A Quick Guide Decluttering Room-by-room. The spaces in which we live reflect our personalities, personal style and unique tastes. In turn, our spaces affect how we feel about ourselves and the world around us. If you are finding your spaces becoming smaller and more claustrophobic and full of ‘stuff’, it may be time to start to tackling the problem with a room by room plan.
Saying you want to reduce the clutter in your home is one thing, but doing it is another matter altogether. We all have that small voice in our head that says, “You know, I might need that later on…” Then we listen to it, store the items and never look at them again.
On the flip side, a lot of things that we own, we choose keep because of an emotional story or an emotional attachment, however, often we no longer really have a use for it. However, letting go of ‘stuff’ does not mean letting go of memories, quite the opposite, it allows us to make space for new experiences and new memories.
When you look around your living spaces and feel drained by the clutter it’s definitely time for a clear-out and time to change habits! But just where do you begin?
Decluttering by Space or Room
Look at your home and note your common areas and gathering places. Are these cluttered? A quick test is to determine if you would be embarrassed by the state of your home if friends and family were to drop by unannounced. Would you be able to accommodate them or might you just chat with them at the door and not let them in? In the end, living with clutter around you drains your energy and distracts you from the more important things in your life.
Start with one room at a time. Give yourself a day to complete each room. Don’t allow for distractions or excuses to stop – place a radio or wear your iPod while you work for some motivation.
But, first things first: Get 3 bins or boxes and label them ‘Throw Out’, ‘Donate’ and ‘Keep’. Use them to prioritize and categorize everything from each room as you progress. Make sure you have enough heavy-duty garbage bags on hand to deal with your garbage.
If you are a woman, you probably have 3 sets of clothes based on your size. Within these groups, you very likely have dresses or outfits you have not worn in years, with the faint hope they will come back in style; or that you may change dress sizes.
As you go through you clothes, make sure that you only keep the ones that you can fit in to right now; and love when you wear them.
Once you have done that, do another review of the ‘Keep’ bin, place and hang back the clothes that have passed the ‘fits and love’ test.
A great trick to prove to yourself what you are wearing and more importantly, what you are not, is to hang all your clothes hangers backwards, then as you wear an item or outfit, turn the hanger around to face the opposite direction. After one year, you will know what you have been wearing and now know what to get rid of!
This is true for shoes as well. Point all your shoes toward the back of the closet and as you wear them and return them to their spots, turn them around. Again, after one year you will know what you like to wear.
Hanging cloth shelves can also allow you to organize sweaters or shoes and utilize the hanging space in your closet, rather than cluttering up the floor space.
Kitchen counters and even the dining room table can become crammed with small appliances, cutting boards, dishes, dust collecting decorations or homework. We all love the Zen-like simplicity of the kitchens we see in magazines and wonder how we can achieve that degree of order.
It starts with only keeping what you need on the counter. If you only use your waffle maker once every 2 weeks, tuck it away in a drawer or on a shelf. When designing your kitchen, make sure you have ample spaces to store your small, infrequently used items. As well, if something breaks or needs repair, remove it from the space and either throw it out or get it fixed.
If you have a family of 4, only keep a set of 6 place settings in your dish cupboard. You can keep extra settings in the china cabinet or in a pantry. This is also true for utensils and pot spoons. Do you really need 5 big pot spoons in a drawer or in a container on the counter?
The fridge is often a mini-gallery. Attaching too many notices, pictures or magnets will create a chaotic look in your kitchen. Installing a bulletin board or white board on a wall may be more effective and tidier. Childrens artwork can be placed into magnetic frames or into wood frames and hung in the den or play room.
3. Living Spaces
Your living room or den is often the default gathering space for the family. It is where you watch TV, work on your laptop, play games or the kids play with toys. Needless to say, these will likely be among the most cluttered spaces in your home. When decluttering this space, again look at what is not being used or played with.
By using shelves, wicker baskets, under-the-couch rolling boxes and creative coffee table or side table storage designs, they will allow you to keep those items tucked away until they are actually needed. Get a nice wicker box for your remotes so they are contained into one space (and not lost under the couch cushions!).
To reduce cables and device chargers cluttering up the coffee tables and wall sockets, there are many clever ways to control the cables and centralize them. These can sit on the coffee table or behind the couch, for easy (and safe) access.
When decluttering this space, follow the ‘3 Bin Rule’. Books, toys and games tend to get shoved to the side or stuffed in a cupboard and forgotten. Dig everything out and deal with it once and for all.
Your bedroom is your sanctuary – your private space where you can rejuvenate and refresh for your busy day ahead. You want it to be a pleasant, clean space that you enjoy being in and that reflects your personal style.
All too often, it also becomes a catch-all for laundry, yesterday’s outfit tossed on a chair, or blankets and comforters not being used during the summer months.
Simple things can make all the difference. Lighter window coverings to brighten your space, a blanket box for extra pillows and comforters, shelving and side tables with drawers for personal items and books – and the use of wicker boxes to contain loose items. Making your bed daily will also ensure your bedroom space looks tidy and uncluttered.
If you have limited closet space (like many older homes), get a wardrobe to contain your extra clothes, housecoat or bulkier items that tend to get left out in the open.
5. Garages and Basements
All too often, the garage and the basement are where all unloved or unnecessary belongings go to die. Get rid of them! Make it a family policy to never to toss things into either of these spaces unless they have passed the ‘3 Bin Test’.
Luckily there are many options for storage in garages and basements where you can organize, label and easily retrieve when needed. Heavy duty shelving which can be bolted to the walls, with plastic bins and space for larger items will keep your floor spaces clear and more importantly, safe from fire or injury hazards.
The best approach is to completely clear out the space and deal with each item one, by one. This may be a family effort as there is likely a lot of stuff to go through. You may even want to add a box called ‘Yard Sale’.
By keeping the spaces clear, they can be used for their original designs; as a family space, or in the case of the garage, for the car. If someone in the family has a hobby that requires a working space, a storage unit off-site can be procured for such purposes, keeping the home space livable.
Tips on how to keep your home clutter free once you have successfully decluttered.
- Give yourself 5 minutes a day to remove items from open areas or from where they may have been stashed in a cupboard or drawer. Stick to it!
- Once a week, donate or give away 7 items to a charity or a friend in need. This is not as dramatic as unloading many things all at once.
- Arrange a big yard sale with your neighbors – this will force you to adhere to a firm date to get unused, undesired items out of your house – and make a little money to boot!
- Look at your home each week and ask yourself ‘If someone dropped by unexpectedly, would I be comfortable letting them in my house?’ Or, imagine your boss coming to visit.
- Keep those bins you used to declutter in the first place and add items to them rather than storing stuff – at the end of the week, get rid of them.
- As a family, you have a ‘clutter-free’ strategy. Surfaces are to be kept clear at all times. No toys or games left on the floor. Everything must have a place. Alternately, you can have a penalty jar where offenders have to donate $1 each time they don’t put their games and the like away!
- Take a picture of your newly decluttered spaces and look at it now and then to make sure you are not slipping back into your cluttering ways!
So now you are ready to simplify your life, declutter your living spaces and keep them liveable, enjoyable and presentable at all times. Through the use of proper storage containers, the occasional ‘purge’ of unused items and being proactive in your removal of surplus ‘stuff’, you are well on your way to a clutter-free life. By sticking to your family decluttering plans, everyone will be part of maintaining an organized, beautiful, clutter-free home.
Want to donate?
Edited by Li-ling Ooi