Decluttering – how to get started
I’m not going to lie. Decluttering is not easy.
But you know what? It can make you feel really good. Once you get started, throwing out the crap is so satisfying. Wonderfully, wonderfully satisfying. Worries diminish and anxieties reduce simply by getting rid of the stuff you don’t need. Sound magical? It is!
So, now you have been persuaded to try. Here’s how it will probably go:
After trawling the internet on ‘how to declutter’ you grab your labelled boxes (‘keep’, ‘charity’, ‘throw out’) and survey your house, eagerly ready for the challenge. That’s when the panic (and despair) sets in. “Oh My God!” you will probably think as you scan each room. So much stuff, so little time. Your labelled boxes look way too small. If you have younger kids, like I do, you will probably be tempted to chuck the boxes into the recycling and hide in the kitchen, counting the hours until it is wine o’clock. What were you thinking?
There is one way to avoid this scenario. Do not attempt to declutter the whole house. In fact, in the early stages, do not even think about decluttering a whole room. It will make you feel completely overwhelmed. This is especially so if you are under time constraints – school pick-ups, work deadlines, or the necessary housework. Very few of us have the luxury of dedicating a whole day to any task, so don’t even try.
I know, I know. You have read Marie Kondo’s book that I mentioned in my first blog post and you are confused. She says to go through the whole house over the course of six months, grouping similar items together and sorting through each group until all is purged and organised. Clothing, she suggests, is a good place to start. I’m sure this may work for some people but I’m in a cold sweat just thinking about it. We have a four bedroom home, three kids, two dogs. We have a lot of stuff. Just gathering items together would take forever, especially clothes. I would be amalgamating clothes for weeks. We have a lot. Never mind sorting through them. The KonMarie method is great, but I needed to work up to that. Slowly. I suspect you will too.
What you need to find is something small that could do with a good old tidy and sort. That’s what I did. Every home has something. A drawer, a cupboard, perhaps a shelf of the fridge? For me it was a small chest of drawers that held stationery. I dreaded opening those drawers. Pens and pencils were mixed together, along with rubbers, rulers, pencil cases and the like. Cards of various sorts were swimming in a sea of paper, envelopes, gift tags and folders. If I wanted to find something I would have to sort through every drawer – making more of a mess as I did so. You get the picture. It wasn’t pretty and hated it. So this was my starting point.
With the help of my family (yup, this time I got everyone involved), we amalgamated all the stationery (à la Marie Kondo). This was no mean feat. We had stationery all over the house. In drawers, cupboards, desks, wardrobes…it was everywhere. The kids had secret stashes in nearly every room. We even emptied their schoolbags of the stuff too. We got it all together and put it on the dining room table. There was so much we could have started a shop.
The tedious part was going through everything. We went through the lot. We threw out anything that was broken or not working. Then we bundled up similar items with elastic bands where appropriate – pencils in one bundle, pens in another. We made up bundles of coloured pencil sets too. We made it a rule that if we couldn’t store it, we wouldn’t keep it. We kept to our word. We had so much that we donated lots of our bundles to charity.
We lined the top drawer of the unit with empty plastic boxes and organized the items amongst them. Cheap and cheerful. I had been storing so much stationery that we had loads of boxes (get rid of stuff, DON’T store it!). I didn’t buy anything to organize the space.
Once that was complete the worst was done. I went through the paper items. I paired cards with their envelopes, grouped folders, labels and packing items together and popped it all back in the drawers. I tried to make things easy to find – I stored envelopes standing up and grouped by size, I separated cards into categories and stored each set in labelled folders. The printer paper was given its own drawer so it was easy to grab. Everything had to be easily accessible and easy to put back. This is important when you have children because it will lessen your work. None of it was rocket science, just common sense.
It sounds a lot but the whole process probably took about two hours at the most. It was so rewarding to have a workable storage space as well as give things to charity. I am no longer afraid to go into that chest of drawers. Yay! Most importantly it has proved to be easy to maintain, and I haven’t once had to tidy it up or reorganize it.
Just make a start.
Begin small and build.
Your effort will be rewarded.