Updated 30 January 2017
When you enter your home, you want to come in to a place that promotes peace and calm after a busy day. Whether you are returning home from work, a school run, or shopping, when you enter a house that has had a good declutter you will find it is easier to relax and enjoy the space that you live in. When your house is untidy and cluttered, it can make you feel on edge as you are surrounded by things that you may not really want and need. Even if you have a cluttered house that is actually tidy (with lots of clever storage units), there is still the dreaded moment of opening the cupboards to try and find something that you are looking for that is buried beneath clutter. Living in a clutter free home definitely will make life less stressful, make it easier to find things and there are many ways this can be achieved.
1. Focus your mind
Firstly, you need to have a focussed mind. It is no good starting on decluttering, only to get sentimental about every item that you come across, as this doesn’t help. There needs to be an end goal in sight, and the reasons you are doing this must be kept at the forefront of your mind. Do you have items in your cupboards that have been packed away and not looked at for years; maybe not since you first moved to your new home? Perhaps you are one of those people that has kept every single workbook that your child has written in from the age of 3 to 18? Or odd pieces of wood that might come in handy one day, or a spare pack of porcelain tiles from when you tiled the bathroom 10 years ago “just in case”. Whatever the reason for decluttering, it is important to take the emotions out of it. Yes, it may be nice that you have all the pieces of artwork that your child has created since the day they picked up a pen; however, if you take a photo of your favourite few on your smart phone they can be stored virtually and the space of a box of artwork freed up. There are actually many apps and services such as Keepy that are set up for just this type of problem. You’ll still be able to look back on all the hard work your kids have put into their schoolwork and pictures for you but that space can be used for more useful current items that need storing, or indeed for items that don’t currently have a place to be stored. When you starting your decluttering mission, remember why you are doing it and if you find yourself wavering, take a break, focus back in and start again or continue tomorrow!
2. Start small
The thought of decluttering the house may seem totally daunting, understandably so. The task ahead isn’t something that is meant to be done in a short space of time. If this task seems like an uphill mountain that is difficult to climb, take it in small steps. Start with ten minutes on a particular shelf in a room. Once you have done that ten minutes, leave it and reward yourself with a cup of tea, or simply the joy that you have started. When you are feeling ready, go back and do it again. This time, if you can for a bit longer, but if not just stick to small ten minute bursts. Before you know it, the whole bookshelf will be done, then the room and slowly the house will be decluttered. This isn’t something to be taken as a quick fix that can be done overnight. Taking your time and completing it purposefully is far more achievable that trying to do the whole house in a day!
3. Make a mess
When you declutter it is useful to start a room at a time. By doing this, you can contain yourself and concentrate on the task at hand. With decluttering you have to expect mess, as you are emptying out cupboards or going through boxes and shelving. This can seem counterproductive, however it is totally necessary. To truly declutter you will first end up making a mess and then as you put stuff away that you are keeping, the tidiness will reappear. If you are working in one room, make sure that you can close the door and leave it when you have reached your limit; but, always go back to it the following day! It isn’t a quick job to properly declutter your house, and accepting that it may take time will help to get it done thoroughly.
4. Be ruthless
Once you have embarked on this mission, you must remember to be ruthless. It is no good spending time and effort on doing this, if you aren’t going to actually declutter what is there. Simply rearranging the clutter so it fits better won’t help. It may be easiest to make piles of things; a keep, throw, sell and charity shop pile could work quite well. If you keep pile doesn’t change drastically in size, then you know you need to get rid of those emotions, refocus and get ruthless! Obviously, getting rid of items you are going to want in the future is not the objective, but carefully considering what is, and isn’t necessary to keep is what you are trying to do. By having a ‘sell’ pile, you can even make some money out of items that are in your home. What may be sat in your home without a purpose could make someone in another home very happy! You may have a wedding present from 25 years ago, that you have never one used or looked at. Whilst it is great to have reminders of your wedding day, that object in the cupboard could make you a bit of petty cash to spend it on something more relevant that you need now.
