How many of us make lists in our heads when we are running around everyday of all the projects we have to get to? It seems endless and overwhelming, and yet, we never get around to starting any of it because we are ready for the next activity in our life. So that hall closet remains unorganized, a pile of clothes still claims the floor instead of the donation bag, and when you open the cabinet door the Tupperware just falls all over you. And you laugh saying you will get to it tomorrow or next week. Well what do you do to actually declutter your life. Let’s take it one day at a time…..
1. Keep track of your goals.
I now have the habit of writing everything down so when that day comes that I have the day to myself with no work or obligations, I check my list (in my notes on my phone) and see what challenge I can complete in the time I have. I usually pick smaller tasks to get out of the way since I always feel so accomplished when I cross more than one thing off my list. On days when you have a window of time you should be realistic and tackle one small task that will give you satisfaction. I would pick the Tupperware cabinet so that I can avoid any more head injuries. When I did this I actually moved my stash from a cabinet above my head to a drawer that is easier to access when I need food storage. When you first move in to a new home you tend to want to unpack quickly and the cabinet above my head was what I thought would work. Hahaha to me!! I have learned that lesson. So not only did I move my food storage to another area but I also put them in size order with all the lids in the same area for easy retrieval. Voila! Small task off my list.
2. Organize your list by room.
3. Paper! Paper! Paper!
We all suffer the same problem of too much paper — bills, mail, reminder notes, papers to file and so on. When we let the piles build up we get more and more overwhelmed. I find myself burying them in pretty bins around the house until I have a Saturday with a few hours to spare. A snowed in day is best for this. Usually when I am ready to tackle this fiasco, I start by making three piles: File, To Do our Pending, and Throw Out. I do the sorting very slowly because even today with all our email bills, receipts, etc. I am still paranoid about throwing away an important paper. When the three piles are in front of me, I double check the throw out pile before going to the garbage (and of course, carefully tearing each one so no important info is in the garbage) and get rid of it happily. I then find a clean folder (I love folders) and put all the papers that have a task attached in the folder and place it back in the bin. The last pile, to be filed, will go in a separate section near my desk and will get filed if I can squeeze in the time that day. Of course, I can always put them in another file labeled “to be filed” but I prefer putting them away so I feel that sense of accomplishment. Now my 100+ papers hanging out in the dining room, exploding from my mail bin, will consist of a simple folder that I have to tackle during the week.
4. Closets! Closets! Closets!!!!
Don’t ever start decluttering with the thought of closets. You must decide to do one closet at a time. I usually start with the one that causes the most clutter in the room that it is in. This is usually your bedroom closet. No matter how diligent we are, when you are tired after going out or a long day at work, you leave your clothes on a chair, bench or corner in your bedroom. So when you have time this should be the first closet you work on. I find that when I organize and declutter a room, I start to enjoy the neatness in my house. So one step at a time and sort — laundry basket, to bring to dry cleaners, back in closet, back in dresser — and now you can see that pretty chair cushion or vacuum the rug that was taken over by your clothes. This is a perfect project as you are getting ready for a brand new week at work. And maybe you will start a new bag of clothes you don’t like anymore to be donated to others in need. When I start a new bag to donate it usually encourages me to go through my closet and add some garments/shoes that I no longer wear and fill up an entire bag. Wow, now I have room in my closet, extra hangers and I guess I should do more shopping…..
5. Go through each room in your house and make a list of future organizing goals.
Some of our decluttering can be done a little at a time since no one sees the inside of our cabinets or drawers. If you go through each room and take notes of what you would like to tackle, this overwhelming decluttering task will seem more approachable. Never forget if you haven’t used it or don’t know anyone that can use it, throw it out or donate it to a good cause. We recently found an organization in our town that takes many things that some places do not, like old TVs, because they collect items for people in dire need or who have been displaced by fire. It made me feel so good to donate some old TVs to them. People don’t want a TV that is a few years old — we have become a spoiled society. But there is always someone out there who desperately needs something. So don’t throw out something that can be useful to someone else.
I like printing my list because I feel so accomplished as I check off or cross out what I have finished doing. Feeling little bits of accomplishment gives you the motivation to continue in your journey to an uncluttered home.
