Welcome to the
Before anything else we need to address clutter.
Clutter cannot be organised, it can be moved, shuffled and put into piles but it will never be organised!
What is Clutter?
Clutter is , according to Collins dictionary, a lot of things in an untidy state, especially things that are not useful or necessary. And Merriam Webster defines clutter as: things that impede movement or reduce effectiveness.
What is clutter to me will not be clutter to you and vice versa, however as a guide clutter is groups of objects which have no real home, are rarely used and are held onto out of sentimentality, guilt, lack of time or lack of energy.
Why do I need to declutter?
Clutter is bad for your health. There, I've said it. Let's get the hard bit said and then we'll see how you can deal with your own unique and specific situation.
Clutter can have negative effects on your physical and mental health.
Physically you may find accumulated dust affecting your allergies. When you have things building up around you, whether they are in piles or just sitting around the room it becomes difficult to keep on top of cleaning, access can be impeded and dust begins to gather. You may find you are sneezing more, maybe your eyes are itchy and runny. You may even find you get respiritory problems.
There is also the threat of tripping up on clutter which has gathered on floors around your home. Trip hazards are no joke! Especially if there is lot's of things lying around. Maybe you can negotiate your piles of clutter but spare a thought for visitors.
What if you already have a chronic illness and clutter has built up over time because you are not able to declutter for yourself? This is the time to ask for some help. You do not want your condition to be any worse than it needs to be. Your home needs to be in a state where you can cope with it when you are at your worst. On the days when your flare ups are at their most debilitating your home needs to be nurturing and a sanctuary.
This leads me on to the effects of clutter on our mental health.
Do you struggle to focus, are you feeling stressed, do you procrastinate? Are you isolated and feeling lonely? Are you lethargic and unmotivated or struggling to sleep well?
All of these things can be caused or made worse by your environment.
Just a quick google and you will find many scientific studies on the relationship between clutter and poor mental health.
Here are my own observations, taken from my own personal experience aswell as those of people I have helped.
A cluttered environment is distracting. Being surrounded by things causes visual distraction which in turn affects your ability to focus on what it is you really need to be getting on with. Your thoughts can go from one pile of objects to the next skipping from one 'I should do this' thought, to another
'when I get around to this' but never landing in one place long enough to get one job completed.
But it isn't just random objects which can be distracting, it is also the TYPE of object. If it holds memories and is of sentimental value to you, then feelings of sadness or guilt or overwhelm can flood over you each time the object catches your eye.
A cluttered home can also be isolating. If you are ashamed of the state of your home you may decide not to invite people in or have your children's friends visit.
From my personal experience, a cluttered bedroom dramatically affects how I sleep. Going to bed in a welcoming, relaxing space means I can walk to my bed without negotiating piles of clothes, get into bed without having to clear it off first and lie down knowing a better night's sleep is on the way. And I suffer from poor sleep so anything which can help me relax before bed is a boon!
Before we begin...
If you have a relatively small area to declutter, or if you are confident in your ability to stay on task, then you could probably just look at your project and get stuck in!!!
I feel, however, if this were the case you probably wouldn't be here!!
So - for the rest of us - READ ON...
Before you begin your decluttering - however big or small the project - there are three things you need to be clear on:
In my equipment list there are items which are essential and a few things which, although not essential are useful.
4 - 5 BOXES/BAGS/CRATES -
these are to be labelled: DONATE - RECYCLE - TRASH - PUT AWAY - UNSURE.
Using containers which are not see through can help if you find yourself getting distracted by their contents!
PEN AND PAPER -
These have two uses.
Firstly, create labels for your boxes/bags.
Secondly, use your notepaper to keep notes of anything you think of whilst decluttering, ideas you may have for storage, for who may like to see something before you donate it to charity. You can also have a page to note down things which need to be repaired, need batteries etc. Keep doing the decluttering and take notes when you have distracting thoughts.
WATER - KEEP HYDRATED!
TIMER - although not strictly necessary, a timer can keep you from having those wandering thoughts! If you know you have 15, 20 or 30 minutes and then you can have a break it may help you from getting distracted or taking too long too make decisions.
DAMP CLOTH / DUSTER -
I like to empty a space completely whilst decluttering and give it a wipe down before putting things away again. But don't let cleaning a space distract you from your GOAL!
Of local charity shops, donation and recycling centers and their opening times. It is important that you move your donation, recycling and trash bags out of your home as soon as possible after decluttering. If you have a handy list of opening times you can get organised as soon as you are ready!
I am going to start this section with a quote from the book I am writing!
