It's time to declutter. Although really I should wait until Monday. Oh wait, it was a busy day, I'm too tired to declutter, it will just have to wait until the weekend. Well, it's now the weekend, and I'm busy... maybe another time.
Does this sound like you? It certainly sounds like me.
I'm a magpie, I love to collect things - and then suddenly, out of nowhere, I have cupboards bursting with items I really don't need. It's time to face the music and get started. The clutter is certainly not going to clear itself - it's time to declutter, and this time it will be for good.
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Why you need to declutter with a plan
Making a list, checking it twice.
It's not a good idea to suddenly launch into a ferocious whirlwind of sorting. You'll end up with a messy floor that's covered in piles of stuff, and soon you won't be able to find a way out. Instead of getting in a tizzy, take some time to write out a solid declutter plan.
1. Work out which parts of your home need a declutter
It's not just your living room, kitchen, bathroom or bedroom that might need a declutter. Think of all those secret messy places that need investigating.
- Junk drawer
- Linen cupboard
- Medicine cupboard
- Toy box
Once you've established the problematic areas in the home, you can begin.
2. How to work out a decluttering goal
Whether your bedroom wardrobe is so cluttered, that you can't see one item of clothing from the next, or your spare room has turned into a dumping ground for all kinds of things from mini trampolines to old make-up... you've had enough. It's time to work out what you want to achieve with a declutter.
Perhaps your goal is one of the following:
- I want to let go of 15 items of clothing so that there is more space in my wardrobe.
- I want to declutter my garage and let go of 5 boxes of junk.
- I want to have two clean kitchen surface areas, so I can prepare food on them.
Identifying a real, specific, measurable goal will help you reach your target. Decide what your goal is and you can go on to write your plan accordingly.
3. Why you should write a declutter list
Now that you've ascertained a goal, it's time to write out your targets. If you want to have decluttered kitchen, then it's time to list all your tasks.
These could include sorting out:
- Utensil drawer
- Checking the herb & spice rack (you might be shocked!)
- Downsizing linens
- Decluttering plates/bowls
- Clearing out unnecessary appliances
The list will be satisfying to tick off, and you can make sure that you've completed everything.
4. Pick the day
It's time to decide on when the big decluttering day will take place. Make sure you've completely cleared out your schedule, so you have no reason to leave in the middle of the project.
Sadly, this means declining social invitations and more importantly - no visitors allowed in the home. Write the date in the calendar and alert all the members of the household, to either stay and help, or clear out!
Declutter Day has arrived!
Make a start by getting organised. If you have an entire room to sort out, then it's time to make a clear space on a floor (or in another room), and start dividing your belongings.
1. Label your clutter piles
Take 4 sheets of paper and in nice big handwriting, label them:
- Throw / Recycle
You're ready to begin your declutter mission! Focus. This is what you have been wanting to do for a while and your goal will be achieved.
2. Brief the troops
Are you and your family decluttering together? If so, make sure everyone knows about your targets and goals.
If you need to, enlist the help of a friend to help you go through your items. An outsider won't have the same emotional connection to your clutter, but will still know when something should be kept.
3. Go through every item
Now the fun part. It's time to go through the area you want to declutter. If you have friends and family helping, make sure they're aware of your goals.
Throw / Recycle old magazines, leaflets, unopened mail. It can all build up. The good thing about it is most of it is recyclable. Get rid of expired food, items that are on the verge of falling apart. Be ruthless.
Donate all those items that still serve a purpose, but you never touch. If you don't want it, someone else might. Give your old belongings to a charity shop or Freecycle. You will be helping people.
Sell items that are too good to give away. Why not sell it on eBay, at a car boot sale, or why not take a look at Facebook selling groups in your area? There are so many different ways to sell items online these days, you won't find it hard. People will come and pick up an item if it's good enough, so you won't even have to leave the house.
Undecided items are those things that you may truly not know what to do with. Don't fret - I won't force you to get rid of them! I'll let you into a little decluttering secret for these special items...
..fill up a one-year box
Here's what you must do with all that pesky clutter that you don't know what to do with. Find a big box (and a home for that box, whether it's out in a garage or in a tricky-to-reach place) and fill it up with all the offending items.
Seal it and grab a marker pen and write a date of one year in the future. When that date comes around, donate the box WITHOUT opening it. You probably won't even remember what was in the box!
4. Think about your clutter
Do I need these items? No... I think not.
While time-consuming, giving real thought to each item will help you in the long run.
Ask yourself the following questions repeatedly, 'When did I last use this?', 'Will I use this again?' 'Is this item useful?' - it will help you to decide and commit to your decision.
5. Repeat these mantras in your head
- I will not keep something out of guilt or obligation.
- I am not afraid to let go.
These mantras will help you to realise that getting rid of an item does not mean that you are a bad partner, family member, or friend. You do not need to hold onto something out of fear, or expectation.
