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Me? Doing a podcast episode on decluttering? You’ve got to be kidding! That’s what I would have said, even a few months ago.
And to be honest, I’m going to lay my cards on the table right now. I am not a minimalist by any stretch of the imagination. I am not a decluttering expert. I am not someone that finds it really easy to just get rid of stuff. I am the opposite. I’m a bit of a natural hoarder.
And it just got to the point recently where I just had so much stuff that I felt really bogged down. And I’m not just talking about physical stuff. I’m talking about digital files, ideas and physical stuff. Clothes that I had before I was pregnant five years ago, and all kinds of things that I don’t need anymore, like baby things or whatever, just cluttering up the house we’ve just built up and up and up, put them away in the loft, and then they overspill the loft and toys that kids have grown out of just got so much stuff. And I just got so fed up with it.
So I decided back in December to start decluttering my life in various different ways.
You see, the thing is, I wanted to really change my life, grow my business, fill my life with more abundance. But I wasn’t making any room for any of that stuff. I wasn’t making any kind of mental room for myself. And it was just getting quite oppressive. So I decided to go through different areas of my life and see what I could do. Kind of simplify things, simplify things, declutter, strip out the crap and just help myself, give myself some space to think again.
And that’s something that crept up on me because as I said, I do find it difficult to get rid of stuff. I find it quite emotional because whatever it is, you’ve either got memories attached to it, maybe you created it, and it can be really hard. But I have been trying really hard since December to declutter. And I’ve really felt so much lighter because I felt so much simpler.
Life has felt so much simpler.
I felt freer, and weirdly, new ideas have started to come into my head and things seem fresh and exciting again. So it’s something that I’m still in progress, very much in progress. But I’ve decluttered my room. I’ve made it a better working space. I’m decluttering my digital world.
And I thought it would be something that you might like to think about doing too. Because if you feel bogged down with just stuff, just fed up like you’re wading through mud all the time, and it’s just bringing you down, then a declutter might work really well for you. And it’s a great time of year to do it, isn’t it? I mean, we’ve come out of January. I struggled to get going in January, so I don’t know about you, but when I feel like that and I feel stuck, decluttering is a great place to start. Because it just clears the decks to get some fresh ideas, just like when you get a new notepad.
Do you remember at school that feeling when you got the new notebook for the year, a new exercise book for the year?
And you said, well, I said, anyway, every year this year, my book is going to be so neat. It’s going to be the best ever. It’s so exciting, a fresh new chapter, all that kind of stuff. It didn’t end up being neat!
But the point is, a fresh start is great for creativity and great for bringing new energy into our lives. Here are my six top ways to declutter your life, that will just help you get your mojo back.
Firstly, number one, it’s really obvious, but it’s the physical stuff.
So the physical stuff. It could be anything from tools, equipment, books that you’ve not really read- they just sat on a shelf collecting dust. Gifts your great Auntie Elsie gave you that you never really liked but felt that you couldn’t really get rid of, just stuff that you don’t use. Stuff! I’m terrible for keeping stuff that might be useful one day. That’s my thing, keeping stuff that might be useful because I kind of feel that if I get rid of it, I know I’m going to need it next week.
I am never going to be a minimalist, I’ve got to admit. But I try to pare down what I really don’t need, anything that I think I might need. I try to store it away neatly. I’m going through the process right now and I’m trying to just declutter, particularly my workspace, but also my wardrobe, because I’ve got so many old clothes in there, particularly from pre-pregnancy, that don’t fit me anymore. They just make me feel rubbish every time I open the wardrobe, but they don’t fit me, so I need to get rid of those.
I just need to go through every area in my life.
I need to go through my kitchen, I also need to go through all the baby stuff that we’ve got like pushchairs that we don’t use anymore. And since I’ve started doing the decluttering, the physical decluttering, it’s really made me feel a lot better. So that’s going to be something that I’m going to continue to do on an ongoing basis.
The second thing that you can do to declutter your life is to look at your digital files.
