From the archives…It can be a constant temptation – your night stand becomes a default home for odds and ends. Results – you have to look at clutter constantly, which actually can compromise your serenity. To stop the habit of dropping unnecessary stuff there, think of its surface as only for of-the-moment needs – the book you’re currently reading, the mug you’re drinking from, a pen and pad of paper for writing a note in the middle of the night. (BTW, that small action actually helps you “trick” your brain, so you can get back to sleep. Writing something down relaxes you.) Move mugs you’re done with to the kitchen, magazines to their real home (wherever that is), receipts to wherever you read mail and pay bills. Resist the temptation to drop something there, to deal with it later. This is a slippery slope! Remember – it always takes less time to put something in its rightful “home” the first time around, rather than to find homes for a pile of stuff later.
Here’s a nifty suggestion just read online. Happy to pass it along.
If you’re always surrounded by seemingly endless piles of clutter — old catalogs and magazines, empty envelopes, the recycling and more — you might benefit from a shortcut to help conquer your clutter. This simple solution might not seem like much, but it could be just the trick.
Keep a small trash can, recycling bin or container in every room of your home. That might seem like a lot of trash cans, perhaps even unnecessarily so. Maybe de-cluttering and keeping your life free of unneeded things is more about making the process as uncomplicated and stress-free as possible. Maybe you let clutter stack up around the house because you can’t get into the habit of bringing stuff to the trash can or recycling bin. (Or maybe you get distracted on your way to toss things.) Maybe you skip getting to tasks you need to start because you’ve got to get over the hump about tossing them out.
Is it not trash or recycling that’s cluttering your life? If so, then you might use this suggestion in a slightly different way. Place “back home” baskets in each room. They’re containers where you might put items that don’t belong there, to be brought back to their rightful places later on. Example – you find your car keys in your pocket while in your bedroom. Into a basket they might go, until they’re back to your back pack, purse, wall hook, or other “home” where they normally “live.”
If your goal is to reduce the amount of stuff you have, period, this idea could work with “out boxes,” where you might put items to toss, donate, or give away to others, presuming that you don’t add to their clutter.
The trick for making this work (and to avoid the containers becoming clutter piles themselves) is to schedule a consistent time each week to deal with each bin, back-home basket or outbox. That way, they won’t become added clutter. Bonus points – you’ll smile and maybe feel that you’ve accomplished something. You will have!
Here are some suggestions read online. Others have been in my thoughts recently. Maybe you see beautiful, clutter-free spaces in magazines or on the web, and think: “My home could never look like that.” It can! Freeing your space, and your life, from overwhelmingly huge amounts of stuff doesn’t take superhuman effort. All you need is a little commitment to some basic principles.
- Live within your means. Let the size of your home dictate how much stuff you have, and not the other way around. If your closet is bursting at the seams, instead of dreaming of a bigger closet, why not try paring down your clothes to fit the space you have? If you’re thinking of buying a home, maybe spend less than you can afford. Living modestly can pay off, as noted above, and in other ways, too. Example – if you face unexpected huge expenses, like health challenges, your finances might not have you by the throat, so to speak.
- Purge often. Even if you get to a point where you have only as many things as will comfortably fit into your space, stuff has a way of accumulating. So set aside a time, a few times a year, to go through your things and get rid of the ones you don’t use anymore. You’ll feel so much lighter.
- Have a place for everything. “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” It’s a cliche, but still is some of the best organizing advice. A bit of further advice: if you have lots of things in limbo on tables or countertops or the floor and are struggling to find places for them, maybe you need more places. This is where clear plastic shoeboxes or a filing cabinet or maybe just a console with lots and lots of drawers can come in handy.
- Don’t underestimate the importance of a junk drawer. Every household has those little things — pens, tape, twist ties, and other whatnot that get used a lot, but don’t really have a place. Instead of agonizing over finding a home for every little thing, keep a junk drawer. The last few little bits of clutter get swept in, and you’re done. Great storage – recycle the grocery store containers that hold mushrooms and other produce. They fit snugly into drawers.
