Are you feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where or how to start with decluttering your home? Sometimes the most dramatic change you can make to your home — and you and your family’s mood — is decluttering so that the things you love, the features and style of your home, are displayed to their best advantage. When I ask clients what they want to feel in their homes, the most common responses are “peace,” “space”, and “pride”. Clutter keeps us from achieving these goals. Having an easy step-by-step plan for decluttering will help you avoid the overwhelm and take your home from clutter to clarity in no time at all.
According to a 2015 survey run by NAPO and Decluttr, 54% of Americans are overwhelmed by the amount of clutter they have, HOWEVER 78% have no idea what to do with it or find it too complicated to deal with.
Decluttering is not just about getting rid of things, it is about putting things away, making decisions, finding solutions, memories, asking questions, tidying up, and change. From my experience, as a Professional Organizer in Toronto, I have seen and guided my clients through their overwhelm and angst about starting to declutter their homes. The thought of decluttering fills most with dread. But it needn’t.
It’s Time to Take Control of Your Clutter
If you plan ahead, the process will be easier and quicker, and you will also enjoy the process. I have created a step-by-step guide here to help you plan and prepare. Decluttering is an ongoing process, something that needs to be done on a regular basis. This Step-by-Step Guide is intended for your annual declutter. Doing an annual declutter is supported by a daily routine making the maintenance easier and less time-consuming.
“What I know for sure is that when you declutter — whether it’s your home, your head, or your heart — it is astounding what will flow into that space that will enrich you, your life, and your family.” Peter Walsh
Step-by-Step Plan For Decluttering:
- Choose a day to declutter. Don’t try and do your whole house at once. It will be overwhelming; you will not be able to keep focused with fresh eyes and energy. If you are doing your whole house, then break down the areas and rooms – choose a day each week to focus on this one area or room.
- Give yourself a time limit for each room. Keep your sessions to under 3 hours to avoid burnout. If you need more than 3 hours then come back to it the next day. A time limit will stop you from getting distracted and being sucked into memories and To-Do Lists. If you find yourself getting absorbed in a photo album a quick look at the clock will put you back on track.
- Choose a day that you will do all the donation drop-offs and Fix/Mend items. Either weekly or monthly… but schedule the day and time and put this in your calendar. Scheduling to do it means that you will accomplish it. Otherwise, each week the donations and To Do’s will build up and never go anywhere and be clutter again.
- Choose a room/location to start. Try and start with the room that bothers you the most. This way you are starting with lots of energy and it will give you great momentum and pleasure when finished to move on to the next room. A room is complete when you have gone through the Put Away box and put everything in it away, brought the recycling out, taking the garbage out, and have the donations ready for drop off.
- Photograph the room – and all the area to be decluttered (tables, drawers, mantel place, etc). Examine the photos for what is on every surface – really look and quantify.
- Set up a sorting system. Use old cardboard boxes or bags and label them all clearly (labelling helps you keep focused on the work at hand):
- Garbage: Things that can go in the garbage right now, Recycle – paper, plastic, glass.
- Put Away: Items that have crept out of their storage spaces. These could be coffee cups, hairbrushes, clothes, books. These are items that will go back to their designated storage areas.
- Donate/Sell: Items for charitable organizations or an individual. These should be items you can imagine another person wanting or needing.
- Fix/Mend: Items that need attention, such as a pair of shoes that need repair, a pillow that needs a stain removed…
- Maybe: If you are struggling with whether you can live without this item, you put it in this box. A maybe box is like a decluttering safety net, letting you be more ruthless with your decluttering decisions. It allows you to live without the item. If you end up needing it, it’s still there. When the box is full you seal it and put the current date on it. If after 3 months you do not look inside for something you need, then usually the box is safe to let go of.
- Set up some rules around difficult decisions: Sentimental Items: Remember you are getting rid of the item, not the memory.
If you still can’t let the item go yet, then put it in the Put-Away bin and revisit the item at the end of the decluttering process. Then you can decide to donate, digitize, or recycle sentimental items that no longer fit, no longer work, or you no longer have space for, acknowledge their meaning with pleasure and let them go as an act of love. The important thing is to keep moving forward.
Other people’s items: Your grandchildren’s things, family members – they all collect in the home over time and create clutter. The problem with other people’s things in your home is that – simply because they are not yours – they are not assigned a permanent place for storage. They can remain in limbo for a long time until you decide to take matters into your own hands.
According to The National Soap and Detergent Association, getting rid of clutter eliminates 40% of housework in the average home.
Let members of your family know you will be decluttering over the next few weeks. It’s hard enough making your own decisions – try and avoid doing that for anyone over 10 years old in the house. Get them involved in the process. Let them know the items that do not fit or belong, and ask them to either put them away in their own rooms or you will donate or throw them out (and give them the date this will happen).
“Just In Case” clutter: This is anything you aren’t using or loving, but find yourself wanting to keep for some reason or future use. These items are generally very inexpensive items that we think we should hang on to like extra measuring tapes, coffee mugs, old pots and pans, gifts that you never really wanted or liked. “Just-in-case” items fill up more out of the way spaces in a home than anything else. Very rarely do they ever get used. And when they do, you remember why you stopped using them.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Could you use something else instead?
- Would it be that terrible if you had to purchase the item?
- Could you purchase the item second hand?
- Could you borrow this item from a friend or family?
- Could you manage without it at all?
It is all in the planning. Indeed, planning is a great way to decrease stress levels. If you put the time into planning the decluttering of your home you will be;
- More relaxed doing it
- Get through it quicker
- Make decisions that are in your best interests
- See the end results – a comfortable, safe, uncluttered, peaceful home without the burnout that can often accompany such tasks.
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Free Professional Organizing Advice for you!
We could all use something to look forward to right now. I want to do something that will add value to your life, that would help you during these confusing and challenging times. When you are organized there is less chaos, less overwhelm. An organized home can bring you a sense of calm, ground you, and help you feel more in control. It is one of the things that we can influence and control despite what’s happening in other areas of our lives or communities.
I am offering a “mini organizing consult” for free, share it with your co-workers, family, friends, on Linkedin, post it on Facebook, or Instagram, or Twitter. Let everyone know because I want to give back and help you. Now is when people really need it.
All you need to do is complete this FORM, attach a photo of 1 area in your home or office that you need organizing help with. Every week I am going to choose at least one person to work with. Here are a couple of readers I have helped already:
- How do I declutter my makeup drawer?
- How to organize my students planning notes and supplies while teaching online
Easy Step-by-Step Plan To Help You Declutter Your Home