5. Reorganise what you are keeping
If you have items that should be in the kitchen in the dining room, or items from the lounge in the bedroom then you will never find what you are looking for. Once you have decided what you are keeping, make sure you put all similar items together. Why have plugs and chargers stored in different places and different rooms? If you have a particular place to store all your plugs and chargers (only the ones you currently need, of course), then when you need one for the device you are using you save time and energy going to one central place to locate it. You don’t have to waste your timing moving from room to room, trying to find what you are looking for. By placing items in the room that they belong, and are most used, it means that things don’t get lost and everything that is needed is easy to locate. In addition to this, why not cleverly label each wire and organise your chargers and adaptors properly so they’re easier to pick out when you need them.
6. Get the family involved in the declutter
When decluttering it is important not to just dive headfirst and throw out someone else’s items whilst keeping your own! This could end up in disagreements and obviously isn’t a productive way of decluttering. If you are the main person doing the sorting, after an initial ‘filter’ of items that are going to be kept and removed, you may want to ask your partner or child whether or not it is something they want or need. What may seem like an item destined for a charity shop or the bin may be something that had gone missing the in ‘black hole’ of clutter and could be restored and used again. By getting everyone involved it means that the ownership of everything is shared, as is the ultimate aim of keeping the house clutter free. Kids can find helping out fun, but remember to stick to short bursts with kids as they do get bored easily.
7. Do you really need it?
Once you have gone through items had got your keep pile, the next step is to ask yourself ‘do I really need it?’ Whilst it might be nice to have 50 pairs of shoes, by looking through what you have, you may be able to halve this amount by getting rid of shoes with similar styles or colours. One good tip for clothing is to turn all the hangers around at the start of the year; when you have worn an item and you place it back in the wardrobe turn the hanger around. At the end of the year, you will clearly see which items you have worn, and therefore need. Those items that have been neglected can then go to a charity shop or be sold, as they have no purpose in your home. Similarly, if you open a drawer to find five old mobile phones that you haven’t even switched on for at least a year, then really they don’t need to be there either.
8. So you have decluttered, now what?
Firstly, enjoy your clutter free house. Take your time to look around the rooms, enjoy the spaces you now have, and recognise that the time and effort you have put in has made a big change to your home. Keeping your house clutter free is actually easier than you think. In the process of decluttering, everything will have been put away in a ‘place’ or an appropriate storage unit. To keep your house tidy and clutter free you must make sure that everything is returned to this spot once it has been used. It is no good getting an item from one room in the house, using it in another and then not putting it back where it belongs. Over time, the mess will build up and clutter will start to reappear.
When you are out shopping if you feel the twinge to buy something for you home ask yourself ‘do I really need this in my decluttered home?’ Remember that extra ornaments, mean extra dusting; bringing more items in to your house will mean you need to find space to store it. If you buy some new clothes, shoes or even handbags, think of it as a replacement and get rid of a similar item. This will stop the build-up of possessions in your house and make it much easier to keep on top of it all.
With a clutter free house you will find that you have a lot more time on your hands; you won’t be searching for items that were previously buried behind other objects; you won’t spend as much time cleaning and dusting; you won’t be stressing about where to put something you have bought. Reward yourself by inviting friends round to enjoy your home; there is nothing more satisfying than knowing you are living in a clutter free space and sharing that with friends is a great way to keep your motivation levels high for keeping your house like this.
Once you have taken the time to have a full declutter, try and keep on top of it regularly. Don’t let the clutter build up again and if you feel that a room is becoming a designated room for clutter, stop cluttering it and clear it! It is so easy to place items in a room and close the door, but whilst you will forget about it in that moment, it will still be there the next day. Instead, remind yourself of the question ‘do I really need it?’ and if you do, find it a place to be stored. By taking these simple steps your house will be free of all the items you no longer need, and the sense of achievement from doing this will be shared with everyone living in the home. Maintaining a decluttered home is easy to do in small steps if you designate a point in time where you will just reassess the rooms in your house and check for any clutter. Keep looking forward, and remind yourself of how great it felt when you first finished this decluttering mission.