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Have I Made Any Progress? And How List Making Changed My Life

A friend asked me recently what I was going to do on a day off, and I told them, “Probably a bunch of tiny things that don’t add up to much of anything by the end of the day.” This feeling happens a lot during a decluttering journey.

When we start decluttering, it is easy to think we will be done with our home in a few weeks. You might get a burst of energy to tidy up after watching The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning and then be let down when your home isn’t transformed in the same time block.

Then, months or years down the road, it can feel like you haven’t made any progress because you are still finding things that need to be donated or dealt with.

The difference between these shows and real life is that we don’t get the chance to step back and see how much has happened after we do the work. In makeover shows, they follow this format:

Introduction & Before -> “The Work” -> Reminder of What It Was Like Before -> Big Reveal. We need to apply this method to our own lives because…

To feel motivated to continue, you need to remember how far you have come.

We can accomplish this with a simple habit - take a photo of your space*, and make a list.

Make a list of things you already let go of and things you will consider letting go of. You can be as detailed as you want here. For myself, I use the Reminders app and select “show completed items” so I can see the number of items that have been donated, but a pen and paper can accomplish this just as well.

The list will give you the ability to check things off as you are ready for them to leave the house AND remind yourself of all that you have already accomplished.

For example, on my list, I may write “Blue Zones Cookbook”, knowing that I will eventually be ready to pass it on, but I want to try a couple more recipes first. Or, I might put a seasonal item of clothing on the list that I need to try on before deciding.

Think of the list as your safe place to hold the thought without having to make the decision right away. It will also serve as a helpful reference when you get the urge to declutter but can’t decide where to start.

Once an item leaves the house, check it off the list. Then, on days when it feels like you haven’t made any progress, look back at the before photos and your list to see the proof of how far you have come. All of the decisions along the way really do add up to a big transformation!

*Try to get the full room/space in the before photo. You can also take photos of the individual items and put them on the list if you want to remember what they looked like or have photos for tax purposes.

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