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I’m in need of decluttering tips, and here’s why: After eight moves in 15 years, inheriting my dad’s stuff after he passed away, gaining and losing significant amounts of weight, and combining households…clutter has taken over! We’ve got closets chock-full of clothes ranging from newborn (our little guy is 4 1/2!) to a women’s 28 and everything in-between. Tchotkes, candles, papers, boxes, and more.
I’ve said for years that we need to declutter. In fact, after our house flooded four times in September…I joked that I should have been more specific when I said that I wanted to declutter. The painful reality of it? It’s true.
Here are some startling statistics I found about the state of most households:
- Over the course of our lifetime, we will spend a total of 3,680 hours or 153 days searching for misplaced items. The research says we lose up to nine items every day—or 198,743 in a lifetime. Phones, keys, sunglasses, and paperwork top the list (DailyMail)
- There are 300,000 items in the average American home (LA Times)
- The average American throws away 65 pounds of clothing per year (HuffPost)
- Americans spend $1.2 trillion annually on nonessential goods—in other words, items they do not need (The Wall Street Journal)
I reached out to bloggers and organizing experts to share their best decluttering tips, and I was not disappointed!
Experts Weigh In: Decluttering Tips for All
Expert: Rachel Rosenthal, Organizing Expert, and Rachel and Company (@rachelorganizes)
- Take it one room at a time. Choose one room to focus on at a time and
touch every item in that room to determine how it should be categorized.
Remember: while the item might not take up much room in a box, you will eventually have to find a place for it in your new home. If it’s not something you love or use on a regular basis, let it go.
- Schedule it in. Like you would for a dentist or doctor, schedule in your organizing time! If you don’t make an appointment with yourself, you are bound to put something else in its place. Putting off the task may
eventually lead to the process of getting organized to become too daunting or overwhelming to take on.
- Set up closet for ready-to-wear. Edit your closet contents regularly to make sure what is being stocked in your closet are items that not only fit but are also things that you like to wear. Trying on multiple outfits
each morning is not only frustrating, but time consuming. Having pieces that you know will look great and make you feel confident wearing is key to getting your day started on the right foot.
About Rachel: As an organizing expert based in the DC area, Rachel has worked with 2,000+ clients on to help declutter their homes and create a lifestyle that is more organized, sustainable, and joyously livable.
Expert: Milana Perepyolkina, International Bestselling Author
I moved to the US to study in college with two bags. My pillow was in the first bag; a cup with a spoon, a dictionary and some clothes in the second. I am Gypsy by nationality. Gypsies have traveled in a small wagon for centuries.
All family possessions were in this small wagon. Everything was impeccably clean and well taken care of. Every possession mattered and had a history.
We now live in a disposable world. Clothes are disposable (not mended), girlfriends/boyfriends are disposable (next on the dating app!), things are disposable (is that a new iPhone?). We have more and value less. What can we do?
1. Stop buying; start exchanging. Clothing exchange is a wonderful way to get new clothes. You get rid of the old ones and get new ones without cluttering your closet.
2. Keep only what you definitely love AND use a lot.
3. When you don’t have clutter in your room, your mind works better; you get more creative ideas. Clear room equals clear thinking.
4. Find an alternative to shopping. How about a hike in the woods? Pick up a beautiful rock from nature instead of a new t-shirt.
5. Imagine each item in your house as alive. Items that you love emanate positive energy. Items that are broken, not loved and not used emanate negative energy. This will inspire you to declutter: You simply can’t take good care of too many items!
6. You will quickly realize how much money you save by not buying unnecessary things. What will you spend it on? How about a trip to Hawaii? Create memories, not clutter.
About Milana: She is the author of Gypsy Energy Secrets: Turning a Bad Day into a Good Day No Matter What Life Throws at You and Dark Chocolate for the Soul: Turning a Bitter Life into a Sweet Life No Matter What Happens to You
Expert: Kirsten Fisher, CPO®, Founder & CEO of Imagine Home Organization
Professional Organizer, Barbara Hemphill describes clutter best: Clutter is just postponed decisions. “Where does this go?” “Do I need it?” To avoid the build up of clutter you need to make decision making easier.
This can be done in three easy steps:
Think about your silverware drawer. It is organized, right? Even if all areas of your home feel like a disaster, likely, your utensils are cluttering up your kitchen. Why? They are sorted. Forks are with forks, spoons are spooning and knives are grouped. We don’t tend to overbuy silverware and if we do, we keep it in a separate place with one set in the everyday silverware drawer. The cutlery tray is the one organization container most people own.
The principles that work for silverware, work for every space in your home.
Sort every item in the space by category. If one category starts to get to big, break it into sub categories until you have manageable groupings of items.
Eliminate categories you don’t need, duplicate items within categories and things that accomplish the same objective even if they do it in a different way.
Define where the category of item will live and the best container to help keep it tidy in that space.
Soon, those difficult questions that cause you to put something down on the nearest flat surface are easy to answer. I need this and it goes in its home. Or, I don’t need this because I have determined I have too many and no more will fit in its home.
About Kirsten: She was a successful executive in women’s professional tennis before founding Imagine Home Organization. She is a Certified Professional Organizer®, member of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing professionals and has a certificate in Interior Design and Home Styling. She is a wife and the mother of two young boys.
Expert: Rhea Becker, Write and Editor, a.k.a. The Clutter Queen
One of the things I hear most often from clients is that they have no idea where to start.
Here’s what I suggest:
- Figure out why you want to declutter right now. Are you hoping to invite a partner to live with you? Are you frustrated that you can’t have friends over for dinner? