Raise your hand if this scenario rings a bell; you walk into your home, drop your keys on the side table somewhere between the bills and mail, step over the shoes overflowing from the shoe cabinet and walk into the living room. And oh my, what a living room! Your son’s toys have become the new carpet, the bookcase shelves are crammed with your collection of African tribal masks, and the table has the 15 candy boxes that you got as wedding presents 10 years ago.
If we were watching Oprah, this would be the moment that Nate (that cute hunk of an interior designer) walked in and told you that your house won in the most cluttered contest and you were getting the makeover of your life.
Attack of the Clutter
Clutter can be anything from old mail lying around to the numerous knick knacks on the end table, the dozens of china plates on the buffet, the hundreds of clothes hanging in your closet, the dirty dishes in the sink and the expired-month-ago food boxes filling the cupboard. The key word in that last paragraph was, unnecessary, meaning there is no functional or extremely sentimental use of any of them.
As a wise man once said “Be a king or a slave but until one’s life is not clutter-free he is no one”. Even if you have tons of storage spaces, clutter is a hinder to your life. Clutter takes up too much room in your home, time, life and mind. It fills up and collects, leaving you feeling chaotic and stressful. The stuff that you are desperately holding on to is also holding you back from trying new things. When your home starts to look old, you start getting bored and feel as if there is nothing new in your life. Once you clear out that clutter you will have more room in your house for that exciting new piece of furniture, and in your life for personal growth and new adventures.
Enter Monica Gellar
If your house is chock-full of clutter, it does not necessarily mean you’re messy, in fact it could mean just the opposite; that you are a perfectionist -one who refuses to do anything until it can be done absolutely right. While this may work in the boardroom, it almost always backfires when dealing with house issues.
Imagine this, riding on a caffeine, and neat-freak high, you decide to sort out your wardrobe. You schedule in Friday morning for the job, thinking that you’ll probably finish by 2, have time to go do your hair, and meet your friends for dinner at 7. The result; it’s nine o’clock and you have a mountain of clothes, shoes, bags and accessories on your bedroom floor that are starting to look as if hurricane Katrina passed through it. You’re frustrated, burned out, and annoyed. So you pick up everything and just dump it back into your closet, thinking that you would sooner flirt with the co-worker who smells like garlic than do this again.
Getting rid of clutter can be extremely simple or impossibly hard, it all depends on your outlook and your dedication, and like Rome, you have to understand that it will take more than 1 day. So perk up and follow the 15 steps below and soon you’ll be on your way to a clutter-free home:
- Pick your easiest room; bring a timer, dish rag, Windex, large boxes or containers of some sort, and a few trash bags. Choose a single small area and decide that today you are going to work on de-cluttering your bookcase, for example, for 2 hours. Collect everything visible and put it aside. Clean the bookcase, and then look at all your stuff with an extremely critical eye. If you feel that is absolutely essential and you use it every day, put it back. If you know that the last time you opened the book ‘Witchcraft – A teenage Reference’ was 1995 than it’s time you got rid of it. If you are not sure if you need or not, put it aside and come back to it later, maybe you’ll have decided by then (hopefully to the clutter pile). When the 2 hours are up, even if you haven’t finished, stop. Remember this is a long-term commitment; there is no need to burn yourself out before hand.
- Prioritize. De-clutter the areas that make you feel the most stressed out first
- Try to fit in regular episodes of de-cluttering like the one above as much as you can until you’ve de-cluttered the whole house, one small piece at a time.
- If you are indecisive about something, place it in a box labeled ‘Undecided.’ Set a time frame (minimum 6 months) and come back to the box after it ends. If you haven’t needed anything in that box during that time frame, then donate the box unopened.
- Give all the stuff you collect to charity. The perks? You get rid of clutter and someone gets something they really need. Some charities will even come to your home to pick up anything you want to donate.
- Walk around the house with a garbage bag every night for 15 minutes and do a quick and superficial de-cluttering. Don’t be too picky; what you miss today, you’ll pick up tomorrow.
- Write a weekly ‘to buy’ list of groceries and house supplies based upon actual need and buy only what is on that list.
- If you feel the urge to buy something not on your ‘To Buy’ list, write it down and at the end of the month review all the stuff that you wanted to buy, but didn’t. You’ll be amazed at all the impulsive stuff that you buy without actual need.
- You need not suffer in silence and all alone. Enlist the help of family members, even if it is your 5-year-old daughter. You could ask her to sort her toys and come up with at least 5 items she is willing to part with for charity.
- Know those pairs of jeans that you used to wear in college and don’t fit you anymore but you are hanging on to them in case you lose weight? Well I hate to be the one to break it to you, but your body has probably changed shape beyond return. So bottom line is, if you haven’t worn them in a year, get rid of them. Besides it gives you more motive and room to go on a wild shopping spree.
- Follow the One in – One out rule. Before you buy something new, give something old away to make room. Otherwise it will be just like trying to blow into a balloon that already has a hole; you’ll get no-where.
- Keep a chart of your accomplishments; it will help you get motivated.
- Utilize every organizational tool you can. Use CD albums to store those endless piles of CDs and DVDs instead of racks because they take more room. Put up hanging shelves that don’t require floor space. Use baskets, bins, folders, drawers, albums and boxes to organize small things
- If you find that you’ve gone through all the above steps and only have a small shopping bag to get rid of, it’s time to call for back-up. Have your husband or a close friend you trust be ruthless. Sometimes you’re holding onto something only because of irrational attachment and need someone to point it out.
- Finally be prepared that things will get messier before they get better and expect to take a long time. It took you a long time to collect this stuff. Assume that it will take a considerable amount of time to get rid of it.