In 2011, a book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing became an international bestseller. Written by a Japanese organizing consultant named Marie Kondo, the book praised the virtues of the minimalist lifestyle, which promises emotional, psychological and spiritual benefits to those who choose to rid themselves of unnecessary clutter. 

Intuitive-Feeling (NF) personality types aren’t uniquely prone to clutter. But it can easily become an issue for them—and that’s because, for Idealists, objects are imbued with meaning. They may evoke lovely memories or warm emotions, or an appreciation for their beauty or the effort that went into making them. These feelings can make it difficult to let go or say goodbye.

If every nook, cranny, closet, drawer and cabinet in the rooms of your home is filled with a mind-boggling assortment of clothes, books, photographs, trophies, souvenirs, antiques, keepsakes, remembrances and other items you no longer use or look at, a top-to-bottom housecleaning may be in order. 

Here’s how to do it successfully, based on your personality type

Six tips for getting started

As Intuitives, Idealists are often so focused on the bigger picture, they sometimes overlook smaller signs of dysfunction or disorder going on around them. Time crunches or shifting priorities can also mothball even the best of intentions.

If you’re ready to tackle a home decluttering project, here are a few ideas that can keep you engaged and enthused:

1.       Involve the family

The equation is a simple one: if you get your family members involved, you’ll decrease the amount of work you have to do. You also will be more likely to complete the project, since your conscience won’t let you negate the hard work of your loved ones by leaving the job half done.

2.       Break the project up into smaller parts

There’s no reason why you have to get everything done in one weekend. Breaking it down into manageable chunks can make the job seem less intimidating, and prevent your motivation from lapsing.

3.       Make it a contest

Urge your friends or family members to join the decluttering bandwagon, with prizes or bragging rights at the end for the one who gets rid of the most stuff, or who finishes the fastest. The peer pressure and sense of shared purpose will stimulate your best efforts.

4.       Read a book about the benefits of the minimalist lifestyle

Plenty of enlightening books have been written about minimalism and decluttering, including Marie Kondo’s bestseller. As an Idealist, you prefer to take actions that have moral, personal, or social value, and the more you internalize the minimalist ethic the more inspired you’ll be by its simple yet eloquent wisdom.   

5.       Combine decluttering with a home improvement project

Perhaps you’ve always wanted to convert your basement, attic, or porch into a recreational, sleeping, reading, or living space. Naturally, such a project will involve a lot of sorting, picking, choosing, ordering, rearranging, and cleaning—decluttering, in other words. Under the circumstances, taking the opportunity to combine your decluttering project with your home improvement project would seem to make a lot of sense.

6.       Donate what you don’t need

As an idealist, nothing motivates you more than helping others. One of the best ways to turn your decluttering project into a labor of love is to donate any useful items you no longer want or need to charity. Knowing others will make good use of things you’ve cared about will inspire you to declutter more aggressively.

Customized decluttering strategies by personality type 

ENFP: The Champion 

Focus on possibilities: When evaluating what to keep or what to discard, ask yourself: can I still gain satisfaction from this object? Does it still have meaning for me in the present? As a believer in progress and self-improvement, you should be filling your house with promise and possibility, not dusty old memories.

Consider novelty: You love novelty. So rather than keeping extensive collections, consider holding onto unique items exclusively. Or perhaps you can keep a few samples from various categories of collectibles or keepsakes, based on their rare or unusual qualities.  

Don’t try to formulate a detailed decluttering plan ahead of time. To satisfy the Perceiving aspects of your personality, it’s better to develop your reorganizing and decluttering schemes on the fly, based on your creative flashes and in-the-moment inspirations.

Stay flexible: Rather than creating a rigid schedule, create a no-deadline checklist based on rooms or categories, and check each item on the list off as you finish it. Don’t set any time limits for finishing, but instead indulge your bursts of energy and enthusiasm as they arise.

Approach your decluttering project like a treasure hunt. You’ll stay excited about the project if you conceive it as a search for amazing items you’ve forgotten or underutilized. In some instances, those items may have more meaning to loved ones than to you, and giving them away can bring you great satisfaction.

ENFJ: The Teacher 

Focus on enrichment: As you examine each item you touch, ask yourself: will its presence enrich my life, or the life of my friends and family? If you can honestly answer yes, that is an item worth keeping.

