Everyone has the best intention when it comes to keeping their home gleaming and clutter-free. The problem is that over time, when you have children and animals, you tend to collect a range of things. Toy boxes filled to the brim and pets need bedding, crates, bowls and toys too.
So if you haven’t checked in the kitchen drawer for a while… you know the one that tends to collect random items. Or the chair in your bedroom hasn’t been free of pretending to be a clothes horse for a while. It might just be time to turn the music up and get stuck into giving your home into tip-top condition.
You don’t need to order a giant dumpster and throw everything out (although you can if you really want to). It is about paying attention to what you love, what you have, and the things that you use on a daily basis.
Be ready to make a few serious decisions when it comes to what you allow in your home, and what it is time to say goodbye to.
What You’ll Need
Like with every great project, you can pick up or make some items to use as you go. For this one, you will need minimum stuff (because the point is to get rid of things and clean up).
- Boxes – four, labelled Donate, Sell, Keep and Trash. You will use these boxes in every room to help you make decisions.
- Cleaning supplies – in most cases you can use white vinegar and bicarb to lift stains, soft cloths for wiping things down and some hand sanitizer for when you are elbow deep in garage clutter you haven’t seen in years.
- Timer – you can use your phone, or use an egg timer to keep you on track
- Water bottle – have a water bottle filled up and ready to go because cleaning and de-cluttering can be thirsty work
- Donation bags for your chosen charity
- Headphones and a great cleaning playlist
This is a marathon, not a sprint. So treat it like one. Keeping your home clutter-free and clean is a lifestyle change and something that doesn’t just happen overnight for most people. Think about the fact that you have likely been gathering everything in your home for years. Birthdays, Christmases and other celebrations can often bring even more goodies. And there will always be more than you think there is.
You take this project one room or cupboard at a time. Give it your full focus and then move on to the next one.
The burst technique is perfect for doing little and often. Without getting overwhelmed or stressed out. You might have heard of the Pomodoro Technique, and this is the same style. You do 15-minute bursts of tidying, then a 5-minute break. During the break, you should grab some water and take stock of how much you have achieved. Before you set your timer, make sure that you have decided which room you will be tackling and which task. So you can get stuck into it.
Those focused periods will go by really quickly, and you might be surprised just how much you can get done.
Ideally, nothing like this will ever happen to you, but it can help you put things into a better perspective. Imagine that you lost all of your material items (nothing sentimental, just other ‘stuff’) in a fire. What are the things that you would replace asap? If you find that you know immediately what you would want to replace and a few things you wouldn’t even think about – then you have a starting point.
The things that didn’t make it into the ‘if I had to start over’ list should be considered items that could head straight for donation or the trash.
If you know that you’d want to get the same table and chairs, but you didn’t think about the bread maker in the kitchen (and you know you don’t use it) – you can start making a list.
This is a great technique as it is a bit of a visual aid too. Set out a range of boxes in each room, and assign each box a different purpose.
Keep – Things of sentimental value, or things that you have to have will go in this box
Sell – items in good condition that might have some value to others. Try eBay, Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace to sell your items. Kitchen appliances, old TVs, books, baby goods, and shoes or clothing that is in good order.
Bin – anything that is broken, things that have no value and general junk.
Donate – You can do a lot of good when you donate your items. Pick a few charities in the area and arrange to drop off, or have items picked up. So that someone else can benefit from what you no longer need.
Make sure you label your boxes and try to fill at least two of the ‘getting rid of’ boxes.
“To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose. And if you no longer need them, then that is neither wasteful nor shameful. Can you truthfully say that you treasure something buried so deeply in a cupboard or drawer that you have forgotten its existence?” Marie Kondo
We don’t tend to really store things we don’t need in the bathroom. But this is a good opportunity to think about how old your towels and flannels are. If you have some that have seen better days, or that don’t often get used, find a textiles donation point for them. Give the bath, shower cubicle and the toilet a scrub down.
You don’t have to use harsh chemicals, you can make a cleaning paste from bicarb and white vinegar. A great tip is that if your shower head has a build-up, fill a sandwich bag with white vinegar, and pop the shower head in there. It will come out gleaming.
Usage and Meaning
There are a few things that you will get attached to. For example, we inherited our grandma’s chair, or we purchased a desk with our first paycheck. This extends to items of clothing too. Do you need the shoes you met your partner in? Or could the memory be enough?
When making big changes, and decluttering and cleaning, you have to separate feeling from the items. Here are a couple of questions should ask yourself:
- What makes it special?
- Is it irreplaceable?
- Do you use it?
- Does it make you happy? (this is a really important point if you follow the KonMari method).
When it comes to usage, it is things like the raclette that you purchased with intentions of having people over for dinner every week, but used once. If you aren’t using it, it is taking up space, and you could donate or sell it.
If on the other hand you are going through your possessions and find a box of photos of your family – they cannot be replaced, and use doesn’t come into it.
Try not to get too caught up in how something makes you feel, instead consider the usage.
Finally, when all of the items you no longer need or use have made their way to their new homes (or the bin), it is time to organise your space. People naturally want to fill space with ‘stuff’, that’s the little magpie in us, feathering our nests for comfort. You are going to have to resist the urge, though. For example, picking up storage for the things you are keeping only works if you are also going to use them, and they have a strict purpose.
Put a simple rule in place that you don’t buy anything straight away. Take your time to think about it, and wait for 30 days. This gives you time to consider if you really need the purchase or you just want it. Impulse buying plays a big part in cluttering up our homes.
Avoiding clutter comes down to changing some of our habits. We tend to buy more than we need of something because we can’t find the first one that we purchased. Or, we buy new mugs because they suit the new plates – but we don’t consider if the mugs we have can be used for longer, or if we can get rid of them.
If you have family, then it is time to call in the troops and get them to practice the same thing in their bedrooms. Or they can help you make decisions on the rest of the house.
And finally, after you have covered a few rooms or cupboards, you can tackle your own wardrobe and downsize it into a capsule wardrobe. Keeping only what you love and what fits – this will speed up your mornings, and you might be surprised about just how much clothing you have with tags on, or that you have never even worn!