Decluttering For Calm and Clarity (For You & Your Cat Too!)

NOTE: We created a Sweet & Simple Support Guide for Decluttering based on this blog post. You can download it here.

I took an unusually long vacation from work during the holidays but instead of traveling, or working on a long-awaited craft project, or binging Netflix, I DECLUTTERED!

drawer with organized dishes

And I didn’t just clear out the junk drawer.

Although that would’ve been just fine.

I decluttered my clothes closet, dresser drawers, office desk, office closet, my library of books and the Love and Above office space.

I’m quite proud of it all because let me tell you, it was a journey!

True, I didn’t actually get real time off during vacation, but I may have gotten something better: Calm and Clarity.

PLUS! Bear, our cat, got a fresh new space, too. I don't know if you've noticed this with your cats, but mine have definitely perked up whenever I do a bigger-than-usual cleaning or clearing of a space. After all, they are energetic beings, just like us!

Decluttering Gave Me Calm and Clarity

If you’ve been wanting to gain some control and clarity in your space, stick around!

I'm going to share The 5 Phases of Decluttering that I developed while streamlining all those areas of my living space. 

But before I go into the phases here are a few general tips.

General Decluttering Tips

  1. Accept that decluttering is going to cause some temporary chaos. You will probably feel overwhelmed at times. It's temporary and it’s just part of the process: it gets worse before it gets better. If you accept this beforehand, you’ll more likely accept the emotions that come up during the process instead of resist them. Here's Cumin (inspiration for Love and Above Cat Club) providing emotional support as I sorted clothes during a decluttering project pre-2016.Cumin the torty tabby sitting in back of a pile of clothes 
  2. Take deep breaths throughout. This will help lower the stress and anxiety and help keep you present and in your body. (It might also keep you from fleeing the scene of the project too!)
  3. Start early in the day, eat before you dive in, and stay hydrated. (It's not a sporting event, but maybe it should be.)
  4. You might also want to put on a favorite playlist to keep the energy up and moving! I like '80s and '90s Pop, R'n'B, and Soul, but that's just me. If I really need an energy shift, '70s disco does it for me! 
  5. Decluttering involves sorting, which we’ll get into more later, but I found it really helps to first make decisions on things that are immediate, obvious, and easily either "yes, keep" or "no, it goes." Taking care of those easy ones right off the bat builds great momentum and makes you feel like you made a ton of progress really quickly and easily. I love it!
  6. Don't go down Memory Lane! It's a dangerous neighborhood at this time! You will inevitably come across memorable items. Maybe it will be the ceramic vase you made in 3rd grade or the menu from a special date. Whatever it is, do not go down Memory Lane! This is also not Show and Tell, people. It's Decluttering. If you’re working on this decluttering project with someone else, do not put on the Show and Tell Show! Schedule a time to do it later if you must, but that time is not now. *Spoken from many experiences! Before this last decluttering project, I remember another time where the first box I started on were my old journals. Oh boy, there the day went! After several hours, I was still there sitting on the floor with various handmade journals strewn about as I clutched one in my grip intrigued by my 22-year old thoughts and dreams.
  7. Prepare to be flexible about how long decluttering takes. However long you naturally think it will take, double it. If it happens to take less time, it'll be a pleasant surprise. And we all like pleasant surprises.
  8. Remember your values before starting in on sorting your stuff. When you're in the thick of the chaos and decision-making about what to do with that thing, those values can help guide you.

And now, here are the Phases I found really helpful when decluttering.

stacks of folded clothes

The 5 Phases of Decluttering

Phase One: Sorting, Part 1

At first I called this Phase 'Prepare Your Boxes.'

But they don't have to be actual boxes. 

What we're really talking about are categories, and sorting our items into categories.

If you’re doing clothes, boxes might be too small, so maybe you’ll need trash bags.

Either way, this is just Part 1 of Sorting.

These are the categories, I used:

  • Keep
  • Donate (or Sell)
  • Throw Away
  • Maybe (items I'm not sure whether to keep or not)

After you’ve prepped these boxes/bags do a quick and easy scan of your items using Tip Number 5 above – make the easy decisions first. Anything that’s an easy yes or no, put it in its box.

Move past anything that’s not immediate or obvious. This is meant to create momentum.

Without this mindset, we can end up spending 30 minutes pondering whether to keep something or not, even if it's only the third item we picked up!

Don't do that! Just move on to the items that feel way easier. I think you'll be surprised at how much will be accomplished in this first phase!

baskets in a row

Phase Two: Fixtures & Furniture

In this phase, you’re going to assess what else you might need for a decluttered life.

It might sound weird, but I realized that one of the reasons I had too much clutter was because . . . I didn't have enough stuff . . . organizational stuff, that is. For example, I didn't have a proper shelf for inside my closet, so my stuff ended up on the closet floor and I lost use of all the vertical space above.

Would it help to have an extra shelf? Do you need a compact drawer unit that fits under your desk? Do you need a hanging organizer for your closet?

