It’s the New Year and my Facebook feed is full of pictures of newly decluttered closets, vows to rid the house of 40 bags of clutter in 40 days, and tips on simplifying life in the New Year.

Now, these are all good and noble endeavors. I truly admire the optimism and enthusiasm behind these posts. But please, take my advice with you as you embark upon your well-meaning decluttering spree, lest you end up naked except for soccer shorts like me.

1. Don’t start decluttering during a hormonal or low self-esteem day. Before ridding your closet of all items that don’t bring you joy, you need to be in a pretty good mood already. If you are feeling down, there is a good chance that nothing in your closet will make the “bringing you joy” cut and you will toss out useful, wearable items. Those jeans I bought a month after giving birth? Gone. Those striped shirts that accentuate my post-baby curves?Also gone. All those yoga pants that simply remind me that I don’t do yoga anymore but wish I did. There’s no joy there. Gone! However, as I sit here in a pair of paint-stained soccer shorts that no longer have elastic (which, oddly enough, was the only thing that brought me joy on that ill-fated decluttering day), I sure do wish I had one of those striped shirts. Or any shirts, to be honest. Winter sure can get chilly.

2. Don’t declutter your husband’s stuff without asking. I know he’ll miss his mom’s urn, but it was not bringing me any joy.

3. Don’t declutter your children’s room without at least one responsible (ie, not on a decluttering kick) adult present. See that stick over there in the corner? That’s my 5 year-old’s new favorite toy after I dropped all her stuff off at the thrift store. She cried for a while, but the stick works amazingly well. She can paint it and decorate it. I’ve even suggested she name it. No, my daughter was not appreciative of my decluttering rampage. No, she didn’t care that she had all this new space available to generate joy. And no, the thrift stores won’t let you have back items disposed in a tidying rage. I speak from experience.

4. People and pets are not clutter.  Sad, but true.

5. Take a day to think about it. Place the items you intend on tossing or donating into the garage or a designated ‘safe space’. Walk away. Have some chocolate. Know that it’s okay to keep sentimental items. It’s okay to have clothes hanging in your closet. It’s okay for children to play with toys—children are, by their very nature, clutter magnets.

I totally support the idea that we all have way too much stuff. Most of it is overwhelming and unnecessary, but some of it is good to keep. That’s why you got it in the first place, right? So go on, enjoy your decluttering spree. Just keep these tips in mind. Because once something is gone, it is really gone. And you may appear appropriately apologetic and pathetic in ripped, paint-stained soccer shorts and a borrowed t-shirt, but you can’t get it back.

About the author: Amanda Farrell Briggs is a lawyer turned (soccer) mom.  She is the mother to three wild and wonderful girls ages 8, 6 and 1.  She can be found chasing her toddler through the muddy soccer field in 3-inch high heels or updating her blog, www.worstsoccermomever.com.  Her work has appeared in Scary Mommy and Mamalode.  She and her very understanding husband live in their hometown of Fayetteville, NC.

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