By Jackie Waters of hyper-tidy.com

How to clean and declutter without ruining everyone’s day.

In the pursuit of the American dream, we often oversaturate our lives with stuff we don’t really need. It can be difficult to let go of our possessions, but an excess of extras won’t make you happy and, in fact, may even be causing you undue stress. Getting rid of things can be an emotional process, especially for young children who might feel the only thing they control is their disorganized pile of toys. Many elderly people, particularly those that grew up in the Depression era, may believe that everything that won’t rot should be put aside for a rainy day.

If you find that you’re drowning in a sea of unnecessity, there are ways to satisfy your urge to purge without making it feel like a punishment.

Navigate the nooks

Your most important task will take place before cleaning begins. This is to evaluate how much storage you actually have. Doing so will give you a baseline on how much stuff you can keep and will help you identify ways to store these things without causing clutter. If you have a small bedroom with little closet space, for example, consider raising your bed a few inches to add storage. Similarly, a small vertical storage shelf in the kitchen can help you take advantage of the dead space between your refrigerator and the wall or cabinet. Get creative, and don’t be afraid to hack your living room, kitchen, office, bedroom, and closets to best utilize every square inch of your home.

Know what you really need

One of the biggest sources of clutter in the average home is clothing. While your teenage daughter may insist she needs a different outfit for every day of the month, the fact is that most people can get by with much less. A few core pieces, including jeans, shirts, and casual, dressy outfits are a great foundation for a functional wardrobe. The kitchen also tends to collect a plethora of products that no one really uses. The juicer, bread maker, and food dehydrator probably haven’t seen the electrical outlet since the day you bought them. CoupleMoney.com lists ten other small appliances you aren’t likely to use.

DIY your desktop

If you work from home, a cluttered desk can diminish your productivity and make you look and feel unprofessional. Invest in a good set of storage cubes and clear your desk of everything other than a notepad, ink pens, and a mouse and keyboard. You can make your own desk organizers if you don’t have room for additional storage.

Make some cash on your trash

Okay, so maybe your belongings aren’t trash, but if you aren’t going to use them, you may as well flip what you’ve got for profit. Plan to organize a yard sale once you have gathered everything you can spare. My Creative Days cautions against waiting until the big day to price items, and instead suggests popping a sticker on them as soon as you begin the purging process. Get the kids excited by giving them their own corner of the lawn to sell their toys and trinkets. You can also donate things you no longer need – if they are in good condition – to local charities.

Digitize

Whether you realize it or not, there are many items in your home that don’t have to be available physically in order to be viable. Photographs and old receipts are two things that immediately come to mind. If you currently have picture frames on every open surface, you’re doing yourself a disservice (and making it hard to dust). Consider getting a digital photo frame, which you can control from your computer and change your pictures as often as you want. Receipts and old contracts can be scanned and stored on the cloud.

Remember, it is not the things in your life that make you happy. It’s the people and the time you get to spend with them. Decluttering your home will make it easier to clean, create a more harmonious environment, and may even improve your relationships.