Once a year, I go through my house – decluttering it from end to end. The first time I went through the process it was pretty hard, but each year it gets a little easier. This is the 4th year in a row that I’ve taken stock of what we have, what we need and adjust the lines between the two. I find that it’s easier to do it before the holiday season, but I’ve also waited until January to tackle those decluttering resolutions. No matter when you get started, these tips can help you conquer the clutter in your home.
1) Start small. Work on smaller areas will show you progress more quickly so you will be motivated to keep going. First do a drawer, then a cabinet, then another cabinet – until the whole kitchen is in order. Just remember, every single step forward is a step away from clutter.
2) Set a timer. Some folks recommend 5 minutes or 15 minutes – but I think you can get a TON done in 30 minutes. And let’s face it, 30 minutes isn’t very long. If you only do 5 minutes a day by the time you break stuff out, then get it sorted and then put it all away, you won’t make much progress. If you do 30 minutes you can actually get an entire bathroom decluttered, or even your closet. Work fast, because we’re going to do a 3 sweep method and you’ll find that getting more done quickly is much more effective than trying be super intricate. Oh – and don’t clean as you go. Just get rid of stuff. You can clean it up another day. Sure, make it neat, but don’t start scrubbing the inside of cabinets while you’re decluttering. You’ll crash and burn very quickly if you try doing too much at one time.
3) Use the three sweep method. The first time you go through, make it a fast sweep. Do it quickly and don’t focus on tiny baskets in a huge cabinet. Look for the big stuff, things you can either trash or donate all at once. Set aside boxes/baskets of things you need to go through more slowly. For the second round, go through those baskets, etc., slowly and really decide what needs to stay and what needs to go (we’ll get there next.) Once you’ve been through Rounds 1 & 2, then you’re ready for the final sweep, which is your chance to look at things quickly one more time to see if you can let them go. Seeing things multiple times helps to wear down your guard about letting it go initially. I find that the more I question an item, the easier it is to let it go.
4) Ask yourself three questions: 1) Does it have a true purpose? 2) Does it have a home? 3) Do I actually use this item? And of course, you can always rely on the always useful William Morris quote (above) because it’s truly a great way to measure if you should keep it.
5) Be ruthless. You really can’t keep 99 odd coffee cups just because you love them all. Which ones do you love most? I keep about 8-10 coffee mugs in our house, but other than that they have to go. If I get a new one that I love, then another one will have to go at some point. Of course if you have 99 of them you probably need to curb your shopping/gathering habits… but that’s a whole ‘nother post. Be aggressive. B-E aggressive. If you want, sing that Frozen song as you, “Let it goooooo!”
6) Heirlooms are the hardest part. Your grandmother’s china, great aunt’s blankets, etc. Just remember that your loved one probably wouldn’t want you burdened with storing stuff you don’t really use. The memory of them is in events, emotions and experiences, not in the bad 70’s dishes. If you want to keep them but not use them daily, store them in an attic (or other safe place) but don’t let them take up your prime real estate. Find a way to display things that mean the most and let go of the things you keep out of obligation. (I know not everyone will agree with this – but if you want to let go, it’s ok. Give yourself permission!)
7) Go digital. It’s 2016 folks – get digital already. CDs are replaced with iTunes, DVDs with digital copies, even paper billing can almost always be translated to online versions. You can get rid of so much paper clutter this way… just take the leap!
8) Ask for help. Ask a friend, your sister, or some other unbiased person to help you go through it all. It helps so much to have someone who will talk you out of bad choices or even just take stuff away for you. I think it would be great to swap with someone – you do it for them/they do it for you. It’s the ultimate win/win.
9) Try the 40 hanger trick. I haven’t done this – but my friend Ruth did and it was so smart that I am definitely using it this year.
10) Immediately get rid of it. Whether it’s taking out the trash or putting the bags in your car and going to the donation center – do it as quickly as you can so that clutter doesn’t make it’s way back in.
Once you see how better your home looks after decluttering, you’ll find yourself wanting to do it more and more until every space is in order. It’s rather addictive! Have more questions? I’ll gladly answer them in the comments below.