Why does a tidy home feel like such an elusive goal sometimes? And is a stress-free decluttering process even possible?
Clutter has a way of building up like an anthill, so it seems harmless at first and then one day you pass it by and it’s morphed into this giant mountain that is threatening to take over your life! Ok… that’s a little exaggerated but I’m sure you get my drift.
The Clutter is there… and it needs to go.
However, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when the to-do list is as long as the highway and every area of your home looks like it needs to be packed in a box or hidden under a giant blanket.
How you approach the decluttering process will determine whether or not you succeed in achieving a clean, beautiful space that can be easily maintained.
If you’re like me, the process may or may not go something like this:
You decide you’re better than this! You’re going to reclaim the space and beat the clutter for good.
You jump right in and start pulling things out of drawers, emptying closets … essentially attempting to clear the room with no real plan because you’re good like that. *pops collar* 😉
Thirty minutes in, you get overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task so in the midst of the piles of somebody else’s random stuff (never yours, obviously), you decide you NEED a short break. Then, after 3 hours of binge-watching a random comedy series, you’re having an existential crisis and asking “What is my life?”
Please tell me I’m not alone.
We all sometimes enter spring cleaning mode with lots of ambition and enthusiasm but no plan. Then the adrenalin turns into frustration when, half a day later, that “30-minute” chore has no end in sight. I’m so guilty of this!
When I realised that it was happening too often – me massively underestimating the time it will take to get something done – I decided to put a game plan in place.
Many organization gurus hail the importance of starting small and I support this view too. One small space after another will eventually result in a clean, organized home which can then be easily maintained with the right systems in place.
Ok… so now let’s get to those steps. I’ve broken the process into 3 phases – planning, decluttering and organizing. I left the tips fairly general so that they could apply to as many spaces in your home as possible.
I’ve also created a checklist and sorting signs which you can download and print:
1. Decide on one small area to declutter.
I’ll say this again since it’s worth repeating. Start small. You want to be able to feel a sense of accomplishment which will fuel you on to tackle other spaces. Start too big and you know the rest. So pick a spot – a drawer, a bedside table, bookcase – to begin.
2. Set aside ample time.
Once you’ve picked your spot, you can make a quick assessment of how much time it might require. As I said before, your girl is Queen B of underestimating how much time a task should take and as a result, I get frustrated, overwhelmed and lose interest. So, for example, if you selected your makeup drawer, it may be useful to allot time to also clean your makeup tools (you should, jus’ saying) as part of the process instead of just the time needed to clear the clutter and re-organize.
3. Gather supplies/tools needed to clean and/or clear space.
Ok… I know someone is probably saying“Umm…duh!” but I’m writing this for the person like me who would start a task, realise I need something in order to finish it, go on a witch hunt for said item, forget what I went for, get sidetracked doing something else and 45 minutes later I’m thinking, “Wait, what was I doing again?”.
If you’re that person, do yourself a favour and get everything needed – washcloths, mop/broom, duster, trash bags – to clean and refresh the space before you start.
4. Assess how you use the space.
Now that you’ve gathered everything and set aside the appropriate time, I usually find it’s a good idea to pause and assess how you naturally use the space.
For example, when I was re-organising my bedroom, I sat and thought about where I automatically place things on entering the room. I realised that while I had set up a space for my keys etc on my dresser, I naturally gravitated to my side table where I placed my handbag.
So I moved the drop zone for my keys etc to that area instead. Now, it’s much easier to keep tidy because it fits in with my natural flow. You feel me?
Sometimes moving a piece of furniture from one side of the room to another also makes a huge difference in your ability to keep the space clean.
5. Using the sorting signs, remove items from space and group into categories – KEEP, DONATE, RECYCLE, TRASH
The key to easy decluttering is placing everything in specific piles – KEEP, DONATE, RECYCLE, TRASH. Use sorting signs and accompanying bags and boxes for each category. I got the idea for the sorting signs from Jen at IHeart Organizing (she’s absolutely ahmazing btw and is a major inspiration to me).
Generally, depending on how much clutter there is, it’s easiest to start by throwing out the obvious trash items as they wouldn’t require any thought – empty containers, expired products, old, stained or torn clothing etc.
6. Review items in KEEP pile and pare down further or put into sub-groups as needed
After sorting items, go back to your keep pile and make sure the items there are really needed. Take some time to group similar items where necessary. Do you find you have unnecessary multiples of things? This might help you identify where you could be overspending on things you don’t need or no longer use.
Where necessary, wipe down, decant or test the functionality of items in KEEP pile.
7. Once everything is removed from the space, clean the area
You’ll be amazed at how much dust and gunk can be in a space. Give it a thorough cleaning!
8. Shop your home for appropriate storage containers to store items being kept.
I like to check out my home for storage containers that may be currently under-utilised or not ideal in their current location. While it’s tempting to go out and purchase storage containers before tackling a space, you spend unnecessary money in the long run and may not buy the ideal containers for the space.
9. Fill containers (where needed) with groups of items and add labels
Corralling similar items into bins and containers is a must if you’re trying to maintain a clutter-free space. This is particularly useful for smaller items.
10. Place items in their freshly cleaned home, step back and enjoy your newly organized space!
This is the best feeling ever! Give yourself a pat on the back for powering through. And, yes it’s ok to keep staring at your freshly pimped out space and grinning from ear to ear.