Like a lot of Americans, I struggle with clutter. My office is littered with back issues of magazines, old bills, trinkets and swag. The pantry is packed with containers of spices I purchased for one recipe, expired snacks and canned goods, while my bathroom cabinets are lined with hotel-size toiletries and old makeup.
I hesitate to get rid of things because I worry that what I give or throw away will come in handy in the future (it rarely does) and removing unwanted stuff from my home seems like a monstrous project. That’s why I was intrigued by writer and decluttering pro Julia Williamson’s “Five a Day” habit, which simply involves getting rid of a few items every day.
“No matter how tired or overwhelmed I felt, there was no excuse not to find five things to get rid of,” she wrote in an article about the method for Apartment Therapy.
Williamson’s desire to have a home that wasn’t filled with unwanted items inspired her to donate or throw away five items each day, from travel-size shampoo and refrigerator magnets to socks and books. She hoped the commitment would minimize the accumulation of stuff in her house on a long-term basis (versus the short-term impact of an occasional clear-out) and documented her progress in a blog.
After eight months, she struggled to eliminate five items per day and realized her work was done. “My house felt absolutely free of mess,” she wrote in Apartment Therapy.
Like Williamson suggested, I started by tackling one room at a time: First my bedroom and then my bathroom. After just one week, I had a bag filled with socks, purses and clothing I hadn’t used in years. While some items were to be donated to the thrift store, I also ended up throwing away tons of half empty or unused tubes of lipstick and bottles of shampoo and lotion. While I still have multiple rooms to tackle, the spaces I decluttered felt clearer and cleaner, which gave me peace of mind.
Cutter may not seem like a big deal, but leaving messes or collections of unnecessary items around your home can be harmful to your well-being. In fact, having an untidy home can actually increase stress levels, negatively impact productivity and focus and even keep you up at night, according to WebMD.
But it’s possible to work toward a tidier place to live — one day at a time. Williamson was right: When it comes to decluttering, “a slow, steady, committed course of action” can be effective.
I’m happy I gave it a shot and hope you do, too.