10.24.2009

Decluttering, working towards simplicity

I have been on a major decluttering streak. I have pitched, donated and reorganized, but I’m not done yet.

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I come from a mother who was extremely neat and orderly, and a grandmother that teetered near hoarding. So I live in fear of, well, maybe both extremes.

Clutter seems to show up, mysteriously in my house.  I have tried over the years to beat it back. Below are the tips that helped me most.

1. Find a system.

I tried for years to organize myself, it wasn’t until I studied naturally organized people that I realized that, yes I need a “constant” system. Not one week every three months to work non stop to make everything perfect again. Only to ignore it for another three months. (my favorite is a crazy lady, the flylady, also good are simplemom.net) Find something that works for you, and then yes, you have to use it.

2. Baby steps

Even if you only have 5 minutes, pick a shelf, drawer, even a portion of a counter. I have a rule, if I’m talking on the phone, I’m decluttering, open that junk drawer and start flinging. I am always amazed at why most of it is in the drawer anyway.

3. Have a “not ready to part with it” box.

I have a box sitting in my walk in closet, when I am decluttering I often find something that I’m not ready to part with, but haven’t used in a while. I put it in this box. Next time I’m making a run to Good Will I look into the box. Usually I’ve decided that I can get rid of all of it. If not I can always take it out. This allows me to part with things that I wouldn’t have upon first glance.

4. You do not have to keep something because it was a gift, or belonged to someone special.

A thing is not a memory. Keep the happy memory. Get rid of Uncle George’s monkey lamp.

5. Divide your area (house, office, garage etc.) up into zones. I like the FlyLadys zones, five zones, one for each week of the month.

  • Zone 1: The Entrance, Front Porch and Dining Room (October 1 - 2)
  • Zone 2: The Kitchen (October 5 - 9)
  • Zone 3: The Bathroom and One Extra Room (October 12 - 16)
  • Zone 4: The Master Bedroom (October 19 - 23)
  • Zone 5: The Living Room (October 26 - 30)

I use to get overwhelmed and ended up with a bigger mess, because I had taken the shoes that I found in the living room that I was cleaning, and put them in the bedroom closet and then started organizing that. Now I stick to the zone I’m in, and in a week you will be amazed at your progress. Even if you are using your 5-15 minute intervals of cleaning/decluttering.

6. Set up a simple filing system and use it.

There are so many good organizing products out there. Keep it simple, I use a small hanging folder box.

7. Paper is like fleas, it will multiply. if you pick it up, put it where it belongs.

Paper can quickly overwhelm you. Junk mail, don’t put it down. Sort through it and trash it.  Magazines, newspapers, and school papers, go through them regularly and toss the old. If you want to keep something special, hey make a file for it.

8. Take everything off of or out of what you are decluttering.

Don’t shuffle through it. Take it out and look at each thing. Do this fast, don’t think too much. Thinking starts me wondering if I will need this later. Think you might?  Stick it in that “not ready to part with it box”.

9. Look at expiration dates

Look at the dates on your meds, vitamins, spices, salad dressing etc. I am surprised at how many things I find that are expired.

10. If you buy something, toss something.

Buy a new pair of pants? When you put them away. Look at all of your other pants, try some on, chances are you will find some you can get rid of or donate, or just never liked.

11. It doesn't have to be perfect.

The “I don’t have time to make it perfect now syndrome”, kept me from starting things. The entire kitchen may not be perfect, but that one drawer looks great. It’s a start, you don’t have to do it all at once.

12. Once you start flinging and decluttering, it feels really, really good. Letting go of things gets easier. Just start little.

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Simplify, it feels good, and you will have more room for yarn!

3 comments:

  1. I recently did this with my clothes. Bought new clothes in the US, then came home and gave away all the clothes that I didn't wear anymore. I also had a mother and an aunt that were hoarders and after they passed away, we all had the chore of going through the amassed wealth of STUFF. Now I go through my closets every year without fail and clear out any unused/unwanted whatevers. I seem to be a crap magnet.

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  2. My Aunt is a hoarder. Every time I visit her, I come home and start throwing things out.
    I like your note about gifts. I used to have a hard time getting rid of gifts until I learned my husband's motto: once a gift is given, it belongs to the person who received it and s/he can do whatever with it.

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  3. Gosh, you sound organized! Guess I fall into the category of "Happy Hoarder".

    Hmmm... somehow that sounds a little disreputable! ;-)

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