- Put stuff away, always. Put the bottle opener back in the drawer! Hang the skirt you didn’t wear back in the closet! Keep doing it until it’s automatic. You won’t even think of not doing it. When you see how much better your home looks, you’ll be that much more motivated.
- Store things where you use them. Be smart about where you store things. Not having to walk halfway across your home to put things away will make #5 easier.
- Stop clutter before it enters your home with a landing strip. Even if you’re conscientious about what you buy, it’s easy for clutter to sneak into your home in the form of junk mail, freebies, etc. If space allows by the door, add a recycling basket or bin, a spot for keys, a boot tray for shoes and boots.
- Go paper-free. Scanning all the documents you’ve been hanging onto may seem like a daunting task, but once you’re done, they’ll be easily searchable. Apps, like Evernote, allow you to search scanned documents for certain words and you’ll have that much less paper to manage.
- Realize that life is about experiences, not things. We’re constantly bombarded with advertisements that try to convince us that a happy life is all about having the latest stuff: a new car, an outdoor kitchen, an ice cream maker. Studies show that it isn’t the things in our lives that make us happy. It’s our experiences that we treasure most. The next time you’re tempted to buy more stuff, ask yourself if the money wouldn’t be better spent on a vacation or a nice night out. Bonus: you won’t have to find a space for these things in your cabinets.
- Forgive yourself and try again. Remember that nobody is perfect, and nobody’s home is perfect. Even the homes you see in the magazines aren’t perfect — it took a whole team of stylists to make them that way. If you have an off week, or two weeks, or month, and suddenly your house looks like a disaster, don’t panic. It’s never too late to forgive yourself and try again. Breathe, breathe, breathe, then smile.
If you’re in the process of taking down holiday decorations, here are some storage tips. Did you buy new ornaments? Did the packaging somehow disappear? You can safely store ornaments in boxes from liquor stores – the ones with sections. Do you have some smaller, and perhaps especially delicate, ornaments? They could fit nicely into egg cartons. If possible, write a list of each box’s contents on its side, so you’ll know what’s where.
Have strings of lights to store? Wrap them around coffee cans, with the plugs placed inside.
Do you have partly used-up rolls of wrapping paper? Tame them with slit toilet paper or paper towel rolls, which you can slide over the ends.
How to store all of that wrapping paper? If space allows, run a wire or two across the top of a closet or along the underside of a shelf, and slide the wrapping in. You’ll save storage space and also be able to easily see what you have.
Now that we’re past the mid-January point, you may have caught your breath after the holidays. Are you now thinking to make sense of some piles that you’ve perhaps had for a long time, and others that somehow appeared during holiday busy-ness?
Here are some easy fixes. I especially like baskets, for their functionality and style. They look good and can be used for different solutions as your needs change. Made in many different sizes and styles, they often can be found quite affordably. Store toys and books; catalogs, magazines and newspapers before recycling.
Like baskets, cloth bins hold many objects, too, from table linens to toys to…you get the picture.
Trays are great, too. They don’t take up much space, and can tame the mess on bathroom counters, bars and other areas.
Canisters are great for kids’ stuff. If you can find them, the kind made of clear glass with tops on the bias will keep contents visible. Think crayons, small plastic pieces for built structures.
Already suggested elsewhere on this website, you can easily organize bills, which tend to collect on my kitchen counter; maybe on yours, too. Place them in due date order in a manila file folder or in a napkin holder.
Are you expecting guests on short notice? Are you looking at mess that you can’t tolerate anymore, and have little time to clean? If you live in a small apartment, you can fix it all in ~30 minutes; if in a larger space, spend an hour. You’ll focus on the kitchen, bath, and living/dining spaces. Here are some steps to make you smile.
- Gather basics – floor and bleach wipes, glass cleaner, countertop spray, air freshener.
- Pick up all that’s on the floor and put it away.
- Spray all kitchen/dining room surfaces and wipe them dry.
- Using bleach wipes, wipe down the sink, toilet and shower.
- Use glass cleaner on bathroom mirrors. Don’t forget the entryway, if there’s one there.
