There are so many good reasons to stop hoarding and start decluttering. Find the reasons you feel most compelled to care about. Imagine the long-lasting positive outcomes that await.
You will get self-motivated and have an easier time taking care of things by yourself. Start with the small things and work your way up.
6. Use a put-away box
If you are a hoarder like me, having an encumbered room happens very often. When you have too many items like clothes, start making space by choosing to keep your favorite pieces and getting rid of the rest.
Use a put-away box, bag, or suitcase for that purpose. It not only helps get organized but also avoids the feeling of missing something eventually.
Keep the items you plan to throw away in the box for a while. If you need something back, pull it out. If not, when the box gets full, get rid of it.
Check out my article on I have too many clothes but I like them all for more tricks on cleaning your closet.
7. Follow your intuition
Trust your gut feeling when you begin to clean. You want to keep things that bring you joy and fit your lifestyle perfectly. And move on from everything else.
Make quick decisions and trust yourself once you have decided. Ask yourself why you are holding on to this item. Get tough and honest with yourself. If there is no good reason, your intuition is usually right.
8. Make donations
You can donate your excess stuff to charities and non-profit organizations. Be sure to contact them before and ask what kind of items they accept.
Many people probably need your things more than you do. By donating, you will feel not only better about yourself but will also help a lot of underserved communities. Drop off your gear at Goodwill, Salvation Army, or Red Cross.
9. Get extra cash
Getting money in exchange for your extras is one great way to simplify your life, help the environment, your budget, and somebody else. Throwing things in the trash isn't the most responsible method to clean.
Donating or selling undesired items is better to extend their life, prevent waste, and pollution. Plus, it justifies the next purchase of something better.
Follow my guide on how to get rid of unwanted clothes for money and learn about some great places to sell clothing you don't wear.
10. Ask yourself the right questions
Do I need what I keep? Does it fit me? Does it need repairs?
Do I have enough space for it? Would I buy it again? Do I still use it regularly? Did I buy it by mistake? Am I keeping it for someone else?
Ask yourself the right questions and be honest with yourself. You will have an easier time identifying the essentials and getting rid of what is superfluous. You will feel liberated when you begin to clean. Getting organized is a good feeling.
For more advice on what to get rid of, check out my article on how to decide what clothes to keep.
11. Take before and after pictures
This is one great practice to get organized. It helps with the visualization of work areas. Take pictures of items you need to clean, boxes content, empty spaces, and storage containers.
It gives visual cues of the in-between steps you have to take to get organized. And it's a good temporary strategy to reduce anxiety.
12. Buy less and higher quality
Buying fewer items overall and higher quality is one of the best things you can do to be more responsible. It helps the planet and your wallet.
It's a simple step and seems quite obvious but it makes a huge difference. Especially with clothes, choose durable, classic, and long-lasting pieces that you can combine easily and wear for a very long time.
Invest in items that fit your lifestyle perfectly, that you will enjoy using over and over again. Read up my article on slow fashion vs fast fashion to learn about choosing products consciously, ethically, and sustainably.
13. Make more room
You might need more space than the average person for different reasons. If you feel like you lack room to store everything, get organized with extra storage space.
In your home, you can add extra bars, racks, shelves, baskets, and boxes. You can use corners creatively, or organizers, and special hangers.
14. Follow a minimalist approach
Most of the time, you don't need more stuff. You need less. Minimalism is much more than a trend. It's about keeping it simple and going back to basics.
It's a great way to live more sustainably and does a lot for your well-being. Keep only the essentials and put simplicity at the forefront.
By removing what is unneeded, you make more time and space for what matters to you the most. You don't have to throw everything away at once. Just seek simplicity gradually.
Follow my ultimate guide to minimalist fashion if you want to try out this style of dressing effortlessly.
15. Get professional help
Compulsive hoarding is also known as hoarding disorder (HD). If you hold onto a large number of items that most people would consider useless, you may have this issue.
If you collect free items in excess, if you buy too much stuff you don't need, or if you constantly search for perfect items you never find, consider seeking professional help.
Compulsive hoarding is a mental health issue that has financial, physical, emotional, and social negative effects. It leads to obsessive behaviors, thoughts, actions.
A mental health professional can perform a psychological evaluation and diagnose a potential hoarding disorder. For an effective treatment, find a specialist with experience in hoarding or anxiety that offers cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).
About the Author: Alex Assoune
Alex Assoune (MS) is a global health and environmental advocate. He founded Panaprium to inspire others with conscious living, ethical, and sustainable fashion. Alex has worked in many countries to address social and environmental issues. He speaks four languages and holds two Master of Science degrees in Engineering from SIGMA and IFPEN schools.