The Ultimate Guide to Decluttering
De-cluttering is good for you in all sorts of ways. Not only will it enable you to think more clearly, you will be able to appreciate and enjoy the special possessions you decide to keep. As well as making some money from selling your unwanted items you can also help the environment by recycling or support your favourite charity.
De-cluttering is such a popular idea that there is even a “De-Cluttering Week” every year. But often it is just that – an idea – and the thought of getting round to sorting out our possessions and clearing out anything that we don’t need or want any longer is often too daunting a task for us to know where to begin. We want to get more decluttering done but don’t know how to do it productively.
But why do we all have so much clutter in the first place? Well, part of the reason is that we are a nation of shoppers. Shopping, which used to be a necessity for items we needed, is now one of the nation’s favourite pastimes. And stores are so good at tempting us to buy that we often return home with things we haven’t really got room for. Add to that the instinctive human desire to hoard and very soon our houses start to fill up. Lofts and garages become extended storage space that we fill with items we often forget we even own.
What is de-cluttering?
It is simply getting rid of anything that we no longer need. Apart from seasonal clothes and seasonal items such as Christmas decorations or gardening equipment, anything that is not regularly used or on display is potential clutter. Other exceptions are photographs, CDs/DVDs and books, all of which may not be used or viewed frequently but which form a collection of memories and cultural enjoyments. De-cluttering is not about throwing out our memories but about throwing out everyday items that are no longer useful. So if we know what our clutter is, why is it so hard to de-clutter?
Decluttering made easy
Whether you are in the process of preparing for a house move or just desire more space at home, having a good decluttering session is a great way to refresh and revive your home. Out with the old and in with the new is all very rewarding, but for some people it can be tricky to know where to start.
If the piles of papers, bulging cupboards and jam packed drawers are just too much for you to think about, here are some simple steps you can start to take to work towards a less cluttered lifestyle.
- Little and often: Don’t try and tackle the whole house in one day. You’ll only burn yourself out if you do. Start with one problem area, such as a drawer, and do fifteen minutes a day until it is done.
- Recycle magazines: Magazines are expensive, which is maybe the reason you’ve got three years of Cosmo or Top Gear hoarded away in the loft. But are you really going to read them again? Send them to the recycling or give them to your local medical practice for patients to read.
- Clothes are your worst enemy: How many of us seem to have no storage space left for clothes, yet very little that we actually wear? Keeping clothes so we can ‘slim into them’ is a bad idea. No doubt they’ll be horribly dated by the time they fit anyway, if they ever do, so donate, sell or bin anything that is not your current wardrobe.
- Pass on heirlooms: The guilt that goes with ditching a family heirloom is great. Instead of wasting cupboard space storing it, why not see if someone else in the family would like it? Alternatively, gather together all those artefacts that have been passed down to you and put them into self storage until you decide what you want to do with them.
- Don’t just rearrange the clutter: It can be tempting to go out and buy some new shelves and simply find a better, more organised way of storing all the things you have. This might be effective in the short term, but in the long run you are not solving anything, so be ruthless and get rid of the things you don’t need.
- Be pedantic about paperwork: In a chaotic home, the office desk is often the place that suffers the most from clutter. Whether it’s letter your need to act upon, bills you need to file or documents you need to keep long term, what can start out as some neat piles can often disintegrate into chaos at a moment’s notice. Sort out a proper filing system for the things you need to keep, and see what papers you can scan and store digitally to free up a lot of space.
Whatever your decluttering exercise turns up, remember you don’t always need to get rid of everything. If you can’t store it at home and can’t bear to part with it, self-storage can provide the extra space you need to keep your little treasures safe. Some self storage companies even provide collection and delivery services for your stuff so you don’t have to worry about the transportation.
5 Quick Ways to Declutter your Home
Traditionally spring is the time for a thorough clean of your home and garden but it can be done anytime and why not take that chore a step further and try to get rid of all the clutter you have been accumulating for years? Almost everyone accumulates too many possessions so that storage cupboards, sheds, garages and attics are full to bursting with things we no longer have any use for. Or, at least, that’s what happens in my home.
I tried doing a mini-declutter in the past by clearing out, say, a cupboard, or the shed, but all that happened was that a year later I was back to a cluttered home. So if you really want to experience the benefits of a truly clutter-free living space you have to make a radical change. If your home is anything like mine used to be you will have to set aside at least a whole week-end to have any impact – maybe even longer.
