This may not hold true for everyone, but for me there is nothing quite as soothing as enjoying my first cup of coffee in the still of the morning knowing my house is clean.
Clean means less clutter. Everything is neatly in place. Only the basics—those things that provide beauty, functionality, and comfort—are in the room. This simplifies my daily chores and frees up time for me to pursue hobbies, explore other interests, and enjoy the simple pleasures life has to offer.
It doesn’t take much to remove clutter, simplify, and organize with the purpose of making life easier and more manageable.
A popular technique used by the experts at HGTV is to clear the room, move everything out, and put the stuff into three piles: (1) Keep, (2) Sell/Give Away, and (3) Toss Out. Then, when the room is completely empty, you choose from the “Keep” pile and—this is the important part—put back only those things you absolutely need or love.
If you find the idea of clearing out an entire room a bit daunting, you’re not alone. The mere thought overwhelms me. Aside from the fact that it would be a lot of work—especially since I don’t have the HGTV crew readily available to help move the heavy furniture et al—there is nowhere in our house to put the stuff without it being in the way and underfoot in every other room. Moving everything out of the house and onto the front lawn is not an option. Our neighbors would think we were setting up for a gigantic yard sale.
Removing clutter does not have to be a major production
Here are a dozen tips on getting started as painlessly as possible:
- Clear a closet. This is a variation of clearing a room, but on a smaller scale. For clothing, the rules are easy: Think in terms of size and style. If something doesn’t fit or you haven’t worn it in years, get rid of it. Also rid yourself of shoes collecting dust, old purses, belts, ties and whatever else you’ve been hoarding.
- Do it in small chunks. If an entire room—or even a closet—is overwhelming, you might put off decluttering it forever. If that’s the case, take baby steps. Break big jobs down into smaller sections. Set aside 15 minutes to declutter one thing at a time. Then tackle another section for 15 minutes on another day.
- Do a clean sweep. If there’s just too much clutter everywhere, grab a giant garbage bag and circle the house, looking for trash you can toss without a second thought—broken kitchen tools, outdated prescriptions, foods past their “use-by” dates, makeup more than a year old, socks without mates, old newspapers, pens that don’t work. When the garbage bag is full, toss and celebrate.
- Take everything off a shelf or out of a drawer at once. Focus on one shelf or drawer at a time. Empty it completely. Sort through the pile. Pick up an item and make a quick decision: Keep, sell/give away, or trash. Clean the shelf or drawer and put back only what you absolutely want to keep. Arrange everything nicely. When you’re satisfied, tackle the next shelf or drawer.
- Be merciless. You may be a pack rat, but the truth is, you won’t ever use most of the junk you’ve accumulated. If you don’t use it regularly or haven’t used something in the last year, get rid of it or give it away to someone who might be able to use it. It’s as simple as that. Anything broken, worn, torn, or unusable, should be thrown out.
- Be merciless with papers, unless their important. Magazines, catalogs, junk mail, bills more than a year old, notes to yourself, notes from others, old work stuff . . . toss it! The only exceptions are anything tax-related, which should be kept for seven years, and important paperwork like warranties, birth, death, and marriage certificates, insurance, wills, and other legal documents. Otherwise, toss!
- Have an inbox for all incoming papers and a filing system for documents you need to keep. From bills to important documents to taxes to kids’ report cards, put all incoming mail, school papers, receipts, etc. into the inbox and process it once a day (no longer than every other day). When you process, don’t leave stuff in a pile to be filed later. File it immediately. Trash other stuff. Pay bills immediately or put them in a “Bills To Be Paid” folder. Don’t leave papers laying around on flat surfaces.
- If you are on the fence with a lot of things, create a “maybe” box. If you can’t bear to throw out something because you think you might need it later, put it in the box. Then close the box, label it, and put it in storage (garage, attic, closet) and out of sight. Most likely, you’ll never open that box again. If that’s the case, pull it out after a year, and toss the stuff or give it away.
- Clean up at night and before you leave the house. If you’ve developed good habits, you may not need this, but no one’s perfect; and if you have kids, you’ll definitely need this, because kids certainly are not perfect at picking up things. Just take 5-10 minutes to pick up stuff and make sure your flat surfaces are clear.
- Declutter as you go. Despite your best efforts, new stuff just keeps coming in. You need to have a regular binging routine every now and then to get rid of stuff as soon as you realize you no longer need it.
- Have a place for everything, and put everything in its place. An old adage, but valuable nonetheless. Are you about to put something down on a flat surface? Stop yourself. Think about where that item belongs. If it doesn’t have a home, find one, and stick with it. Always put it in the same spot. For example: Have a tray for your keys and wallet; and when you first come into the house, put those things in the tray. Every time. That way you will always know where they are; and when you leave, it’s as simple as grabbing your stuff from the tray and going.
- Celebrate when you’re done! Always celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small. Even if you have only decluttered one drawer, that’s great. Treat yourself to something delicious. Open the drawer (or closet, or whatever) and admire its simplicity. Breathe deeply and know that you have moved towards improving the quality of your life. Bask in your peacefulness.