Make a detailed schedule and stick to it. Don’t give yourself an excuse to become distracted by “more important” things. You’re an organized person by nature and your decluttering should be scheduled as a priority item.

Improve yourself: While you’re busy sorting and cleaning, listen to podcasts or audiobooks that cover inspirational topics, or offer advice on self-improvement strategies. By associating your decluttering activities with personal transformation, you’ll create a context that encourages your most diligent efforts.

Put an emphasis on reorganizing. Strive to create sensible, economical storage and organization schemes that free up more space in drawers, closets, and cupboards and on floors. You’ll feel a great sense of accomplishment if you can figure out ways to make your home tidier or more aesthetically pleasing without actually discarding anything.

Display items well: Make or purchase attractive display cases, coffee tables, or bookshelves for your most prized keepsakes. You love knowledge and learning, so it makes sense to take special care of your books, maps, souvenirs, scientific curiosities, and anything else you’ve collected because of its ability to expand your knowledge base. Your home will become an appealing showcase for your most valued ideas and accomplishments.

INFP: The Healer

Focus on joy: As you sort through the collected remnants of your life, many will evoke wonderful memories and a renewed sense of joy. While you can’t keep everything, items that have a timeless appeal should be saved, even if they don’t have obvious practical uses.

Honor your strong aesthetic sense: If you need to increase your storage capacity, you should add display cases, lockers, cabinets, organizers, etc. that are attractively designed and blend well with your home’s existing décor.

Go digital: Given your nostalgic tendencies and collecting habits, going digital can be an effective decluttering strategy for INFPs. If you have large collections of pictures, you can send them to a photo scanning service to convert them to digital format. Physical books can be replaced by eBooks, which won’t occupy a single square inch of physical storage space no matter how many of them you accumulate.

Go with the flow:  You’ll be more likely to see your decluttering through to the end if you spend time on it only when inspiration strikes. After you finish a particular room or area, be sure to celebrate your success instead of scolding yourself for not doing more, or doing it sooner.

Declutter little and often: Decluttering isn’t necessarily a natural activity for INFPs. Many will begin collecting things again right away, canceling all their good work in a few months. For this reason, you should schedule mini-decluttering sessions every two or three weeks, and don’t give yourself an excuse to skip these vital maintenance procedures.

INFJ: The Counselor 

Focus on love: As a generous soul, you have the tendency to perceive value in everything. This can complicate a decluttering project, so the question you must ask yourself as you examine an item is, do I love this? Not like it, but love it? If the answer is ‘yes,’ that is something you should definitely keep.

Think of your home as a self-contained “ecosystem”: Your job will be to bring harmony and stability to that ecosystem, which has been overstressed by disorder and an excess of material things. Taking this approach will help you stay focused on the larger picture, which is not always easy when sorting through items that have personal meaning.

Prioritize the creation of clean, comfortable, open spaces that you can occupy and enjoy: These areas should be mini oases, where you can take time to contemplate, reflect, meditate, and recharge.

Visualize what you want your home to look like after your reorganization project is complete: Create a decluttering plan that will allow you to implement that vision, and be sure to follow that plan as closely as you can. Too often the idealism of INFJs slips into perfectionism, and without a disciplined approach your decluttering could turn into an endless slog.

Give yourself permission to relax: It’s okay to work on your decluttering project irregularly. It may take you several weeks to finish, but if you feel pressed by a strict schedule you may end up abandoning the project altogether. Remember, slow and steady can still win the race, just as long as you finish.

Sheltering in place in the shelter you deserve

With much of the world currently in lockdown, a home decluttering project never made more sense than it does right now. Creating living spaces that reflect your deepest needs and desires will help you avoid depression, overcome anxiety, and restore your mind and body to a peaceful state that promotes good health.

Your idealism is a tremendous asset. If you let it guide your efforts to simplify your life, you’ll enjoy all the transformative benefits that a decluttering project can deliver, now and in the future.

Nathan Falde
Nathan Falde has been working as a freelance writer for the past six years. His ghostwritten work and bylined articles have appeared in numerous online outlets, and in 2014-2015 he acted as co-creator for a series of eBooks on the personality types. An INFJ and a native of Wisconsin, Nathan currently lives in Bogota, Colombia with his wife Martha and their son Nicholas.