Saturday, 17 November 2012

How To Declutter

File:Clutter in basement.jpg

Source for this image here.

No, I'm glad to say that the picture up there is not of our home!  But it could be, if I didn't stay on top of the clutter that seems to accumluate so easily!

Dealing with clutter is one of the chores we all do which wastes such a lot of our precious time.   Having a cluttered home doesn't only make you feel bad, it steals your time.  Looking for things you have mislaid, trying to tidy up and categorise your belongings, making decisions about where to put things.   Clutter can definitely drag you down, but it doesn't have to!

Living in a cluttered environment is bad for your health - both spiritually and emotionally, and, if your home is really cluttered, it can also be physically dangerous for you.  Big stacks of items can be unsteady and fall on top of you, and they are also a fire hazard, especially if you keep clutter in your kitchen.  We're always shocked by the scenes we see on the TV show "Hoarders" - but also sympathetic.  Dealing with clutter that bad can be almost overwhelmingly difficult.  But even if your home is not at the level of a hoarder's just yet, it can still be beneficial to get on top of your clutter.  Here are a few hints to help you along the way, that I have found to be useful.

  • First of all, identify the areas where your clutter is accumluating.  Is it in your kitchen cupboards?  Do you have stacks of mail, newspapers and other paperwork lying around?  Do your children leave their toys and possessions scattered about instead of putting them away?  Or is your bedroom a no-go area, with clothes, shoes and toiletries piled everywhere?  If you can see where your greatest clutter problem is, then that is the area to focus on first.  Once you can get on top of that, the rest of your home will be easier to deal with.
  • Set aside time for decluttering.  It is easy to start tidying up without really having a plan in mind, and if you do this it can quickly become disheartening, when you realise that the job is a lot larger than you had expected, or you keep being interrupted by family or other distractions.  You need to allow some focussed time for decluttering, time to get the job finished, which will motivate you to keep going and start setting some more targets once you are done.
  • Prepare yourself before starting.  Identify what you plan to do with the items you are sorting out.  Do they need to be tidied away?  If so are there places for them to go to?  Do you need to purchase storage containers, shelves, boxes etc to put the items in?  If you aren't planning to keep everything you declutter you will also need to have boxes or bags to put the items you're getting rid of into.  Things for the dustbin can go into black bags.  Items to go to thrift stores need to be clean and tidy, and put into boxes or bags to be taken there.  You may be planning on a car boot or yard sale - if so, you will need more boxes for those items.  If necessary label the boxes so you don't get into a muddle as you begin sorting.
  • Be realistic.  If you have a mountain of clutter in every room, you will never get it all done in a day.  Instead, do as Emilie Barnes suggests, and set a timer.  I would go for 15 or 30 minutes, perhaps an hour, but never more than this - certainly not without a break anyway.  If you aren't use to decluttering you may be surprised at the emotional energy required - something I find very exhilarating, but which some people might find very exhausting.  So if necessary break your sessions up into short chunks of 15 minutes or so - only one session a day if necessary. 
  • Another option is to have a set number of items that you are going to get rid of.  I often do this just to stay on top of all the clutter in our home.  It may be just 5 or 10 items, but I can easily find that many things to ditch.  Do you have lots of half used bottles of toiletries in your bathroom cabinet?  Why not get rid of 5 of them?  The same with jars and cans in your kitchen.  Or you could go through your magazines, or books - the options are endless.  Sometimes I will just junk things that I've been looking at and thinking "we really don't need that" for a long time - then I get decisive, and actually bin it!  It's fun and the rewards are instant!
  • Decision making time!  As you begin to work through your clutter, think quickly.  Don't ponder too long on each item before deciding what to do with it.  If you do you'll probably fetch up wanting to keep it.  Instead, make a snap decision and stick to it.  If you really aren't sure, have a box to put items like that in, and put this away somewhere that isn't easy to get to.  If after six months or a year you have not needed that item, you can be sure it won't be missed if you discard it or give it away.
