By Leo Babauta
Now is as good a time as any to clear out your clutter — sweep it out in one go, or take bite-sized chunks each day over the course of a month. Either method works.
I’m going to introduce you to a method I call Zero Clutter. It’s about only having the essential things in your life, and clearing out the rest. It’s about developing the habits that keep your life clutter-free, and learning to put things where they belong every time, so that clutter doesn’t accumulate.
It’s not something you can implement overnight. It takes a little time to clear out the non-essential things from your life, and even more time to develop the clutter-free habits. But you can start today.
The Zero Clutter Method
Here’s how it works:
1) The Zero Clutter Zone. Zero Clutter starts with picking one area of your home or work space, and choosing that as your Zero Clutter space. That space will expand to your entire home or office. Let’s say you pick your kitchen counter, or your home entryway, or your desk, as your Zero Clutter Zone. Remember, you’re just starting here.
2) Clear out the zone. Look at everything in your Zero Clutter Zone. What here is absolutely essential? What do you love and use on a regular basis? These are your essential items — take everything else out of the zone, put it in an outbox or trash it. The outbox is for donations or giving away. Put the outbox near your door or somewhere you’ll remember to take to drop off at a charity or give to other people — out of your house.
>> Also see: Simple systems to make your life more organized
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3) Have homes for everything. The Zero Clutter Zone should now be clear of everything but the essential. These essential things need to have “homes” — spots that you designate for them. If they’re not things you need to look at, put the essential things out of sight — in a drawer, cabinet, closet. Don’t just throw them in there — have a space for them.
4) Develop the Zero Clutter habit. Now remember the homes you create for things, and always put them back in those spots. This is a habit that takes a little time to develop, but become aware when you’re about to toss something where it doesn’t belong — you’re procrastinating on putting it back where it belongs. Take the extra 10 seconds to put it back in its home. If it doesn’t have a home yet, create one. Work on this habit consciously — it can take a few weeks to develop.
5) Keep your zone clutter free. Now that you have a clear space, don’t allow any clutter to come into it. Zero. Be vigilant! This is your zone, and you won’t let any sneaky clutter mess up your hard work.
6) Expand the zone. If you chose your kitchen counter, expand to other countertops, or your dining table, or the floor of your kitchen. Get it clear! It only takes 5-10 minutes to clear a small space, so you can do this a little in the morning and again in the late afternoon/evening, and you’ll quickly expand the zone so it gets bigger and bigger. Clear it out, give things homes, put the non-essential in the trash/recycling or outbox, keep it clear. Be vigilant about keeping it clear! And expand some more, and more, until your entire house or office is a Zero Clutter Zone.
It’s a fairly simple method, but it takes a little time to implement. If you are busy, carve out 10-minute chunks twice a day and keep the ball rolling once you get it going. If you have more time, feel free to spend half a day or more clearing out a huge Zero Clutter Zone. It’s hugely satisfying.
Read more about decluttering from Courtney Carver at How to Get Rid of Clutter Hotspots.