First, plan a grandiose move. Preferably to the other side of the planet, like Germany.
(Or across town will do, in a pinch.)
Treat every personal item as if you were going to die in a few hours and you have a feeling your greedy family will start snooping through your drawers the minute you’ve crossed over. Do you want your father to come across your ratty pair of period panties? Well, do you?
Never mind that collection of journals you’ve been keeping since you were seven years old. Even you don’t know where the keys are to unlock those, but you’re pretty sure you’d roll over in your grave if your siblings discovered your long-winded love letters to your high school crush.
Burn it all.
Weigh the sentimental value of everything in your room. Everything. Every Christmas card, every magnetic save-the-date wedding invitation, and every postcard from your really high trip to Amsterdam. Are you holding onto these items because of guilt, or because they truly hold some sort of value in your life?
If you ditch these things, will you find yourself 50 years from now in a senior care home clinging to the memory of a birthday card that might have changed your life? What if one of those envelopes contained a million-dollar check from Great Uncle Lou, and you could actually be wealthy enough to pay for daily sponge baths from a man that looks like David Beckham?
Throw it out.
Consider the things in your closet. Those skinny jeans — the ones you insist you’ll fit into again, someday. Even though it’s been five years and you’re nowhere closer to fitting into them. What about all those gorgeous dresses that you wore to various parties and New Years Eve events and wedding functions? Can you wear them again, or have they already used up their Instagram quota?
If you’ve worn it more than once in your Instagram photos, get rid of it.
Assess your pantry. Are you hoarding boxes of cereal that likely expired three months ago? What about two years ago? Even further back? Sure, I’m all about eating yogurt that’s a few weeks past its expiry date. I like living on the edge, and isn’t yogurt essentially a tub full of fetid dairy, anyway? But like, there’s no need for expired cereal.
When you’ve already thrown out 20 years of your life, you’ll likely sit back in your living room one day, take a look around and think, “WHY IS THERE STILL SO MUCH SHIT?” This is when you enlist a friend with a large truck. You should always keep a friend like this around. At this point in the process of decluttering, you’ll be too weary of the items you have left to even care if you’re throwing out a $300 knife set or a cheeseboard signed by Jamie Oliver. Haul that shit to the dump, and pay your friend in pizza for the help.
Or donate that shit.
Maintain some level of tidiness and organization by investing in minimalistic shelves and drawers from Ikea. Later, arrange a green houseplant in a white vase on top of said shelf and take a photograph. Marvel at your uncluttered space. Ignore the pieces of paper poking from the drawer that barely stays shut. Do not leave your hallway closet open for fear the neighbours will catch sight of the pile of toilet paper rolls you didn’t bother to organize in a pyramid fashion.
Poke it all away.
You’ll come to regret a fair number of these decisions later down the line. You’ll wonder, why did I throw out all my winter clothes and think I wouldn’t be spending another cold miserable season in Canada? Or was it really worth it to trade my grandmother’s heirlooms for wine?
But, just know, you can start afresh. With new shiny things, like stackable Tupperware, or possibly a dog. Because that’s what adults do.