Spring is a good time to tackle the clutter situation in your home. The weather’s nice, you can open up the windows to air out the rooms, and many neighborhoods have community garage sales or hazardous waste drop-offs to make your job easier. If you’re ready to declutter your home and enjoy the benefits of minimalism, whatever that means for you, here are some tips to get it done and keep it that way.
Start With What You Can See
Although closets and drawers are often the biggest culprits for clutter, surfaces around the house can become lost under piles of folded laundry, stacks of mail and papers, and prolific displays of knickknacks.
Before you start cleaning out the hidden spaces, declutter the spaces you can see to help you stay focused and motivated to work your way through the entire house. With a recycling container in one hand and a trash bin in the other, go through the whole house and whittle down your piles of mail, magazines, and papers and toss out broken or worn-out items. Then, walk through with a box, and fill it with everything you don’t absolutely love or find useful. Finally, make sure that everything you can see is in its proper place.
This initial decluttering phase may take you a day, or it may take you several days.
As you go, think of solutions for the clutter you encounter. For example, if your family tends to pile up shoes next to the door, consider a shoe bin for each family member. If you or your child has arts and crafts supplies that encroach on your personal spaces, devise a storage solution to keep them accessible but out of the way.
One Task At A Time
The last thing you want to do is pull the contents out of every drawer in the kitchen. Chances are, you’ll get interrupted before the job is done, and you’ll have to live with even more clutter until you can turn back to it. Instead, break the larger decluttering job down into smaller tasks. Depending on how much time you have and how cluttered each space is, you may end up able to declutter one room at a time, or you may need to take it one cupboard, closet, or drawer at a time.
Identify an end date for your whole-house decluttering project. Create a schedule that outlines what areas you’ll declutter each day. Keep the schedule realistic so that you can stick to it, and commit to following it. Life happens, so if you get behind, just amend the schedule and extend the done date.
Four Box Method
A helpful approach to decluttering a space is the four-box method. Before you begin decluttering, collect four containers that you can sort your belongings into. Label the containers Keep, Toss, Give Away, and Relocate.
As you go through each drawer, closet, and pile-covered surface, put every item in that space in one of the four containers. Once the space is empty, wipe it down, then put everything that’s in the Keep container back where it belongs.
Take the contents of the Toss container straight to the trash can so it’ll be picked up the next trash day, then walk around the house with the Relocate container and put every item away where it belongs.
Ideally, you should load the Give Away container into the car right then and there and drive it straight to the Goodwill or drop box, especially if your family is the type to dig through it and reclaim half of what you were ready to part with. Otherwise, you can save a little time and choose to make one master trip to charity once the whole house is done. In that case, designate an out-of-the-way place in the house, garage, or shed to keep (hide) the things you’re giving away.
The most important thing is to fully complete each area before moving on to the next. If you leave things lying around in containers, they’ll inevitably find their way back out.
Self-storage is a booming industry, and you can put it to good use if you have a lot of clutter that you can’t part with, whether it’s in the basement, a spare closet, or garage. Self-storage is also a good temporary solution for storing items you want to keep for a garage sale later on or those you want to store out of the way as you sell them online. Self-storage is fairly inexpensive, and it can get a lot of clutter out of your house without having to part with it.
Choose a storage space that’s big enough to ensure your belongings are accessible, and clearly label all boxes so that you can find what you need.
Tips for Keeping the Clutter at Bay
Without mindful attention to maintenance, it won’t be long before the clutter starts creeping back into your home. Here are some tips for keeping clutter out once you’ve achieved your own special brand of minimalism.
- Open your mail over the recycling bin, and immediately discard anything you don’t need to keep. Put important mail in its designated space right away. Consider going paperless whenever possible.
- Allow enough time to fold the laundry and put it away.
- Spend just five minutes each day walking through the house, putting things where they belong.
- Hang coat hooks near the door, put out a basket for shoes, and install a key board to keep the area around your entrance tidy.
- Purge often. Once in the spring and in the fall, go through the house and purge it of items you’ve collected but no longer want or need.
- Have a place for everything, and put everything back in its place when you’re done with it. If you tend to have a lot of clutter on the surfaces in your rooms, perhaps you need more designated places for things.
- Designate a junk drawer. Everyone’s got junk–flotsam and jetsam that just doesn’t have anywhere else to go. Make the junk drawer home to these items, but purge the junk a couple of times a year to keep it opening and closing easily.
- If you sense clutter coming back in, schedule some time to get it back under control.
Decluttering doesn’t have to be unpleasant or confusing. Focus on one task at a time, and before you know it, you’ll have a clutter-free living space and a lot more time on your hands.