Declutter your home and build the life you always wanted

Is your humble abode choking the life out of you with its ever-growing cluttered piles of paper and junk? 

“It’s time to go after liberation in our homes.”  

Roe Cummings, a millennial and “intentional-living advocate,” who lives with her boyfriend in an 800-square-foot household in California, used to be stress filled and bogged down by their stuff. Now she wants to liberate others by showcasing their minimalist life on Instagram on their page, “brownkids,” and showing how living a clutter-free lifestyle can be done through the Black lens.  

But why?  

The couple says that it’s time to declutter because the home is the second place (outside of work) where people spend the most time, yet it’s not the welcoming haven that is should be if it’s causing stress, underlined by looming tasks of how to keep it clean, keep up with the bills, all while managing the clutter and mess. 

The pair said that as Black people, there are some fundamental benefits that come with cleaning the home and ultimately the soul when the clutter lifts and some deep-rooted healing takes place. 

“As people of color in this life, weren’t we expected, if not unconsciously, to live in dwellings of our own desperation? But, we did it. We reorganized our finances, brainchilded #thejarmethod, and I paid off $11,000 of personal debt on a $19,000 income. We made rent out of sheer know-how — not always on time but always determinedly,” they said. “The year we figured the home puzzle out as a pair, the “job” and “obligation” chains loosened around our necks a little bit. Because, for the first time, money and our home weren’t in crisis anymore.”  

Many others, unfortunately, are currently in crisis mode when it comes to the state of their homes.  

According to theorganizerchicks.com, the average American household contains 300,000 items and Americans spend $1.2 trillion annually on non-essential items. Also, Americans typically spend 17 minutes a day looking for items they have lost or misplaced which totals up to about 4.3 days a year or 344 days over the average human life span.  

Also according to the website, the “single biggest growing” sector of real estate in the country is storage units. And while people are living in bigger homes they are still storing their things elsewhere.  

Where is the disconnect?  

According to verywellmind.com, it can start when people continue impulsively buying things (through emotional spending) and the piles and clutter begin while mental health is paying the ultimate price.  

“Clutter impacts your physical space in an obvious way; but some people don’t realize that clutter can have negative mental health effects, too,” the article notes. “But, by becoming aware of how much clutter you have and whether you experience any stress as a result, you’ll be better able to discern if there’s an opportunity for you to modify your physical space and improve your mental health.”  

Christine Platt, author of “The Afrominimalist’s Guide to Living with Less,” echoes similar thoughts as Cummings and told NPR that decluttering is particularly necessary for communities of color.  

“Afrominimalism is simply how I define my minimalist practice, which is influenced by the history and beauty of the African diaspora,” she said in the article. “But I really wanted to write a book that explained the psychology of ownership … so that we understand our motivations. … Why is it so hard to let go of things we no longer need, use or love?”  

She added that once Black people own why they hold onto certain things (especially to their detriment) there is awareness, empathy and empowerment.   

“And, you know, for Black folks and for other marginalized groups, it’s often the missing link for how and why we consume the way we do,” she said. “I say living with less is now our choice because ownership is just a complicated matter for people of the African diaspora, right? I mean, as a Black woman, when I think of ownership, I have to consider my ancestry. I have to consider the historical and generational inequities of slavery, of Jim Crow, of redlining, you know, and other state-sanctioned limitations on ownership and their lasting implications. Our familial and collective histories are just a big part of and continue to influence how and why we consume. “ 

Where to Begin?  

Life Hack says that decluttering is all about reducing and reorganizing in these simple steps:  

  1. Reduce your commitments in every area of your life  

“Take a look at each area of your life and write down all of your commitments,” according to Life Hack. “From here, look at each one and decide whether it really brings you joy and value and if it is worth the amount of time that you invest in it.”  

  1. Rethink your routines 

“Many of us do not have any set routines in our daily lives and simply tackle our obligations, chores and daily tasks haphazardly,” Life Hack notes. “Without structure, it can lead to chaotic days and a drop in productivity.”  

  1. Declutter your friends? 

This might be a tough one but rethink all of your friendships and see who is meant to stick around and see who is not.  

“While you should spend more time with positive people, people who help you grow and make you feel happy, you should get rid of toxic people who only drain your energy,” according to the article.  

Declutter at work  

Take a “break” from work and get to work on cleaning off your desk (or workstation) to be more productive and focused – your boss will thank you later.  

Begin with:  

Your desk  

  • Clear the clutter and remove everything from the drawers.  
  • Put the piles on the floor then clean and wipe down your desk area.  

Look through all of the “stuff” and throw away the unneeded items and sort through what’s left and create a filing system so that client or customer is easier to find next time.  

Declutter at home   

Simplify your living spaces. If the bedroom or other rooms are messy, clean them and think like a minimalist.  

  • Clean off things on the floor and throw out or donate unneeded items, then work your way up.  
  • Then move to flat surfaces like countertops, shelves, tops of dressers and the like, and do the same with furniture.  
  • Keep what you need.  
  • Once the “keep pile” is established organize the inside of drawers, cabinets and closets; place the neatly organized items back where they belong, and handle this one room at a time.  

Andrea Wolf, owner of Organize Detroit, a professional organizing company that services the metro area, told the Michigan Chronicle that she was into this 16 years ago before it became a trend.  

From packing and moving to organizing and decluttering, the company has a knack for throwing it out or packing it up – neatly of course.  

“Our goal is to simplify your life in a chaotic situation, a chaotic space in the house,” Wolf said, adding that decluttering is all about giving people back their time and freedom. “The more you declutter the less stuff in there, the less stuff to manage. The hope is to give yourself the freedom … to use the space differently than maybe you were using it.”   

Wolf added that her three types of clients include those who are downsizing, accumulating, and just starting out, and they all come to her to streamline their belongings, which she says begins with starting small first.  

“We always say the best place to start something is a small drawer or cabinet — don’t tackle the biggest area in your house [yet],” she said. “Finish it completely so you can feel that success… motivates you to tackle another area.”  

 

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