- Shake out rugs and straighten pillows. Use air freshener on upholstered surfaces.
- Light some candles if you have them, and lower the lights a bit, if you’d like. Put on some music. Smile!
As suggested in previous Timely Tips, are you working to clear clutter? If not, are you feeling stuck, unsure of how to start? Facing family resistance?
Here are some tips that might help you. Get some round adhesive dots in several different colors. Office supply stores stock them. Also, get some sturdy boxes and/or large, preferably clear, plastic bags. Clear bags will help prevent mistakes. Attach labels to the boxes and/or bags – Keep, Repair, Trash, Donate, Gift, Recycle, Sell and, if needed, Not a Clue.
You might alert your family that you will devote a couple of hours to each room in your home. You might allow time to share stories, which can be an important part of “saying goodbye” to items. Ask each person to attach dots on items in the room, according to a color key. White dots could be attached to items used daily, green ones for those used weekly. Next, yellow for those used monthly, then red for annual use. You might see consistencies, or no particular patterns. Either way, it’s likely to be interesting. The colors will guide you, as you decide what to do with each item.
The next step is quite important to achieving the sense of accomplishment you deserve. Place items in the right boxes or bags. Do what the labels direct! Be sure to actually act, or the boxes and/or bags will sit, perhaps bugging you, and could prevent you from moving forward to working in more rooms.
The reward? You might share a meal including family members’ favorite foods. During it, you could plan your next de-cluttering session.
Do you have memorabilia that reminds you of cherished times past? Teddy bears? Other items that you may have outgrown, even decades ago? If you’re having trouble letting them go, you might take photos, then preserve them in whatever way is easy and will be accessible. Still difficult to imagine doing? You might ask a loved one or a friend to help you by listening to stories about the objects, so that you can say goodbye. You’ll feel lighter – really!
Elsewhere on this website, you may read that physical clutter = mental clutter. While many clients learn that while we’re working together, others knew it already, which may have inspired them to hire De-clutter Me!
There’s another kind of clutter that may be calling for your attention, though not as visibly as physical objects you can see. Is your email inbox bulging? Your “sent” file, too? You might want to consider purging from them on a daily basis, as the previous Timely Tip (which perhaps you’ll actually read next) suggested about (physical) things. That way, you can clear your mind, wiping your mental slate clean. It helps me, and it might work for you, too.
Happy New Year? What? It’s not January! The calendar shows August. Even so, with the school year already begun in some places, and about to start in many more, in some ways it feels like the beginning of a new year.
Do you make New Year’s resolutions in January and, if so, how long do they last? A few days? A week? A month or two? Here’s something you can do on a daily basis, to lighten your load – clear clutter each day. That’s right – get rid of something every day. You will feel lighter and, after a short time, you’ll feel a real sense of accomplishment. Can you imagine how it’ll be after 365 days?
Here are some tips to help.
- Consider how to do this. Give away, donate, recycle? If none are appropriate, toss?
- Don’t buy out of habit, or worse, out of boredom.
- Don’t keep items out of guilt or obligation. I had a pottery cookie jar, a gift from someone I’ve not been in touch with for years. I really didn’t like it all that much. I dropped something a few days ago, which landed on its lid, chipping it. Did I want to struggle with trying to glue the little pieces back on? No thanks! Could I “re-purpose” and use the bottom, say, as a planter? No, not really. I actually was relieved to place it in the trash.
- Does like = need? You may like some things that you don’t actually need.
- Don’t over-equip. You likely don’t need enough plates, cutlery, bed linens, towels, etc., to stock a hotel. If a big group of guests is coming, you might borrow from friends, neighbors, family.
- Save time. Every item you own takes time – to clean, maintain, perhaps repair. And, that’s after likely earning the money to buy, then taking the time to shop.
- Non-material gifts. Encourage those who might buy presents for you to make them gifts of experience or adventure. Concert tickets? A special restaurant meal? A hot air balloon ride? Also, consider time together, perhaps to be used on a big project. How about a donation in your name to a charity you hold dear?
Happy New Year!