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This is the first in a series on decluttering your home – a fantastic way to increase clarity and focus and decrease stress. Read How to Declutter the KitchenHow to Declutter the BedroomHow to Declutter the Bathroom and How to Declutter Toys.

A few years ago, I made the decision to declutter my home and it changed my life. It saved me so much time on cleaning, reduced my stress and made me realize that possessions don’t make me happy.

It was also the first step toward a life that didn’t revolve around spending, which has led to massive savings. Cha-ching!

Sounds great, right?

It is! But before you dive into decluttering, there are a few things to know. Things that will save you some time, energy and serious frustration.

Before you get started you’ll need to:

1. Have a plan

This is where I failed with my first decluttering attempt. I didn’t start with a plan. But you need one.

Specifically, you must decide what you will be doing with the stuff.

Are you going to sell everything? Will you be donating most of it? Do you want your friends to come look through it? Is it going up for grabs on Freecycle?

Decide before you start so your friends can be at the ready and the Freecyclians can hook up their trailers. Just plan to get it out of your house ASAP.

2. Gather supplies

Really, all you’ll need is a couple of boxes and a garbage can. And maybe a cleaning rag.

One box can be for stuff that you’re donating, the other for stuff you’re selling. One really small box (see below) can be for maybe stuff. Damaged stuff can go in the garbage or recycling and everything else can be put away in it’s proper place back in the room.

3. Set an end time

Don’t decide to work until you get tired of doing it. Set an end time (and let the people coming to get your stuff know what it is). If you’re in the mood to declutter and only have 30 minutes, focus on one drawer. If you’ve got all day, give yourself a few hours.

If you don’t, you’ll go until you’re exhausted and only half-done.

And then, you’ll be so over it that the stuff you’ve decluttered will just sit on your counter tops for days. Yes, I’m speaking from experience here. Allot a certain amount of time for decluttering and another bit for getting rid of the stuff.

4. Clean the room

Start decluttering in a clean space (unless you’re decluttering in an effort to clean out a messy space). It makes all the difference. I’ve made the mistake of doing it in a dirty room before and it made it so stressful. It doesn’t have to be a deep-cleaning type of clean, just make it tidy.

It it’s your bedroom, put away all the clothes and make the bed. If it’s the kitchen, do the dishes first.

Make the effort to straighten up beforehand to make it easier.

It also reduces the risk of you accidentally getting rid of something you need.

5. Get a small holding box

And I mean a small box. If for some reason, there’s something that you’re just not sure about, put it in the small box and put it somewhere out of sight for a while.

If it’s not worth you going out to the shed or climbing into the attic to get, you can get rid of it.

Trust me.

6. Bring motivation

Good music. A friend. A Pinterest picture of what you want your space to look like.

Whatever it is, bring some motivation to keep you moving.

7. Be ready to give yourself tough love

At some point during this process, you’re going to want to quit.

It might be when you’re sorting through the junk drawer that’s so full it will barely open. It might be when you realize just how much stuff you’ve managed to accumulate. It might be when you’re taking pictures of all the stuff you’re going to sell (my personal least-favorite thing).

Whatever the case may be, just keep going. Take a short break if need be, but come right back to it. You can get rid of the baggage that’s holding you down. You can separate your self-image from your stuff. You can get through all the clutter.

It’s all worth it in the end.

Ready? Go!