Social worker and professional organizer Patty Morrissey, MSW, has a unique perspective on how someone’s physical world affects their mental one. She believes that a home doesn’t need to be filled with stuff in order to be cluttered. In fact, when you surround yourself with things that speak to where you’ve been instead of where you’re going, it can create the same blocks that a pile of clothes or cabinet crammed with knickknacks would.
“Setting up your environment and tweaking your environment is an ongoing process,” Morrissey tells mindbodygreen. She works with clients to consistently revisit the story that their home is telling them and decide whether it still feels right. And there’s no better time than the end of the calendar year—when the buzz of resolutions fills the air—to ask if your space is pushing you toward your goals or pulling you back.
How to say out with the old and in with the new with an end-of-year decluttering ritual.
Before a single pile is made or storage boxed purchased, Morrissey recommends asking yourself what you want to get out of your decluttering session. And before you can do that, you need to think about where you’re headed in the next year.
“It always starts with some kind of visioning or goal setting,” she explains. Either write a list of things that you want to accomplish in the new year or, if you have more time, make a quick vision board of words, phrases, and pictures that illustrate your goals.
Then, it’s time to edit your home, keeping these intentions in mind. While utilitarian items like your all-purpose cleaner can stay (although you might want to swap it out for a more natural alternative?), maybe you want to reconsider the photos on your walls or the keepsakes you choose to display. Go one room and one category at a time until you have a collection of items you don’t need to bring with you in your next chapter.
Once this decluttering step is done, Morrissey will either donate the items to local consignment shops or try to get money for higher-value goods on resale platforms like Mercari, where she is also an organizing and lifestyle specialist. She sees photographing and writing captions for the objects in her “out” pile as a nice way to say goodbye with gratitude.
The process doesn’t end there. Once you decide what to get rid of in pursuit of your goals, it’s time for the fun part: Deciding what to bring in! For example, one of Morrissey’s New Year’s resolutions is to spend more time on skin care, so she treated herself to some high-quality products and set up her beauty cabinet to evoke a luxe spa, figuring it would make her want to actually open it more. (The environmentalist in me needs to add a note here that this isn’t an excuse to buy things you’re not actually going to use!)
Morrissey is a proponent of “good enough” organizing, meaning she doesn’t think you need to fuss over the placement of every last thing in your home. “The point is not to have a perfectly organized home all the time,” she says. “It’s to make sure the environment you’re living in is setting you up for success in life.” When you see your home as a co-conspirator in your goals, suddenly the notion of rifling through your closet becomes a lot less intimidating.
While she recommends doing this process at least once a year, feel free to call on it whenever you find yourself feeling stuck in some area of your life. After all, as Morrissey says, “Having a breathing in and breathing out of things is an important part of living in balance.”