What is clutter?
Clutter is anything around your house that doesn’t add value, that is distracting or that is unnecessary.
Why should you declutter?
Decluttering makes room in your home for the things that matter, it gives your rooms a peaceful, relaxed feel and may simplify your life. Many people enjoy decluttering because it provides a sense of accomplishment. For others, getting rid of the junk frees up extra space in the home that wasn’t there before. Some people may just need to purge before they move to a new home.
HINT: This takes time. Focus on one room at a time and start with the one that bothers you the most.
Where to start?
Before you start, set your goals and your timeframes and make a plan. Starting with specific goals and timeframes will help you keep on track, reduce your frustration and give you a sense of accomplishment as you check off each completed item/area. (Each of those little successes helps to motivate you to keep going.) Make sure you give yourself enough time for each room; decluttering takes time.
Set up boxes or bins before you begin as follows: 1. ‘Put Away’ – for those items not currently in their correct spot, 2. ‘Repair/Mend’ – for items that need repair; e.g., shoes that need resoled, broken eyeglasses, a skirt that needs the hem mended, etc. 3. ‘Trash’ – things to throw away, those that are no longer useable. 4 – ‘Give Away/Donate’ – for items that can be donated (those that are still in good condition that others can use. If you plan on having a garage sale, set up a garage sale box or a separate area in your garage. Schedule your donated items for pickup based on your established timeframes.
HINT: Get over the fact you spent “good money” for an item. You can’t get the money back you originally spent, so think only about the value the item can add to the space now. If you aren’t using it, and you haven’t used it recently, give it up.
ROOM BY ROOM – A place for everything and everything in its place
As you start with each room identify where each of your items belongs; e.g., toy basket in the family room for all the kid’s toys, a magazine rack for the books and magazines still to read, decorative baskets for storage of blankets in the master bedroom closet, etc.
HINT: Make it a habit to put your stuff back where it belongs after every use. If you are consistent, it will only take about a month to make putting things back in place a habit.
In each room determine which area you are going to tackle first. Remove and review all items from that area. Replace the items you use on a regular basis; revisit those you don’t. Do you really need to keep them and is there a better place to store them? Replace those you decide you definitely need to keep. For example, in the bathroom start with the medicine cabinet, remove all items, review and sort then move on to the vanity and then to the shower/tub removing, reviewing and sorting all items.
In the kitchen – Start with the refrigerator. This may feel like a daunting task but it can really go quite quickly. Empty the entire fridge and check the expiration dates on all items. Throw away all those that are expired. (You may want to employ the use of a cooler while your food is out.) If you have containers with just a spoon full or so left toss them. Clean all shelves and baskets before replacing the food. Replace the items left and move on to the next area in the kitchen (e.g, freezer, pantry, cupboards, etc.)
Clothing – Look at the items by item type; i.e., all jeans, all slacks, all blouses, etc. It will be easier to downsize if you see how many of each you currently have. If you have not worn an item in a year and it is still in good condition, put it in the “donate” box. If you wear it occasionally but you really don’t like it, put it in the “donate” box. If items are not in good condition, put them in the “discard” box. Items you still wear that are either outdated, are very worn should be put in the “discard” box. Place items that don’t belong in the closet in the “put away” box. Once you get through each set, put the clothes you’ve decided to keep back (i.e., hang up the closet items and neatly fold and replace the items in the dresser). If your closet or dresser is still too full, take a look again and see if there are other items you can either give away or discard. It may help to make the bed before you start this process. It gives a place to work from and you’re not staring at a rumpled, unmade bed while trying to work.
HINT: if you haven’t used an item in a year you should probably discard it.
Clear off flat surfaces – Countertops, shelves and other flat surfaces seem to automatically collect clutter. Keeping a few things on a countertop is ok but it shouldn’t be a catch-all. Shelves should be used for storage but shouldn’t be jam packed full. Add small boxes or bins to you shelves for paper items or small items such as bottle openers, wine openers, meat thermometers, etc. that don’t otherwise have a designated space. If you have small appliances you really don’t use, put them in the donate box (see previous hint and next hint).
HINT: For those of you who say “that might come in handy sometime” or “I’m sure I could use that sometime” remember, “Sometime” usually doesn’t come. Go ahead and get rid of it.
Is it where it belongs? – If the answer is no, put it in either the “put away” box, the “discard” box or the “give away” box.
Storage options – Store items where you are going to use them. Decorative baskets work well for storage under sinks or vanities and on the shelves in closets. You can store a lot of items while still looking neat and organized. Storage tubs are great for things like kids’ toys, seasonal items or those things you only use occasionally. If you have one-time holiday items, the rafters in the garage make a great option for keeping the storage bins. Just remember to keep like items together and clearly label your bins so you can easily find the items you need.
Paper items – paper clutter for most consists of bills, important documents, semi-important documents, receipts and other miscellaneous items you keep meaning to get to. Begin by sorting these into 4 piles; file, to-do, trash and shred. Once sorted go through and do your filing, shredding and discarding immediately. Schedule a date to complete your to-dos and stick to it.
As you move forward, after you’ve decluttered, consider scanning important documents and receipts for a digital rather than a paper record. Keep the shredder next to your desk and as soon as you no longer need the item shred it. Older documents that must be retained, like past tax records, can go in clearly labeled bins or tubs and may be stored in the office closet, garage or unfinished basement. Review and purge once every year.
Prevent clutter from returning – After finishing your declutter process don’t allow potential clutter into your home by using the following steps. 1. Before you make a purchase ask yourself “Do I really need this?” and “Where will I keep it?”. If the answer to the first question is “no” and the answer to the second is “I don’t know”, don’t buy it. 2. If you bring it home, use the 1 in, 1 out rule which says “When you bring 1 thing home, you must throw out or get rid of something else.” 3. Set aside 15” – 20” each day to clean up your little messes and put things back where they belong. If you can’t do it daily, set aside time once each week to get it done.
Good luck! If you don’t get it all done on the first go round don’t worry. Take a month off then start the process again. You’ll be surprised how much easier it gets on the next go round.