It’s amazing how easily our rooms, our houses and garages become cluttered.
It sometimes seems that my house is filled to capacity.
It’s harder to clean and harder to organize when there are so many things lying around and not in their rightful place.
A Place for Everything and Everything in its Place
I’m sure your grandma used that phrase, as did mine.
Granny didn’t have a clutter problem, come to think of it, neither did my mum.
But somehow I managed to get the clutter disease.
I’ve accumulated so much stuff over the years and I’ve had to learn some tactics to deal with the habit of accumulating things. I’ve made places for everything in order to put everything in its place. But sometimes all those places get filled up. That’s when I crack!
I have been a binge declutterer for as long as I can remember. And it works really well for me. But in between binge decluttering, you need to keep on top of the clutter and organizing.
If the idea of binge decluttering frightens you, let’s break down some simpler ways to tackle the clutter situation on a daily basis.
1. Find everything that’s not in its place
Set aside 15 minutes for this challenge. Only 15 minutes.
Set your kitchen timer to remind you when 15 minutes is up.
Put 2 boxes in each room (or set up two special corners or plastic bags or shoe boxes or garbage bags – I don’t know how cluttered each room in your house is! I use pretty wicker baskets that sit permanently on the shelf and look innocuous, hiding all my mess till I find my next block of 15 minutes time to deal with it!).
One box you’ll fill with anything that DOES NOT BELONG in that room. For example, if you come across a face washer while cleaning the living room, toss it in the box rather than strolling to the bathroom or laundry or linen press and ending up sidetracked.
The second box in each room is for putting in all the things that are lying around and DO BELONG in that room but don’t really have a home in that room that you can identify easily. You’ll deal with finding homes for these things later on.
Avoid Overwhelm – Take a Break
After 15 minutes, you can take a break, go for a walk, have a cup of tea, watch some TV, phone a friend – it’s a short break to reward yourself. Now if you think your reward is to continue decluttering, that’s ok, just set the timer for 15 minutes again and take a break at the end of that. This tip comes from Flylady.net – It truly helps you to avoid overwhelm, which is probably half the reason you’re in a clutter-filled space in the first place!
Once you’ve had your little break, if time allows, get stuck straight back into it, whether it be the same room or the next. If you don’t have the time now, that’s ok. As long as you have two boxes in each room, you’ve got somewhere to start organizing the clutter every time you are in that room.
Make this habit something to do every time you enter or pass through a room – take a look around and locate items that don’t belong in that room or are sitting out of their place. Put items into these boxes that don’t belong where they are. Next time you set yourself the 15 minute timer challenge, you’ll have a head start.
2. Distribute the things that don’t belong in each room
When you have cleaned all the things from one room that don’t belong, it’s time to distribute the contents of the “don’t belong” box and move from room to room, putting them into the “do belong” box in each of the other rooms. You’ll be surprised just how many things migrate from room to room over the course of a day, let alone a week or a month or more.
3. Find homes for the things in your Do Belong box
So having dealt with all the things that don’t belong in each room, you’ve now got an empty DON’T BELONG box in each room and one box full of things that do belong in that room. Go through the box and find homes for all the things that are immediately identifiable and that you can find homes for quickly. Don’t worry if you can’t find a home for everything, remember we said we’ll deal with that later.
4. What about the things you can’t find homes for?
How full is your “do belong” box now? If you can’t find a home for something from this box within 15 minutes, maybe you don’t really need it anymore. Bin it or give it to the Salvo’s (Goodwill).
Get yourself another box (we’re going through boxes, aren’t we? I find buying them in bulk from my local storage warehouse is the easiest and cheapest way to get them). I always have a stash of great big RWB (Red White and Blue) woven bags that I keep in the house to collect stuff to give away. It fills up every month with “stuff” that has no home, clothes that we no longer wear, toys we’ve grown out of, things that we don’t love anymore.
Some people can get overwhelmed by the emotions that come up during the process of purging their belongings. I can’t speak to that, as I have no experience with being unable to purge my belongings. Perhaps 20 years ago, when I first started accumulating, I may have had an inability to purge, but I’ve worked out how to do it now! But I do understand it can be terribly hard for some people to get rid of their clutter. If you’re in this position, I recommend you take a look at the process of purging. It’s free on Kindle.
5. Maybe cut it down to 5 minutes
If the idea of 15 minutes of this is too much for you, Zen Habits recommends 18 different 5-minute decluttering tips. Pick a 5 minute declutter tip and try one today that sounds appealing. Just be sure to commit the 5 minutes to completing it.
6. Make your wardrobe de-cluttering decisions easier
If your wardrobe is stuffed full and you don’t know what’s lurking in the corners, try the Oprah Winfrey Closet Hanger Experiment. Hang all your clothes with the hangers in the reverse direction. After you wear an item, return it to the closet with the hanger facing the correct direction. After six months, you’ll have a clear picture of which clothes you can easily discard.
7. Think differently about your clutter and your space
I love this idea from Unclutter. Change your perspective. They suggest a number of different crazy strategies which can help you change the way you look at your house.
8. Use implementation intentions
This is a great implementation intention – Whenever you’re boiling the kettle for tea, tidy up the kitchen. If the kitchen is tidy, tidy up the next room – it’s only 3 minutes but it keeps you on top of everything. If you’re wiping up the sink, wipe something else too.
One last decluttering and organizing idea.
My final tip (I know, that’s Nine) is the one that has saved me from overwhelm and really helped me to stay on top of decluttering and organizing. It’s called Just 5 things.
JUST 5 THINGS
It’s the simplest way to clean and declutter without realizing you’re cleaning. When you enter or leave a room, do just 5 things. Pick up 5 things that don’t belong and take them to the room where they do belong and pop them in the do belong box. Oops, you’ve just entered another room – you’ll have to find five things to distribute! See, now you’re trapped in a never ending loop of entering and exiting rooms until you run out of 5 things to do. If you never run out of 5 things to do, then it’s OK, you have my permission to give yourself permission to stop!
I hope you’ve found these 8 simple ideas helpful to declutter and organize your life.
What’s your number one tip to stay on top of the clutter and get organized?
Share with us in the comments.
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