So often when we think of decluttering, we just think of physical items in the world, our wardrobe, things that we collect. But really, the digital world has just as much of an impact on us than the actual stuff in the physical world. It’s there all the time, constantly reminding us. And for me, I just built up so much stuff on my desktop and in my download folder that I couldn’t really see what was going on. And it just made me stressed every time I was trying to do a job. It distracted me. It made me think of other projects that I’d done before, especially if it’s a project that’s not gone as well as you hope, because you always have those. And it just reminds you that it didn’t go so well.
You don’t need that, you don’t need that kind of stress in your life.
So when I had Covid a few weeks ago, I couldn’t really do very much. I was sitting there, and one thing that I could do that really helped me is just to go through my download box on my MacBook and my desktop. I also started to look at my Canva files, places, things like Canva files, Dropbox files, places where you have documents stored – and just really be brutal and think, what do I need, what don’t I need and what can I file away?
So three things: what do I need, what don’t I need? What can I file away?
Because particularly stuff that makes you feel rubbish, you don’t want to keep it. But even stuff that you feel emotional about, if you don’t need it, get rid of it. You just need to clear your mind. Digital files are really important things to think about when you are decluttering your life, particularly in your business, because you want those new ideas to come in.
And the reality is that those new ideas that you’re ready to go and find are not going to come in if your mind is bogged down and cluttered up with loads of other rubbish.
So digital files, take a look at those. As I said, that could be anywhere, it could be stored on your computer. But don’t forget about external tools and apps you use as well. So for example, any things like Canva, things like Dropbox anywhere where you create designs, any kind of place where you store digital files, that’s what you really need to go and have a look at.
And it does take a bit of time. A tip for me – I find it quite boring, quite emotional as well, because sometimes I don’t want to get rid of stuff that I spent a lot of time working on. And it feels quite gut-wrenching that you spent so much time working on something and you’re just getting rid of it. But you’ve just got to remember that creating it was just practice for the amazing stuff you’re going to go on to do, and you’re not going to do that amazing stuff that you’re going to go on to do if you don’t get rid of the old clutter first.
So I really encourage you, look at any kind of digital files and just maybe do a brainstorm. First of all, make a list of all the places where you’ve got files and just go through them one by one, maybe just one place a week because it’s quite a lot, put some music on, chill out and just do it. So that’s digital files.
Number 3 – let’s take a look at your inbox – your emails.
That’s digital but it’s not specifically a file. So your inbox and inbox plural actually because these days we tend to have more than one email inbox. We tend to have multiple. So for me, for example, I have my personal emails, I have my business emails, I also have ridiculously old business emails from old URLs that I need to get rid of and I haven’t done. I need to sort out and clean out. So all that kind of stuff.
You need to just go through your inbox, really delete anything that you don’t need, file away anything that you do need and yeah, just go through everything. Don’t forget your junk mail, don’t forget your deleted files.
Just have a real brainstorm and a real think about any kind of emails that you don’t want to keep anymore and also go through and look for great emails.
One thing I started to do when I worked as a journalist in the BBC, someone told me when I joined you’ll very rarely get any good feedback. So make sure you keep it when you do have it and refer back to it when times are tough, because there will be tough times and it was such good advice. So what I did is I had a folder, an inbox folder in my emails and it said ‘good’. I think it was just called ‘good’ and it’s where I stored all my emails, I had things I’d achieved where people had said well done, people said thank you, things have gone really well and they put them into this folder.
And the thing is you forget about those things. I mean at the time it seems like this huge deal and you know you’re never going to forget it, but in reality in a year’s time you forget about it. And when you come maybe to apply for a job, you want testimonials for your business or just want to feel good about yourself because you’re going through a rubbish time. And having that folder is really useful and it’s something I’ve got out of the habit of actually recently. But I really need to get back into the habit of saving those good emails down to make me feel really good about myself and what I’m doing.
Because we all have tough times. We all have times when we start to doubt ourselves. We all have things that go wrong sometimes. So having that reminder – it’s just another little way of cheerleading yourself on and, you know, getting you through those tough times and making you smile again.
So the fourth way that you can declutter your life and business is to look at your products.
Now, this is a really emotional one because any product that you’ve created over the years will have had a lot of work put into it (especially if you’ve been in business a long time, you would have created a lot of products). It’s really hard to go through something you’ve put your blood, sweat and tears into. You’ve put your emotions into it, particularly if you’re an artist or creative. It really is your emotions in there and just getting rid of it, getting rid of a product range or stopping creating things or selling them off, it can be really emotional.