So here are 5 simple steps to get you started on de-cluttering your home as efficiently as possible.
- Decide to do it – the hardest thing about getting started is making the decision to just do it. It is far easier to keep putting it off or finding excuses why not to de-clutter but there really are no convincing reasons why you should live in a junk-filled home, even if some of that junk is really very nice.
- Get some boxes – when de-cluttering you will need plenty of boxes to stash your junk in ready to donate to charity, take to the dump or, if you really can’t bear to part with some of it, put it in storage. Make sure you label the boxes clearly so you know which ones contain the rubbish.
- Stock up on food – another thing that distracts people from the purpose of de-cluttering is the need to eat. So stock up on simple meals that need little or no cooking and you won’t have to leave the task of decluttering to make a meal (always a popular excuse). Or order in your favourite takeaway. Not having to prepare meals can save several hours over the course of a week-end.
- Be Ruthless – the reason we find it so hard to de-clutter is because we get sentimental about our possessions or because we think an item will come in useful at some point in the future. It is hard to be ruthless when we are de-cluttering but if you don’t use something, don’t need it or don’t love it, then it needs to go.
- Rent a Self-Storage Unit – it is always easier to write about decluttering than to actually do it (and I do know that from experience) so there will always be some things that you just cannot give away or throw away. But if you want a clutter-free home then they cannot stay there either. The answer to this predicament is to rent a self-storage unit.Your precious items can then be safely stored away without taking up all that room in your home. It really is a very simple solution.
What not to do when decluttering your home
Clutter is a consequence of the modern, consumerist lifestyle that we lead. Impulse purchases, a feeling of emotion towards our belongings and a general sense of “need” can lead to hoarding on all sorts of scales, making us uncomfortable in our own homes. Getting rid of our clutter, or at the very least storing it away, can help to balance our minds and refresh our living space, as well as making our homes a lot easier to keep clean and tidy.
If you are planning to begin on a quest to rid your home of unnecessary clutter, there are a few common mistakes to avoid which can see you stumbling at the first hurdle:
- Buying boxes straight away
It can be very tempting to invest in some pretty storage boxes, vintage suitcases and other containers straight away, but until you’ve started the decluttering process, are you not just bringing more ‘stuff’ into your home? Before you decide on what storage you need, you need to go through your house and minimise the amount of ‘stuff’ you have to store, so that these storage pieces are able to do their job. If they don’t fit in the place you need them to go, if they don’t hold what you need them to hold, they will quickly become clutter in their own right!
- Doing it all in a day
There are very few people in the world with the energy, enthusiasm and focus to really spend a whole day organising their home. It’s much better to spend an hour or two on one specific project so you feel motivated to continue rather than burnt out by the process.
- Not finishing what you’ve started
A successful decluttering project will involve making piles of stuff. A pile to throw away, a pile to donate, a pile to go into storage etc. However, once you’ve made these piles, don’t then bag up the stuff and put it somewhere to take to its final destination later on. Take them right away to the charity shop, tip or to the storage unit. You’ll be rewarded with a clear space and the sense that you have really achieved something with this activity.
- Aiming for showhome status
When you’re decluttering, you need to realise that no house is really like the ones you see in catalogues and magazines. Nobody has perfectly organised cupboards or drawers with only the Bible in it. In real life, there will always be pools of untidiness in our otherwise tidy lives. What you should be aiming for is a space that works well, has plenty of storage, a clear system of managing incoming and outgoing items and one which works for you. If you are trying to achieve a look that rivals those created by a team of stylists and marketers for a magazine, then you will always be bitterly disappointed.
Whip Your House Into Shape
Clutter has a way of sneaking up on us. The decluttering process is based on five classic organizing principles. Understand these principles and you can declutter your house, your apartment, your office, or even your garage.
Probably the most difficult part of decluttering. Remove what you don’t need. This can mean throw it in the trash, give it away or sell it. You need to be brutal with this, or otherwise you will only be rearranging the clutter. The old rule of thumb is that if you haven’t used an item for two years you can safely let it go. The very brave can cut that down to one year.
Take the survivors of the removal process and group similar items together. This is the very basis of organization itself. It helps you locate everything you need for a particular task in one place. Mail items should be together, working out equipment in the same area, etc. Imagine if your cookware was all over the house, how much do you think that would slow down your cooking?