  • It is hard to make decisions about items that you've had for a long time.  Things that belong to your children can be hard to part with, as can other items of sentimental value.  These may be meaningless to anyone but you.  Remember that it is OK to keep whatever you want, as long as your reason for keeping it is better than the reasons for throwing it out.  If you are keeping so much stuff that you don't have room to use all the space in your home, or it is making your home look untidy or difficult to clean, then you probably do need to get rid of some things, no matter how hard it is.  My general rule is that if it isn't beautiful or useful, it goes.  If it is something one of my children have made me, or that reminds me of a special time with my family, I try to only keep one item that is like that.  If you have several children, it would be impossible to keep every special thing they ever made or gave you.  So have a set number - maybe 5 or 10 items per child.  That way you can keep it under control.
  • If you have a hard time parting with things because you think you may need them later, tell yourself that if you do get rid of it only to find you have regretted it, you can always buy it again.  I have done this - but far fewer times than I ever thought I would!
  • Also remember that even if you do regret what you get rid of, it really isn't that bad. OK it may feel sad momentarily, but in truth, you won't miss the things half as much as you think you will.  I've forgotten all the items I've decluttered over the years.  It's surprising what I find myself able to discard - things I never thought I'd ever be able to lose.  You do have to find yourself at a point emotionally where you are ready to do this - but if you keep on decluttering, and seeing how good it is when your home is clean and uncluttered, the positive results will outweigh the painful decision making, and you'll be motivated to keep on decluttering and getting your home in order.
  • It is also OK to get rid of things that people have given you.  If hanging on to those items is causing you to have to live in an environment that isn't blessing you and your family, then it is better for you to part with them.  Tell yourself that it is far better for those items to be bringing happiness to someone else who really needs or wants them, than for it to be stuffed in a cupboard somewhere in your home, burdening your heart every time you see it.
  • However don't declutter things that belong to other people unless you have their permission first.  With small children it may be better to just get on with it and hope they don't notice, but with older ones it really pays to involve them.  If they are resistant, tell them that unless they make space by getting rid of the things they have outgrown and don't need any more, they won't be able to have any more new toys or clothes!  Give them an option to keep a certain number of items that you are going through, so they feel they have some control over the situation, but don't let them get too involved or they will slow you down.  
  • Definitely don't declutter your husand's possessions!  Let him decide what he wants to keep or give away.  If he is happy for you to declutter his things after you've discussed it, that's fine, but it is definitely not a good idea to do this without checking first.
  • Always categorise the items you are keeping or reorganising, so that it is easier to keep them tidy.  This is at the heart of keeping on top of clutter.  If you have papers in every single room, or shoes and clothes littered all around your home, it is much harder to stay on top of things.  Try to keep all your magazines and newspapers in one place, for example, and all the coats and shoes in another.  Items of a like purpose should all be kept together.
  • Don't hoard items that have a shelf life like food or cleaning products.  It's only a bargain to bulk buy things like this if you know you will actually use them.  Far better to keep a reasonably low stock, and replenish when you are getting halfway through the last bottle or jar.  Nowadays most of us live close enough to a supermarket or store so that even if we do run out of something, it isn't a total disaster. 
  • Decluttering is fun!  Even if you are dreading it, tell yourself that the best thing about decluttering is that having got rid of all the junk and unwanted stuff you don't need, you now have space to put the things you really do want to have around you - and that may even mean getting to buy some new ones!  It is all about making your home into a pleasant, calm and inviting environment, and what works for you may not work for the next person - some people prefer lots of "things" around them, others like to have a more minimalist look.  I think as a family we probably fall between the 2 extremes, but I do like a nice tidy home - and so does my family!  It is always worth setting aside some time to declutter and the rewards are definitely worth it when I look around and see how tranquil and clean everywhere looks.  Why not try doing 15 or 10 minutes of decluttering now?

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