6. Don't take on too much to handle
Don't try and complete a whole house declutter in one day. You won't be able to stay focused and will get frustrated. Instead, spend a few hours on one space.
7. Complete your decluttering tasks!
Now you've sorted everything into piles, don't just leave it by the door, or in the garage. Take that bag to charity, sell those items on eBay, recycle those old magazines. You've done too much work to get rid of the clutter, so make sure it all leaves the house, in one way or another.
How to organise after a declutter
Time to face the wardrobe.
Now that you've decluttered and got rid of everything you no longer need or want, it's time to get organised.
1. Work out your 'Day-to-day' vs 'Hardly ever' items
It's your chance to sort through all those useful and loved items that you have left after you have decluttered. Start by working out the things you use on a daily basis and those that you rarely use. Once you've established the difference, you can organise your space accordingly.
It's important to place the items you use regularly in easy-to-reach places - at the front of drawers or in cupboards you can get without bending down. The items that you hardly ever use can be stored up high, down low or at the back.
This can also be applied to clothes collection with a little thought. Anushka's Capsule Wardrobe Guide will help you streamline your clothes, giving you the following benefits (among others)...
- Freedom to spend time on other aspects of your life
- Make fewer decisions every day
- Waste less time on deciding what to wear
The same goes for organising all your other items. If the day-to-day items are all in easy-to-reach places, you can clear your mind for other thoughts.
2. Clever storage
There are so many clever storage ideas, it's just a matter of finding the right ideas for you. Take a well-deserved trip to Ikea and get some inspiration, there are loads of different solutions for all the rooms in your house.
3. Make it pretty
It's all well and good getting rid of clutter, in say - a bathroom cupboard, but once you've emptied it and it looks all sad and dreary, you're not going to want to keep it tidy. If you can, give the shelves and the inside of the cupboard a lick of paint. Fresh and bright white paint will make you want to keep the area clean and clutter-free.
4. Consider buying multipurpose furniture
If you've got a tiny room then you've got to be wise about storage. Investing in a dual-use furniture will mean that you can store items without taking up surface space.
5. Beautiful baskets
Once you've got rid of the clutter it's time to buy all those baskets, boxes and containers to help store your items in. Now you've cleared the space you can assess the containers you ACTUALLY need, rather than assuming and buying products that won't fit the space. Here are a few ways to store your pan lids that might interest kitchen declutterers.
7 clever ways to stop the clutter from returning
1. Decide to buy less
If you find yourself in a shop where you might be tempted to buy, don't buy anything. Instead, make a note about the item you are interested in, and visit the list again at the end of the month. You'll be surprised how many items you actually don't need.
2. Be realistic about what you really need
Do you really need to get another duvet set? Do you need another baking tray? Your home does not need to stockpile items, you do not need twenty mugs!
3. Paper rules
Recycle, file or frame. These are the three rules for the paper that comes into your house.
- If it's recyclable, chuck it in the bin as soon as you no longer need it
- File if it's important such as bills or bank statements
- Frame if it's a wonderful piece of art that your child has made!
4. Get a clutter basket
This is a great idea if you've got children - or messy adults! Keep a basket in a central location downstairs, and every evening, use them to throw in all the toys, magazines and bits and bobs in. If you've got children, work putting their belongings away into their chore rota. I love this beautiful large storage basket in grey chevron from Amazon - it's a wonderful size.
5. Make sure everyone is on board
It's all very well and good that you have pledged to live clutter-free, but you must make sure everyone in your home is aware. Together, you'll be able to stay on top of it.
6. One in, one out
If you have caved and purchased an item on a whim, have a rummage around and find an item you can get rid of. This will help you stay strict on yourself when it comes to decluttering, and adopt a one-in, one-out policy.
7. Write a wish list
Sometimes you fall in love at first sight and JUST REALLY WANT THAT THING. Whether it's a brand new coat or a new kitchen appliance, you can't help but gaze at it adoringly and every fibre in your being wants you to buy it then and there.
STOP. Calm down. Grab your phone, or notebook and list under a heading 'Pay Day Wish List'.
This way (if you get paid once a month), you can look at it later and decide whether you had rose-coloured spectacles on at the time, or if you really need it in your life.
Congratulations, you've done it! Now you've decluttered... great! Take your time and bask in the glory that is your clutter-free existence.
love this,think I knew some of it,just got lost in clutter in my head,life got in the way,but could be heading back in right direction now,fingers crossed ! thank you.
So glad to hear you liked the post Lin. Good luck on your declutter!
Good advice but I now use the One in - Two out rule as a way to slowly but surely reduce my clutter but with less pain.
Hi Lesley. I think I'd struggle with this but I admire your commitment. For me, it's a one in, one out rule.