But again, it is really important because if you’re holding on to those old ideas, new ones, new exciting ones are just not going to come. So you need to look at products that you’ve been selling and just look at does that fit with your vision for your business now? It might be that you created a product 20 years ago, before sustainability was a big issue and your product doesn’t really follow sustainable principles, which most of your products do now. So it would be a no-brainer really, to kind of move on and maybe discontinue that particular product range.
It could be that it’s a product range that just was never really very popular. People never really bought it and it always felt like a bit of a failure. And seeing it there every day just reminds you that it’s a bit of a failure and it went wrong and it wasn’t your best idea. Just get rid of it. Just get rid of it. It doesn’t matter how many hours you put in, does not matter if it’s making you feel rubbish, get rid of it, because that’s not going to help you in your business or in your everyday life.
Think about product ranges that fit in with your mission now and simplify them.
What is it you bring to your customer? And do your products do that? Do they make sense as a cohesive range? Do they make sense as part of your brand or is there some product there that actually doesn’t really make sense?
So, for example, if you were somebody that maybe you’re a jeweller and you created loads of different types of jewellery when you started out because you didn’t really know what you wanted to specialise in. And then maybe as you got more experienced and you started making more and more, you started to specialise in engagement rings, then you become known as the engagement ring person. Now, if you’ve still got silver earrings that are designed 20 years ago that don’t really fit with your range or your vision or your business anymore, then just get rid of them.
Sometimes you look at your product range and you can just see straight away that something sticks out like a sore thumb. I mean, I have a lot of digital products and that’s what I’m doing at the moment. So I’m looking and I’m thinking I’m slightly changing the direction of my business. And I’m looking at some of my products and thinking I’m not sure I should be selling that product anymore. I don’t believe in it or doesn’t really fit with my direction anymore.
It’s a gut instinct.
But you know where your business needs to be headed. Your gut will know where your business needs to be headed. So if you have products that don’t fit, your gut will tell you about it and just be really honest. And as I said, it is hard because you put so many hours of work into these things. It’s hard to let go of the fact that you may be spending hours and hours and hours creating these products, but at the end of the day, if they don’t fit with your vision of the future, there is no point in having them there.
So take them off. Sale. Sell them off. I’ve seen quite a few archive sales recently from makers, and that’s the best thing to do. Just sell them off, get rid of them. You will free your mind up and you will attract new kinds of work and new kinds of ideas will start flooding in. It’s absolutely amazing when you start doing this.
So that’s products. Now, I’m going to get a little bit deeper. So the fifth way of decluttering your life is to think about your mind now. Let’s declutter our minds.
Doing all this other stuff, decluttering your physical stuff, your digital stuff, your inbox and your products that will help declutter your mind. But sometimes we need to go a little bit deeper. And the truth is, as we go through life, we create beliefs for ourselves, beliefs about the world that help us function as human beings, beliefs we need to have to function as human beings.
Sometimes, though, we can start creating more unhelpful beliefs. We’ll call them limiting beliefs and we get them through things that happened to us. Maybe things haven’t gone so well and we start getting some quite negative beliefs, probably without even knowing. And we hold on to these and we live our life using these beliefs in a certain way.
For example, if you started out in your business, you launched several products and they were all a failure. You probably developed a belief, or you may well have developed a belief that tells you that whenever you release a product, it’s going to be a failure. And once you start believing that, it’s really hard then to have a successful product launch because you will constantly be self sabotaging yourself.
And the thing is, the scary thing is you won’t even know why.
You won’t know why that’s happening. You’ll just know that things keep going wrong and you won’t understand why. And sometimes that’s why you need to take a look. Ok. Look into your mind what’s really going on. Delve into the surface. Now, a great way of trying to expose those limiting beliefs, I’ve found, is to write something called free writing or journaling as well, where you can just write and write and write and your real thoughts will start coming out. It’s really weird. It’s really weird.
So an exercise I like to do is you might set a timer for ten minutes. It’s important you set a timer because you don’t want to be watching the clock. You want to be completely focused on what you’re doing. So I set a timer for ten minutes and I write nonstop to my future self about what has been holding me back now, even if I don’t know consciously.
