Being clutter-free is more than getting rid of things you don’t need or use. It’s more than cleaning off a counter, emptying the garage or paring down your collections. Being clutter-free also means a change in life-style—for the better.

How will you benefit by getting rid of clutter? You will gain more time for yourself because you won’t be maintaining your property. You will have more money because you won’t be paying for extra storage, and because your buying habits will change once you realize the benefits of having a clutter-free home.

Who wouldn’t want more leisure time and more spare change in their pockets? Here are some steps toward creating a clutter-free lifestyle.

First, look at the cause of the problem. Why do you collect clutter? Is it because your parents did, because it was on sale, because it makes you feel important or safe to be surrounded by it? Why do you keep what you don’t need? Because it was a gift, it will work again once repaired, the spare parts might come in handy, or you’re planning on holding a garage sale one day?

Any of these are good excuses - in your mind, anyway. But there are drawbacks to being cluttered. Clutter affects your lifestyle. You can’t park in your garage, you can’t afford a vacation, you can’t cook healthy meals if you can’t find your stove, you can’t entertain because there’s nowhere to sit, and you can’t exercise on your treadmill because it’s become a second closet.

Clutter also costs money. You’re paying for off-site storage, you’re incurring late fees because you can’t find your bills, you’re racking up finance charges on credit cards, and you’re purchasing duplicates because you can’t find what you want when you need it.

In addition to losing money, you’re losing time. Tasks take longer because you can’t find the tools you need to complete them. You’re late for work because you lose your keys or you miss appointments because you can’t find your date book.

Is this how you want to live your life? Wouldn’t you rather be clutter-free and stress-free? You can, and very easily, too.

Start small. Choose a room where you would gain the most from having it cleaned. For you it may be the kitchen to sit down to a family meal, the bedroom for a serene sleep, or the laundry room which serves as the family control center. Choose one surface in that room, whether it’s the floor, a counter or dresser, and clear it completely. Make decisions as you go. Do you need it? Do you have a place to store it if you keep it? If you’re not keeping it, what condition is it in? That will determine whether you toss it or donate it. Once that surface is done, move on to a second surface. Repeat this process until the room is done. When one room is done, you can move on to another.

Be honest with yourself when making decisions. Do you want it or need it? Will your life change if you no longer own it? Do you have room to store it? Can you replace it if you ever need it again? Is the item in good/safe condition? And finally, how does it make you feel? Warm and cozy? Or stressed and crazy?

Once your spaces are cleared, it’s only the beginning. Cleared rooms don’t make you clutter-free. New habits and lifestyles make you clutter-free. You have to maintain your new space to keep it that way.

One of the first things you should do is create better storage for what you are keeping. This should be done after everything is cleared and you know what is staying in the space. For easier access, use shelving for boxes instead of stacking them. Store lightweight items on higher shelves, and heavier items on lower ones. Utilize vertical space on your walls and overhead for maximum use of the room. Use clear containers and label them clearly with contents. Finally, containerize within containers to keep things sorted.

After everything is neatly tucked away, examine your habits. What can you do to change them so your house remains clutter-free? Start making wise decisions. Don’t buy anything new unless it replaces something and you have room to store it. Don’t buy it unless you need it. You don’t have to keep up with the neighbors. Set up monthly donations with your favorite charity, and force yourself to set out a bag of things you no longer need. And most important, don’t buy it if you can’t afford it.

The most important part of this process is to not expect changes overnight. It took years to get cluttered. It will take weeks or possibly months for you to go through your home from top to bottom and get rid of all that clutter. Habits can be more difficult to change. Be aware and be patient. Making little changes over time is more beneficial than trying to change everything at once. Once you see the benefits of a clutter-free home, the changes will come more easily.

Author's Bio: 

Michelle Prima has been organizing homes and offices for over eight years. She self-published a relocation guide, "I'm Moving! Now What?" and a writer's guide, "101 Organizing Tips for Writers." Her articles have appeared in local newsletters, newspapers and magazines. Michelle has a bachelor's degree in Health Information Management, a Master's Degree in Health Care Management, and has worked in both hospital and retail settings. Always organized, she trained professionally with NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers) members and the Midwest School of Interior Redesign. She is a Certified Staging Professional and a Certified Senior Move Manager. Professional memberships include NAPO, NAPO Chicago and Business Networking International.