As you go through your home, make a DO NOT BUY list. When you go through some of your closets/drawers you will understand what I am saying. For example, I just love candles and my students buy them for me, friends bring them over as gifts and of course, I pick them up along the way to try the scents for each season. Well, when I declutter Ed my dining room sideboard and counted 37 candles I knew that I had to make a mental note to stop buying and start using them more frequently.
6. What’s Next?
After going through each room and feeling satisfied and accomplished, what’s next? Whenever you go shopping think about al the time you spent decluttering and make sure you really need that item. When I clean out my pantry closet (once a month) I go through and get rid of expired food products and also figure out what I may be using during the week. We all tend to over buy. If salad dressing is on sale this week buy a few not 10! You will never use them al before they expire. So now you did not get a benefit or save money because you have to throw it out because no one can use it now.
Another storage area that gets out of control (especially in my house because my husband and I are avid readers) is our bookcases. I even have a shelf of books (too many) that I still want to read. This does not deter me from buying a book on Amazon that I have heard about or buying 10 books when I go to a book sale. I always try to rationalize and say I am buying books for my class, but my own titles tend to jump in there as well. Then, of course, when we finish reading a book we put it on the shelf (WHY??). Yes, there are certain books that touch you and that you want to keep and display on your shelves. But then there are the trophy books that you already finished reading. What to do with them? Give them to friend or donate back to the library you bought them from for their next book sale. I do prefer to read books over reading on my Kindle, but I have to make myself clear these shelves. Usually I do this right before I am having a donation picked up by an organization that also takes books. It is a good feeling to donate and I feel as if I am decluttering my house which declutters my mind.
I hope I have given you some inspiration to organize and declutter. I find this works well on rainy or snowy days when I am in my house and I throughly enjoy decluttering. I find it refreshing and rewarding as well. Remember do not overwhelm yourself. When deciding to keep something or get rid of think about if you would pack it if you were moving to a new place. After moving to my new house almost 4 years ago, it has been easier for me to declutter because I remember the overwhelming task of packing my house up that I lived in for over 14 years. After selling, donating and throwing out so much, I realize that when we have a decluttered house, we can have a decluttered life that is there to be enjoyed. Remember life is not about the collections you have in our home but rather the collections in your heart. Enjoy decluttering, relish the memories and move on.
I would love to hear some of your own decluttering suggestions and accomplishments….
12 thoughts on “Decluttering One Day at a Time”
You are exactly right about several points. Moving house is an excellent motivation for not collecting a bunch of junk. One handy tip I learned from my brother: when you are waffling on whether or not to get rid of something you rarely/never use, just think about how much enjoyment its future owner will get out of it. Another productivity tip is the ‘swallow the frog’ strategy, meaning get the most unpleasant task of the day out of the way first. Then, the rest of the day seems like a breeze.
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I definitely think of future owners especially after I cleaned out my mom’s house when she passed. I like the “swallow the frog” strategy — I will have to try that ! Happy decluttering !!
What a great idea! I love all the things you mentioned here.
I hope they are helpful . Let me know if you come with any other ideas !
I need some serious decluttering at my house! I just recently went through my bathroom stuff and threw away so much makeup and other things, I decided that if I hadn’t used it in the last 6 months for any reason then it had to go!
Sometimes it can be overwhelming. That’s why I tend to take it one room or closet/vanity at a time. Happy decluttering…..
I need to do some serious decluttering at my house, especially my kids stuff. The other day I went through all my bathroom stuff and if I hadn’t used it in the last 6 months then it had to go!
The kids stuff gets out of control. Now that my kids are out of the house there is definitely less to declutter (except for my husband’s stuff lol)
I’m always trying to declutter but my husband and son are hoarders! I’ll try your ideas and see if it helps. Thanks
My husband as well. Believe it or not, once I started cleaning and organizing more, he seems to be doing a little more decluttering….small steps….
Such a great list! My issue is ALWAYS with mail and paper. It’s crazy how much accumulates. I’ll try what you suggested here. Organizing and decluttering has become so important to me. I feel like I can breathe better. Have you listened to the Clutterbug Podcast? Literally changed how I thought about organization. Thanks for sharing!
Glad it was helpful. I will definitely checkout that podcast !!