5 Easy, Realistic Ways to Cut the Clutter in Your Life

A clean workspace leads to better productivity—or at least that’s what researchers at the University of Minnesota say. It’s been nearly three years since Marie Kondo and her viral book extolling drastic minimalism hit U.S. shelves, but de-cluttering seems more important than ever at a time when we all seem busier and busier. And while most of us, this writer included, likely can’t be persuaded to throw out those birthday cards and raggedy notes from high school, there are certainly less drastic tips to kick-start a good clean.

Give your old clothing a second life

The United States generates 25 billion pounds of textile but only 15 percent is donated or recycled, according to the Council of Textile Recycling. Donating is a great thing to do if you can afford it, but you can also sell to local thrift stores. (Tip: Research what brands and conditions of clothing different stores accept before you make the trip.) Also check out apps like Poshmark, which allows users to sell used clothing and retain a portion of the sale.

Give feng shui a try

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No, sticking a Buddha from Pier One in your garden is not feng shui. Feng shui is an ancient Chinese philosophy and practice that revolves around achieving environmental harmony. There are multiple factors to creating the best space for energy, but two are especially accessible: air and light. Rearrange furniture and switch out heavy drapes for lighter ones to achieve both.

Shred old documents

Feel the urge to toss a giant pile of old homework into the recycling bin? You’re on the right de-cluttering track. But shredding all records with personal information—including bank statements, medical records, and even phone bills—is a better practice to protect against identity theft. And don’t worry if you don’t have a shredder. Some libraries host “community shred” days; local governments will usually employ high-powered, micro cut machines for maximum security.

Adopt the KonMari fold

Marie Kondo’s intensive and extensive approach to minimalistic organization isn’t for everyone, but her technique of folding clothing can be. The method, which allows your items to be stored standing up, provides for fewer wrinkles and space saving. And because a sliver of everything will be in easy sight, you may even find new appreciation for the pieces that were previously left forgotten at the bottom of the drawer.

Organize your electronic world too

Start with your inbox. The ToDoist recommends opening an email once and immediately categorizing it as delete, delegate, respond, defer,or do—and never leaving it marked unread. While inbox zero may seem drastic, doing so will help you stay off email after certain hours. And, not surprisingly, studies have found that doing so leads to less stress. To extend your electronic purge, delete unnecessary apps on your phone, logging onto as many sites using an Internet browser as possible instead. Bonus: That’ll clear up some of your phone’s memory space.