You need to have easy access to the things you use in your house. This means thinking about the workflow of the space and where you want things to be placed. If you use something often, then it will need to be in the space that you use it and be as close to at hand as possible. If something is hardly used, then it can be placed further away; on a high shelf, in the back of a cabinet or even in the garage.
This is the basic unit of organization; they contain the chaos by keeping your stuff grouped together. You cannot organize without appropriate containers; bookshelves for books, closets for clothes, drawers for underwear.
You can declutter house and home armed with these principles, though it may take a while to get your clutter completely under control without some guidance. Professional organizers have developed decluttering systems that allow you to declutter quickly. Using these professional decluttering methods can cut the time you spend organizing in half or more.
How to Get More Decluttering Done
To get more decluttering done during a certain time frame is a good goal to have. No one seems to have spare time available these days, so it’s a good thing if you are able to make the best of the time you have. If you are looking up ways to get more decluttering done, here are four ideas that will help you with decluttering and tidying up your house.
Avoid any interruptions so you are able to focus on decluttering.
Put your phone on voice-mail, turn off your TV, say “no” to distractions! You might even consider closing yourself within the room you are cleaning and placing a sign saying something like “Hard at Work: Interrupt Only With EMERGENCIES.” Make sure your children have something to keep them occupied for the whole time you plan to declutter!
Give yourself a break.
If you choose to assign a full Decluttering Day, don’t forget to plan some stress breaks for throughout the day. Remember, working to the point of total brain fatigue and muscle tension won’t ever do you any good. Plan small treats for yourself! If you would like, you could schedule the short breaks as rewards for whenever you’ve finished a particular chore.
Realize that you have your own approach!
Just as we are all different in other ways, we all have diverse organizational styles. There are countless ways to get more decluttering done, so before you get started, do some quick research and find out which ways will work best for you! Check out some of the ideas in the links below. If you want to get more decluttering done, your best chance is to find tricks that enhance your personal style, not change it. Getting organized should make you feel good, not burdened.
Stick to your plan.
The most effective plans often fall victim to their makers. While impulsiveness is great, plans are made to be followed! There is a fine line between being spontaneous and jumping from small task to small task… and plain procrastination. Once you’ve come up with a good plan for tackling a task, stay with it. Only you can prevent yourself from wavering.
The benefits of de-cluttering
It is often only when people are moving house that they are forced into sorting out everything they own. But why wait until you are moving? Clearing space in your home can help create a peaceful environment that will calm your mind after a busy day. And if your home is organised and clutter-free then that will lead to an organised, clutter-free mind that will view daily troubles in a clearer, more serene way.
Your home is after all a place of sanctuary from the world outside and having control over your private space can be the first step to having control over your life. But in order to embark on the arduous task of de-cluttering we need to feel motivated that a clutter-free home will be worth all the effort. If you cannot appreciate the advantages of de-cluttering then you will never do it. We also need to understand that de-cluttering is absolutely not about throwing away items with any sentimental value, however small, but it is about knowing the difference between clutter and things with sentimental value. Many people never embark on de-cluttering because they don’t understand this difference but there are options such as self storage units if you really can’t bear to part with some possessions but no longer have room in your home for them.
The 4 main advantages are:
- A calm, tidy living space will lead to a calm, organised life.
- The satisfaction of supporting a charity close to your heart
- Making money from selling your unwanted goods
- Recycling and doing your bit for the environment
Once you have convinced yourself of the benefits of de-cluttering and motivated yourself to embark on the task, watch out for the typical excuses we all make to ourselves for not assigning an item to the clutter pile:
- You might need it at a later date– in a cluttered home, you are unlikely to find the item at the point when you need it so just get rid of it now or put it into a self storage unit.
- It was a present from someone you are fond of – they will probably never notice it has gone so don’t hang on to it to avoid hurting their feelings.
- You hope an item will appreciate in value – if you genuinely think it might then keep it in a secure place.
- It reminds you of a particular person or place – whilst de-cluttering is not about throwing away precious memories, it is about clearing out items with little significance in your life now. Keep photos of the person or place if you wish to relive the moment.
- I will still have too much stuff even once I have cleared out the things I no longer want – You won’t know until you have done it but if you have then you will simply need to think up some clever storage ideas.