Last week a friend asked me how she could declutter her house in the two weeks before Christmas… and I must say while I love to declutter and a perfectly clean house before Christmas… it is not as essential to my mental well-being as it used to be. That being said, after putting it off as long as I could… it turns out our kids were busy with holiday activities every single day this week. So I have had a couple of hours totally kid free each morning. Instead of two weeks I have had four mornings… and I didn’t want to spend my first free time in fifteen years decluttering… a girl should read a book uninterrupted from time to time!!!
Now most of us are busy moms and don’t have the luxury of two or three days to sort, shift and declutter our homes into perfection… it is better to have the goal of improvement, however slight… than to leap into a project, especially at this time of year, and get discouraged…
So here you go se7en + 1 steps to a decluttered home…
- Make a List:
- Stop Shopping:
- Lose All the Boxes and Packaging and any Recycling Lying Around:
- Create a Dump Zone:
- Pick Just One Small Project:
- Step 6: Now Sort the Stuff That you Have Moved:
- Deal with the Dump Zone:
- Step 8: Stop:
If you are anything like me the first step is the hardest, so I always make the first step the easiest. Go on a walking tour of your home and make a list of tasks that need doing. Spots that are disturbing you because they are so messy, areas that need some sort of corralling or containment and surfaces that are driving you crazy. Think about what you want these spots to look like. Rumour has it that visualisation is important. It helps to make a plan, if you have an idea of where you are going. Make your projects small… you cannot write down: kid’s stuff… you actually have to write: picture books; matchbox cars; board games and so on… If you find a few more projects while you are working then add them to the list. Sometimes the solution is as simple as repurposing a basket, or putting up a hook. At this stage have a well earned rest, a cup of coffee and a look at your list: Put an estimated time next to each project and then… double it or even triple that time and you will be closer to the truth!!!
As you begin the process of decluttering you can’t be bringing new things into your space – there really is nowhere to put things while you are in transition. The “one in, one out” rule just doesn’t work when you are decluttering your closet and getting rid of heaps of ancient items… finish the whole project, it won’t be forever, before you go shopping again!!! Often after a couple of days of sorting through stuff and our desire to buy stuff is somewhat tempered… just the thought of having to a place for more stuff is enough to put me off shopping forever!!!
I know we still haven’t hit the actual decluttering but I have found folk often want to buy organising system or new baskets for sorting things and very often we have what we need right in our homes… Now we have a family failing… see a box and keep the box, it could be used for a great project. Every now and then you need to lose all the boxes and start the collection fresh… So I begin all decluttering by walking the house and looking for boxes that we have left tucked on shelves, pushed under beds and so on… all in the hopes of a higher purpose… All these boxes and any other packaging head for the front door… they are about to serve their higher purpose.
You have to have a space to put the stuff you are sorting, clearing, tossing, donating and mending… We have a permanent spot at our front door that for donations and we have a mending spot… but for the time you have allotted to this concentrated project you need to have places to dump stuff and get back to the task at hand… the task of decluttering. So use your boxes for creating a dump zone with a number of different spots for different purposes. The boxes you aren’t using flatten immediately… to prevent the temptation of you or other family members from returning them to their previous idle locations.
Just do a very small areas at a time. Seriously I made this mistake earlier this year and rearranged the entire house in a day…it took about a month to recover!!! Anyway, now that you have planned where you want to be it is time to start working backwards. Begin where you want to be… take a small space, a games shelf for example, take everything off it and then place the games you want there back on it. What isn’t on the shelf has to find another place. Obvious, I know, but often we are trying to hang on to too many things. If only ten games fit on the shelf then you cannot keep twenty games there or you have to find another spot for games. Remember you have to sort an area where the other folk in your home can access things easily and more importantly put things away easily. If you have sorted your games so that only you can keep them neat and only you can fit them back on the shelf… then you have set yourself up to be in charge of the game shelf… and any other shelf that you have managed in the same way. I like to task a particular child with a particular task… one child is always in charge of the game shelf – like a game librarian, another is responsible for the cooking toys… And I mean responsible. It is each child’s task to keep their particular area in order. Sometimes you might like an area completely cleared – nothing like a cleared surface to make you feel like your house is tidy. So clear that surface completely and then figure out where to put all the stuff that was on it.
You should have a pile of cleared stuff that needs to go somewhere: Things to donate; things to mend; things to toss; and things that just need to be put away where they belong; and if it is my kid’s treasure shelves then at least 90% of it needs to go straight into the recycling. I usually sort where I am working into piles… or if is something that I don’t want little helpers to see – that FAVOURITE t-shirt that is four sizes too small for instance, then often out of sight is out of mind and I will have a small box for things that I am intending to donate. At this stage in the sort small containers are good – they are easier to fill and you feel like you are achieving something!!! Do not get distracted and go off on a mending tangent… you are decluttering!!! Do not get distracted and wander around the house putting things away – it is not the time to walk to and from the Lego box eight million times. When you have a sizeable pile of things, then take them to the dump zone. I find that as I declutter there is usually a vast pile of recycling, a small pile of donate-ables… and more than a few eclectic articles to put away. Put everything away in the new cleared out zone and put everything else in your dump zone. Do not leave a little pile of “unknowns” lurking in your cleaned out space – experience says: “You will never ever get rid of that stuff… ever!!!”
As you head toward the end of an item on your list you really need to complete the task you started before you can tick it off your list!!! Make sure all your items are in their correct boxes… donate-ables, mending and so on and for all those items that need to be put away: I sort all these eclectic items into groups: lego, animals, soft toys… whatever and do one walk around the house, or even better get a child to walk around the house and put all those little piles of goodies away where they belong. Stuff you can’t part with, box it and hide the box for a while… If you really want something then it will be part of the finished image. If you are keeping stuff for a rainy day, and it is still in your house after three winters then let it go and create space for the things you want to be doing, If it is sentimental and something you treasure then don’t jam it away at the bottom of a drawer and forget you have it… display it, photograph it. Treat your treasures like treasures or they really aren’t treasures. Meanwhile, get a fresh recycling bag out and If the donate box is full then start a fresh one and so on… get your dump zone refreshed and ready and then next time you have fifteen or twenty minutes you begin another area on your list!!!
And the Se7en + 1th Step…
The job of decluttering and organising, the very nature of living with stuff, is that the project is never ending. But if you had ten things to do on your list and you managed eight of them… Then that is 80%, in fact a distinction!!! Put the remaining things on your list for next time you do a spring clean and reward yourself for the jobs you got right!!! I set aside this week for decluttering and I can assure you that next week I will not be doing any decluttering, we have other projects to get busy with!!!
That’s it… Se7en + 1 Steps to Decluttering your home… I posted a picture on what I was facing this week on instagram and a whole lot of folk agreed that there should be a mighty reward for the decluttering we do!!! The reward may well be in getting the task done – it is so lovely to have clear surfaces again!!! Tell us what you are decluttering this week… we can’t be the only ones doing a last minute sort before the end of the year!!!