Sarah Mueller is the founder of Decluttering School, a place where letting go of excess and focusing on what matters in your life takes top priority.
Incorporating the lessons and teachings she shares will allow all of us to become better leaders of ourselves.
And how many of us could take a lesson from her?
Sarah helps men and women remove the excess in their lives so they can focus on what matters most. A Wharton business school grad and single mom to 4 boys, Sarah realized the negative effects of clutter that affected her both emotionally and financially.
Through trial and error, Sarah decluttered. And you can, too!
In a recent podcast I chatted with Sarah about her work. I know you’ll enjoy reading about clutter, or rather, how you can take control of all that excess stuff in your life!
Clutter: It’s Way More Than Just Stuff
According to Sarah, clutter changes your entire life and has a huge ripple effect. Her goal is to help people let go in ways that serve them.
“Most people are looking for ways to let go of the things,” she said. “It’s about balancing working and life.”
She teaches the concept of 80/20 effort: 80% Mental, 20% Work.
Take your kitchen, for example. It’s a mess. Yes, there is the physical work to getting it decluttered.
But then there’s an emotional component, too:
- finding the time
- getting motivated
- setting yourself up for success
- overcoming the mental limitations that are in the way
The emotional component is 80% of the work.
The task becomes really big in our heads – and mental work is really heavy. That’s the reason we don’t do it: because it feels big and feels too much.
But once we address the mental component, then all that is left is the physical effort- it’s just the 20% that’s left.
Don’t Make Mountains Out of Ant Hills
Sarah says we tend to catastrophize things to make them feel terrible.
So, plan ahead on when and how you want to tackle the problems. Determine which task and when – and plan when you’re not tired, not stressed, or when everyone is not hungry.
Prioritize what you really want to complete within reason.
But what is actually the goal?
Sarah explained that all of us have a picture of what something is supposed to look like, but then it doesn’t fit in to our lives.
Would you like a meal on the table every night for your family to enjoy? Solve the problem: start with a plan for meal prep.
Make your plans only when you’re in the best place for it with best perspective – not when you’re in the thick of it. Determine the exact problem so you can solve it.
It’s in the planning and our state of mind that we set ourselves up for success with our actual reality vs failure.
Three Cheers for The Decluttering Club
Sarah focuses a great deal with people on their kitchens because it has a huge ripple effect on the rest of their lives.
What’s the solution?
Break it down in smaller simple steps and bite-sized pieces – even if just 10 minutes while the coffee is brewing to declutter – is an investment.
It’s worth it to learn how to create new habits and to learn how to let go. This has a tremendous impact on people’s lives.
But how can a big project feel like a manageable process?
- Set a timer for as little as 10 minutes if you want to force yourself to be extremely focused and efficient.
- Pick a specific task. (For instance: If it’s cleaning out a drawer, empty it out fully and pull the things out of it that can go in the trash). Just doing that and putting the rest back is the simplest form of decluttering you can do. There are always things that need to go. Then just repeat that over and over.
If that’s all you did, you would be ahead. One exercise makes a huge impact.
Sarah explains that you don’t even have to get into organization or cleaning necessarily – but it will motivate you to want to do more just by starting in some places.
And remember: “You don’t HAVE to get rid of anything. I am not the decluttering police and you don’t have to do anything,” she laughed.
But you can choose to. Ask yourself:
- Are you enjoying all of these things?
- Or is having many of the same thing distracting you from enjoying the ones you love the most?
The answer to the question is yours to choose.
Collecting things because they are special but putting them in boxes up in the attic is not actually enjoying them or making them special. Identify the things that you don’t love so that you can honor and enjoy the other things you do.
Positive Ripple Effects of Decluttering
There are many positive results from decluttering.
- People may stop impulse shopping: they save money and have less guilt and buyer’s remorse.
- People may feel more comfortable inviting others into their home. Before, they were embarrassed or even panicked because they were not proud of the condition of their home.
Even organizing one drawer in the kitchen allows our brains the ability to open all the areas in our lives where we can apply some of these same principles for great impact.
People think they will be losing money by letting things go that they spent a lot of money on. But our bank account doesn’t change by getting rid of things. By keeping things, we tend to still overspend on things or impulse shop – so we actually spend more money and time when we aren’t getting rid of a thing.
Think of it like this: You don’t spend money on a movie and then beat yourself for spending the money if you don’t like the movie… but we do it with things all the time.
Want to sign up for a simple, 10-minute decluttering challenge?
It’s free, and you’ll receive emails to get you started. To make it successful, it needs to fit into your life and not make your life harder. You would be surprised what you can do when you fit things into the little gaps in your life!
The Why Behind Declutter School
Sarah admits to always being frugal, but spent all her time trying to search for the perfect solution. It was a losing battle. Then she discovered decluttering.
“Decluttering just makes your life so much easier. I don’t want anything that gets in my way. I want to live my life, not manage my things,” she said matter-of-factly.
“Life can be easier. Ask yourself what is your priority? Decide what really matters most so you can make decisions on your things and the things you decide you want to keep. We think we are attached to our things but we really aren’t.”
She cautions us to look without judgement. Recognize that you’re done with something or that you aren’t using it the way you thought you would.
This allows you to live aligned with what matters most to you.
The Decluttering Club
As Sarah explained, 2023 is so different than the way most of us grew up, with one-click shopping and fast to-your-door delivery. “It’s not the same as it was even 10 years ago, and my goal is to help as many people as possible adjust to the new world we live in and how to be their most powerful in their lives.”
Ready to declutter? It’s not hard: just get started!
Here’s how you can connect with Sarah:
- Follow her on Facebook
- Check out her Instagram
- And check out the Decluttering School, too!
Keep up with us at Strive Leadership Development by checking out our other podcasts (or even signing up to be a guest speaker).
Sign up for our Work in Progress Report here,