Gretchen Rubin Shares Some Golden Rules for Decluttering

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Getting control of our stuff gives us better control over our lives.

It seems like everyone is selling a decluttering strategy these days. I am simultaneously amused (how hard can it be to get rid of stuff?) and delighted (I love reading about different approaches). Perhaps my fascination comes from a place of inner procrastination (I'd rather read about it than actually do it), mixed with dreamy aspiration (it all seems so unattainably perfect).

So when I found out that even Gretchen Rubin has added her voice to the world of decluttering experts, publishing a book called Outer Order, Inner Calm, I had to learn more. Rubin breaks down her strategy in an article for Good Housekeeping, explaining that decluttering "makes room for happiness, wiping the slate clean for future possibilities." (OK, I've heard that before. It's pretty much every decluttering expert's mantra.)

Her approach includes the following 'golden rules':

1. Ask whether an item "energizes" you. In a clear riff on Marie Kondo's famous question "Does it spark joy?" Rubin argues that "energizes" is a more comprehensive term that includes those things that are useful and necessary, but not necessarily joyful, like scissors.

2. Don't furnish a fantasy identity. Wise advice and fairly common across the board. Don't keep stuff that doesn't apply to your life right now, i.e. wrong-sized clothing, fancy outfits that never get worn, sporting gear you're unlikely to use, an instrument you'll never learn.

3. Don't keep things that have been replaced by technology. I was happy to see this point, as it's a bit different than saying "transfer everything to digital files," as I've read in most other books. Instead, she points out how things like business cards, bank statements, calculators, and dictionaries are essentially obsolete now. Don't hang on to them.

4. Delegate. It's compelling to take on responsibility for decluttering an entire home, but you shouldn't. Allow family members to keep their private rooms as they want, while creating easy-to-maintain organizational systems in shared spaces.

5. Add beauty. Decluttering is not about getting rid of everything superfluous, but rather highlighting the things that you really love looking at. Display what you love and it won't get lost in the mess.

6. Create accountability. This is a new one I haven't heard, and I like it. Rubin suggests inviting friends for lunch once a month and telling them about your decluttering efforts, which will spur you to stay on top of the task like nothing else.

Read about more of her golden rules for decluttering here.