I vsme to do this yesterday, it isnt actually clutter , i have alot of my mumd clothes eho sadly passed awsy a year ago although still seems like yesterday, i have kept her last couple of items of clothing ehat she last wore when stayed with me christmas as of every year, the thing is i know these clothes need to go but when i tried yesterday the coulors i had visions of her sat there in her cardigans so they ended up back were they was, HELP : ) x
Hi Maria! I'm so sorry to hear of your loss. I can understand why you don't want to part with these items and I think that you should hold onto them for as long as you feel necessary. The loss is still fairly recent, so you can't expect to process it too quickly. If you really want to declutter, you could pick one or two of the most sentimental items of clothing to hold onto. You could even consider making them into a practical item like a cushion. That way they are a constant reminder of the good memories.
Ok, ok I am sooo guilty of hoarding things but this week I decided on getting rid of books...to date, I have ten full boxes of them plus other stuff that I decided I no longer needed. I'm feeling proud of myself, ;)) I phoned a local animal charity who said they would take them but when i explained that I could barely lift some of the boxes, they said they would send a van driver out to pick them up. Job done - now working on the next 10 boxes, lol.
That's great! I love that you've focused on decluttering one category at a time. That must make the task at hand feel much more manageable.
I think about how many hours I would have to work to pay for the item I am looking at. Usually works as a deterrent.
That's a great idea, Susan!
We moved house in 2019,we had a mass declutter of 32 years worth,The tip saw quite a lot ,charity shops had quite alot and so did friends and family plus the bin man.It was hard work saying good buy to a lot of stuff,my stuff not crap as family call it,but hey down sizing you cannot take it all,even when we finally moved a lot more went aswell,I still have my keep sakes and certain collections,but they are now stored on Ikea shelving units and in lots of plastic boxes which are easily managable,job well done and I feel so much better.The new place looks lovely aswell
It can be very difficult and you shouldn't let other's thoughts impact your decisions. Only you can understand the value of your belongings. One man's trash is another man's treasure, after all! I'm glad that you feel much better for what you have decluttered and that you are feeling settled in your new place. I'd love to know what it is that you collect? I am a big collector of Disney merchandise, so I know the struggle of decluttering.
Hi I’m a great declutter and recycler. Like you suggest I tackle one area at a time ie kitchen cupboards. However I then keep stuff to sell on at a table top or car boot sale. So I end up with a lot of neatly packed boxes to store! Until I get to do a car boot. My tips for car booting are to make sure everything is clean, clothes are washed and ironed and my display table looks attractive and not crowded. Plus I don’t expect extortionate prices. If I don’t sell or giveaway items, following a sort out and car boot sale I take them to the local charity shop.
Great tips, Janet! Where do you store your boxes in advance or the car boot sale? I think this is something a lot of people struggle with when decluttering. It would be good for items you're not sure about too. You could pack them away and if you don't miss them for 1-3 months while you're waiting to do the car boot sale, you know it's safe to get rid.
Very good article. I am a bit of a hoarder. But i must say when I saw your picture of the coloured duck thing and the yellow whisk(?) I did think. 'Ooh that yellow thing looks useful.' Even though I wasn't even sure what it was. I hope I'm not a lost cause !
Thanks for the kind feedback, Lesley!
Just wondering why my comment hasn't been published.
Hi Lesley! All comments go through a review process, so it can take a few days before they show up.
I too am a bit of a magpie (or is it a squirrel, I can never decide :-) ), however, I have found over the years that the definition of "rubbish" is "something you find a use for 3 weeks after you've thrown it out!" but I'm all in favour of recycling, where possible, things I definitely have no further use for, after all one persons junk is another persons treasure. Keep out the good work all of you.
That's very true! Thanks for the kind feedback as always.
patronising and unrealistic most of us have nobody to help us
Hi Christine! I'm sorry that you didn't find this helpful. May I ask which parts you found patronizing and unrealistic? We'd love to improve the article!
To christine,I agree it is difficult if you have no help.when I lost my soulmate and had to downsize ni help for me.Asked several charities if they could help.Yes if I took it to them.I can not drive,none of my friends drive.So Apart from a few people from freegle taking some items.How do I declutter
To declutter without help, start by taking it one room at a time and setting achievable goals for each day or week. Then, sort items into categories such as keep, donate, sell, or throw away. You could reach out to a professional for help or take a look to see if your community has a Facebook group for giving away free items. Most of the time, people will collect from you.
I did my wardrobe a couple of years ago and was ruthless. At least half of items in every category had to go. There is nothing I have missed and since then I have stuck to a replace only rule. I also started on the test of the house, but that is one item every day - even it is as simple as a pen that has run dry, or a kitchen aid which is never used. It feels like an ongoing cleansing process and not a ‘ I’ll get around to it when I have time’ I.e never chore.
That's a great idea!
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