When clutter gains a foothold, it turns into an unstoppable force that resists all challenges to tame it. It’s an energy-drain and if left unchecked, becomes a self-sustaining monster. But all is not lost! Here are a few tips for tackling the beast and beginning to de-clutter (or tame) it a little at a time.
First off, don’t think big. That’s the stumbling block that has felled any number of people in their well-meaning efforts to de-clutter. The accumulation didn’t happen in a day, and it isn’t going to go away that quickly, either.
If you attempt to tackle the entire project as a whole, frustration will quickly cripple your efforts. Instead, allow yourself a specific amount of time to tackle a single cleaning task.
Focus on one area of one room—a desk, a cupboard, a bookcase. There’s great satisfaction in taking back control of even just a small space. Break all of the tasks into small, manageable chunks you can finish in an hour or two:
- Organize first, buy second. There’s little point in buying storage containers or any supplies intended to assist with the cleaning-out process before you know what will remain after the purging. Purchasing containers is just giving yourself the temptation to store even more things you don’t need. For the same reason, this is certainly not the time to contemplate building new shelving or adding more storage space—it only enables you to hold on to items that should be departing now.
- Complete cleaning tasks entirely. Experts advise approaching cleaning with three goals in mind. As you begin to de-clutter your home, everything should be designated for one of three destinations: Trash, donate, or keep. Once everything has been classified, act on it immediately. Trash goes directly to the curb. Keepsakes go back onto the shelves or into the drawers. Donated items must leave your house ASAP. The longer you allow the boxes or bags of things destined for a charity or thrift shop to sit around, the less likely they are going to leave at all. Make a firm agreement with yourself that once separated, no items remain in limbo for more than a day. Haul those things to be donated out to your car right away, and don’t leave them in the trunk! Place them in the back seat where they are a constant reminder—and an inconvenience—until you’ve dropped them off at your local thrift store.
- Leave sentimentality out of it. Don’t de-clutter your home when you’re feeling nostalgic. The “if you haven’t used it—or even seen it—in eighteen months, then out it goes” rule is harder to enforce when emotions are ruling your decision-making process. If something is merely going to go back into a box or a drawer or cupboard and not be seen again for another five years, then ask yourself how much you really need it. You probably don’t.
- Keep an eye on the new clutter. Once you’ve winnowed down your stuff to a manageable level, you need to stay disciplined so that it doesn’t begin to take over your life once more. One tip for keeping “the paper monster” in check is to place all mail and assorted paperwork in a tray or shelf in plain view—neatly stacked, of course—on a desk or an entryway table. Never allow the stack to grow higher than half an inch. When it approaches that mark, promptly set aside the time to tackle what’s there and then send it on to its permanent destination.
Only after you’ve made a good, solid sweep of organizing and eliminating clutter, will you realistically understand your present and future storage needs. This is the time to determine whether additional closet space or extra shelving is appropriate. Consult with your local Handyman Matters office to see what tips and assistance they can provide to expand your home’s storage capabilities. But above all, stay on your guard! Clutter has a way of creeping back in when you least expect it.
Locate your local Handyman Matters by calling 1(866)FIX-MY-HOME.