It’s so weird. When you start writing, those thoughts start to come out from deep inside, thoughts you didn’t even know were there.
So what I do is I write for ten minutes nonstop. I don’t think about what I’m writing at all, I don’t read it as I’m writing it. I just let the words flow off my pen and I write nonstop, for about ten minutes until the timer goes off. Then I put it away for at least an hour. I go back and when I read it, I’m like, I can’t believe it. I can’t believe those thoughts that came out but you’ll know they’re right, because they’ll resonate with you. You’ll be feeling it in your gut and you’ll be like, yes, that’s right. But I didn’t actually know that on a conscious level.
And the things that can come out are astounding sometimes, but just really help you to pinpoint what’s going on. Because until you pinpoint what’s going on in your mind, you’re not going to be able to change it. And then what you can start doing is taking those limiting beliefs. Once you’ve found them, turn them around into a positive belief and start telling yourself those beliefs, just out loud or just writing them every day.
You need to just reverse that process of just proving to yourself through small wins that you’re not rubbish. You’re not incapable of doing these things. You’re not all these horrible things that you’re telling yourself deep down every day, but you’ve got no idea what you’re saying.
And just being really aware of your limiting beliefs and trying to declutter them out of your mind can be an absolute game-changer.
It’s important to say that working on your mindset in this way is as important as any skill. As important as any business skill. It’s important as any life skill because you can have all the social media tips in the world or the finance tips in the world or the business tips in the world. But if your mind does not want to implement them, deep down, you won’t implement them. You won’t do it – you’ll just keep sabotaging yourself.
So, it’s really important to look at your limiting beliefs and just declutter those. If you can. It’s not an easy thing, not a one-and-done thing. It’s something that you will do and you’ll have to keep working on. You’ll do it once and you’re saying, brilliant, I’m done now, something I revisit regularly.
And the last tip I’m going to give is to consider a declutter date or a declutter kind of session regularly.
And that could be every quarter, every month. You could have a big annual clear out – whatever kind of suits you. But as with anything, you need to be consistent. And as we know, clutter can build up again. So just remember to consciously declutter every so often is really, really useful.
I’m trying to get into the habit of decluttering on a small scale and resetting my workspace every week. It doesn’t always happen. But trying to declutter every week. And then I’m going to try and do a bigger declutter at least every quarter. And I’m just trying to get into the habit of doing that. But as I said, decluttering isn’t my strong point. So it’s something I really have to work on. But there are huge benefits to it.
And I honestly don’t think that you will get to the next level of your business, of your life, of being that amazing person that you want to be without decluttering your old stuff away. So there you are.
Six ways to declutter your life:
- 1. Declutter your physical world. So your stuff, your clothes, stuff you’ve culminated, old gifts that you don’t use, books, whatever it is, kitchen stuff, kitchen equipment. Who knows?
- 2.Your digital world. So any kind of files that you keep on your computer, in external apps like Canva or Dropbox photos on your phones is a huge one, actually, and one I’m really bad at. So I need to get better at that.
- 3. Your inbox – your emails are massively important. We get so much junk in our emails and we just need to get rid of it.
- 4. Your product. So your product lines, products you’ve created, your physical products, your digital products, all of it. You need to streamline it, simplify it, and make room for the new innovative and creative and the new direction of your business.
- 5. Your limiting beliefs. Your mindset is so important to everything you do in your life, you will never work on anything more important than your mind. So look at what limiting beliefs are holding you back. Declutter them out of your mind. It’s not easy. It’s not easy, but it’s really worthwhile work to do.
- 6. Just take time regularly to have a declutter. You might do a huge annual declutter, maybe smaller ones every week, or maybe medium-sized ones every quarter. It’s up to you how you want to figure it into your life. But you do need to be looking to do this regularly, because there’s no point decluttering everything now and then, letting it all build up again. So make sure you’re regularly decluttering your business and your home.
Why not try one of these ideas and see how you feel?
I’d love to know any feedback so if you have a big decluttering and you find it really useful just drop me an email and let me know how it goes because I feel like we’re on this journey together- because I am definitely not a decluttering expert. I could definitely do with any tips anyone’s got and I just want to feel like we’re all in it together.