"I fully expect some of you have come straight to this page without reading the previous chapters!!!!
PLEASE go back and give them a read - you can begin here and get stuck into your decluttering and have a great success - BUT - the previous chapters are all geared towards you sustaining your success, giving you something to work towards and pushing you through some of the hard decisions."
ROOM BY ROOM DECLUTTERING AND DECLUTTERING BY CATEGORY
ROOM BY ROOM:
Step 1. Decide on the first area you want to declutter.
Do not attempt to declutter sentimental items first
Do not attempt to declutter your paperwork first
Both of these decluttering projects need to be done when you have already had some decluttering experience and you have become confident in your decision making process.
They are both especially draining projects to complete and both will take more time than you expect.
Begin in an area where you feel most confident. I find a bathroom cabinet or even the bathroom as a whole, if it is small, can be the easiest area to declutter. You can easily check dates and remove empty bottles.
Step 2. Schedule your decluttering.
This does depend on the amount of clutter you want to clear but it is essential that you give yourself enough time. Schedule a time, block it out on your calendar and make sure any help you need is available at that time.
In order to estimate how much time you might need for a decluttering session - this is a bit like asking how long is a pice of string! - tackle a small area, a junk drawer or medicine cabinet for example. Empty it out, sort through the contents, decide on items you can get rid of and items to keep, donate or move to somewhere else. Then put back the items you are keeping in the drawer or cabinet.
Then ask yourself: Was it an easy job for you? Could you make decisions quickly? Did it take more or less time than you expected?
When you shedule and block out time to do some decluttering use this project to determine if you will need to be generous with your time on making decisions on what stays and what goes. Estimate the time and then increase it!
Step 3. Create your boxes
You will need:
DONATE, RECYCLE , TRASH, PUT AWAY AND UNSURE.
The first three boxes are for the items which will no longer have space in your home. They don't fit into your vision for where you want to be.
If they are functioning or unbroken addd them to the donate box. If it is packaging for example add to the recycle box. For items which are not fit to donate and are not recycleable then add to the trash box.
The put away box is for items which you want to keep but belong somewhere else. For example, you may have three identical hairbrushes, one will remain in the bathroom, one will go into the put away box to be taken to your bedroom and the other , if unused can go to charity or depending on how it is made either recycle or trash.
Finally, the unsure box. This box is for those items where you really don't know what you want to do with them. Put them in this box and revisit them when you have finished this section. It may surprise you to fin it is easier to make decisions on these items second time around. Items left in this box can be 'quarantined' for a period of time. This means they are packed away for, say, 3 months. After the time has passed go back to the box and see how much easier it is to make your decisions!
Step 4. Be Methodical.
You have a clear idea of why you want to do your decluttering.
You have planned ahead of time and know when you are doing your decluttering.
Your boxes are all ready!
Empty the section / drawer / cupboard
Go through the items methodically BUT do not take a lot of time making your decisions. Decide on which box and put it in. Check use by dates, is it empty?, can you decant all the last bits of shower gel into one bottle?, is it broken, damaged? Is it something you won't use? - do not feel guilty about donating something which was given to you, this is your space and guilt has no home here.
Take breaks when you need to BUT don't get distracted. (If you feel overwhelmed put the remaining items back in the cupboard. You have made a great start on the journey to your vision! You now have a clearer idea of how much time you need to allocate in the future and whether you need more or less help)
When the area has been sorted through give it a wipe down and put back the things which you want to keep in the cupboard. Everything you put back should be something you want to keep. Don't get too caught up in this - you still have another step to do!
Remove the other boxes from the area where you have been working.
Step 5. Deal with the boxes.
If 10 minutes is all you can do, or if you do a couple of hours WELL DONE! You are on your way to your goal! You MUST make sure you remove your boxes AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. Don't be tempted to go through them again!
If you have things in your unsure box go through them again now and see if you can make a decision on them. Your decluttering muscles are in the zone and it may be easier than you thought!!
DECLUTTER BY CATEGORY:
Decluttering by category involves gathering all items of one category into one room and sorting through them. You still use the box method shown above.
For example, if you wanted to declutter your stationery you would go through every room in your house, all your bags and anywhere else you might keep stationery. You gather it all together and then begin your decluttering by sorting into the boxes. This is the same for clothes, books, bedding - whatever you decide is the category you want to work on.
Here are some links to DOCC Blogs which go into more detail on some of the steps covered above:
Dealing with sentimental items:
Dealing with paper clutter:
Some Before and Afters:
For a page by page guide to decluttering head to my Amazon page where you can buy the Declutter Journal - a workbook to take you through the steps shown above!