Conquer Clutter!

There are plenty of articles on the net about how to eliminate clutter and I have read and watched plenty. They say a lot about the benefits of de-cluttering your home, whether it be for feng shui purposes, spring clean-up, selling your home or just for the sake of your sanity. These are all good reasons to de-clutter your home, however there doesn’t seem to be much on the “how-to” part. For years I have had a method I use to declutter and I think you’ll find it is easy, cheap and fairly quick (it doesn’t involve a flame-thrower either!).

Before you begin: We’re talking about de-cluttering here, and not re-organizing your house, cleaning out closets from top to bottom and all that (that’s a subject for another day). While those are worthy causes, it’s important that you limit your scope to surface clutter initially, especially if your home is uncomfortably cluttered for you. It’s easy for those of us who think we must have adult ADD to walk in a room to pick up something on the floor and see 15 other things in there that need doing, but I beg you, just for this, to resist that urge! If you’ve tried to de-clutter before and failed, felt exhausted and the house was worse when you were done, this is probably where you went off the tracks.

Okay so let’s begin where the rubber hits the road – with a laundry basket. If you don’t have one to spare, pick up one at the dollar store, and if possible get one that is a different color than all the others you have so you’ll always recognize it as your de-cluttering basket. Start in the messiest area. Dump everything into the basket that does not belong there. In fact, go around the room and dump everything into the basket that doesn’t belong in the room. Tah dah! 1 room done. “What?!?,” you’re saying. Trust me.

Now move to the next room. Before you dump anything else into the basket, see what you have in the basket already that belongs in the room you’re in now and put it away immediately. THEN dump everything that doesn’t belong in that room into the basket. Tah dah! Two rooms done. Go from room to room, not skipping any (including bathrooms), until everything in the basket that belongs in the room you started with is put away.

Now, if you still have things in the basket you have decisions to make. Does it belong to someone else? Not sure where it should go? Is it garbage? Anything that is garbage, toss out. Papers from school with dates and things on it: go immediately to the calendar, write on the dates and throw the papers out. Clippings from newspapers or magazines, a favorite recipe, scribbled notes and phone numbers… if you’re not scrapbooking it, chances are a scrap of paper is going to wind up lost. Either copy the information into a data spreadsheet like excel (part of Microsoft Office, almost everyone gets it with their computer), or scan it and save the image to a new folder where you can find it later. Then throw the scraps away!

Next, stuff that belongs to someone else. Get a shopping bag or tote bag if you have one handy, and designate it as the “return this” bag. Put Grandma’s baking dish in it, the copy of that novel you borrowed and anything else that needs to be returned (even library books). Hang it by the door you use the most. Every time you use the door it should be a reminder to take it with you and deliver the items. If that doesn’t work, when the bag gets full, put it in the passenger seat of your car. If you find yourself by chance running into the owners of the items, you’ll have them handy.

What about the stuff you’re not sure of? The rule at my house is, if you want to keep it, find it a home. Maybe it’s a decorative item that you haven’t placed yet, or tools you need regularly and don’t want to relegate to the basement or garage. Whatever it is, think on it, and find a spot. Thankfully this should be a small amount of stuff by the time you’ve dealt with everything else. If you need a day to figure out where to put things, that’s okay, because they are in your basket and can be either left out so you can ponder and debate with your spouse about where to put them, or you can tuck them away temporarily in the bottom of a closet if you’re having company, etc. Remember though, if you tuck them away and forget about them, the next time you de-clutter, they’ll be at the bottom of the basket still, just begging for a home. Plus, the reason you didn’t throw them away is because they had some useful purpose, right? If you need them, they won’t be at all handy in that basket in the bottom of the closet!

This last little bunch of items will definitely take the longest to process because it may mean rearranging things, hanging shelves, putting up a pegboard, painting or any number of other things. Think though, that once you have taken those steps, anything else you put in the basket in the future should be that much easier to put away. For example, if you hang a pegboard in the laundry room for a hammer and screwdriver, the next time you de-clutter and you find a pair of pliers, you’ll know just where they go! You hang a shelf to display some wooden elephants that have been floating around your house, and the next time you de-clutter you find one you had forgotten about tucked away – you’ll know just where to put it.

The first time you do this de-cluttering will be the most painful because you have the most stuff accumulated and you’ll have to learn to part with things. If you’re not used to ruthlessly throwing things away it can be tough. Do it anyway. If you repeat the process monthly, you will find it takes less and less time and you will have much less leftover at the end to try to find a place for. One more tip: If one area tends to gather a lot of stuff, like papers, bills, pencils, phone books, etc., you might be better off getting an organizer for that area so those things can be kept neatly, rather than fight the fact that it is a much-used area where people go to for things they need on a regular basis.

This method of de-cluttering WORKS! Thanks for reading and have a great day!

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