Grab your tape measure and note what you need, including measurements of the spaces.

Then, shop and get those items and start using them. Get things off the floor and on the shelf. Get the pile of papers sorted in files. Assign and label clear bins and put them on your shelves.

Utilizing these new organizational tools, you’ll now be using your space more efficiently and have proper homes for your items!

*Ideally, this phase is one that in a perfect world, you'd actually do before decluttering. You'd have assessed, measured, ordered and received. But it ain't a perfect world so don't worry. You can do it here, in this dedicated phase.

wicker baskets

Phase Three: Clean

In this phase, you physically clean your space.

This means wiping all the shelves down, dusting books, getting way back in the corner to grab hold of that dust bunny!

I know not everyone likes to clean, so you might not be so excited for this phase.

But let me share that, even though I don't like to clean, I found this phase very relaxing.

Cleaning can be meditative and you’re not making any emotional decisions in this phase, so enjoy it!

Phase Four: Sorting, Part 2

By now, when you look around, what's left are the things that you need to decide on. In this phase, we’re going to deal with anything that wasn't an easy and obvious decision from Phase 1 and also, the box of Maybes.

The Maybes were the items you weren't sure about keeping or getting rid of.

Here's Cumin (inspiration for Love and Above Cat Club) with her "Maybe" box.

Cumin the torty tabby cat in front of a box of cat toys

Take a look again at any remaining items. Your feelings might be clearer now. You might be like, “What was I thinking?” and you’ll easily take that item and move it to Donations. Or you might be like, “What was I thinking?!?” and you’ll grab that item, hold it to your heart and put it on your new shelf.

This phase might seem intense, but don’t fret! We have a plan!

If you still don't feel good about either keeping or getting rid of something, put it in the box, label the box, and put the box away, out of sight. Maybe on the top shelf in your closet or somewhere in your garage.

*IMPORTANT: Set a date in your calendar to revisit this box in a year. Don’t forget to include where the box is, just in case you forget! 

Phase Five: Get It Out Of The House

To really finish up, take the "throw away" and "donate (or sell)" items and actually throw them away or donate them.

For certain items that can harm our habitat (our environment), look up how to discard them properly in your area. You may need to do some extra research, like locate your nearest electronic or hazardous waste station and drop off there.

Examples of items that need special care like this are:

  • Batteries
  • Electronics
  • Paints and motor oils
  • CFL, LED, or fluorescent tube bulbs

This might feel like extra work, but it’s also extremely fulfilling, since this is exactly what it looks like to live in harmony with Earth and be a quiet revolutionary for the common good.

The point of this phase is to get this stuff out of your house, responsibly!

Those bags in the garage will still zap your energy if you don’t deal with them.

So get them out!

Phase Six: (Bonus) : C E L E B R A T E ! ! !

Feel proud of yourself for tackling this project.

It’s stressful, emotional and overwhelming to declutter, but you did it!!!

You might even notice your cats are excited by the change, too. In our house the living room floor gets cluttered over time, with cat tunnels and mats and toys, and then, one day – swoop, we put them all away – and Bear loves it! Even if it was all his stuff that got put away! He goes zooming across the room, or stretches out big on his side, right in the middle of the floor.

Cats are naturally impacted by the energy of a space, and decluttering is no exception. So your cats benefit from, and thank you, for all your hard work, too!

Welcome to more calm and clarity!

As I’m writing this, I’m smiling and celebrating with you!

Let me know in the comments any of your favorite decluttering thoughts and/or tips! I want to know!

Also, who's on your decluttering music playlist? Would '80s and '90s Pop, R'n'B, and Soul be on yours? Disco? Or...?


  • Carol Borowick

    I have been letting go of special family china and glass pieces, giving to relatives to keep in family.
    It’s a huge weight off my shoulders. My downfall, as you pointed out, is tripping down memory lane.Oh Yes, it’s a NO NO. All those photos!. I also find that if I limit my time or tell myself "just do 1 hour " for example, I won’t feel so overwhelmed and will probably work longer. Clothes regularly go to thrift shop. Thank you for sharing your great “time off” work!! Write a book! xoxo
    Love and Above Cat Club replied:
    Hi Carol! I love that tip of telling yourself “just do 1 hour.” And I agree “Say NO to Memory Lane!!” It’s distracting and time-consuming. I do think scheduling a date with Memory Lane and meeting for a nice cup of tea is a good idea! This way we can be focused, present and take our time savoring all the treasures! Thanks for sharing, Carol!

  • Dalinda

    Great ideas – thank you! I often get so overwhelmed & frustrated with it all, but seeing it as “meditative” is something I’ll consnext time. Aand the music, coffee h starting early! Definitely incorporating those tips!
    Love and Above Cat Club replied:
    Hi Dalinda! Yes, the overwhelm and frustration! That’s what has often prevented me from starting a decluttering project – I don’t wanna feel those things!!!! But after working on so many different spaces, I started to see a general system, what helped me, what didn’t and so on. I hope you find the tips useful! Keep us posted!

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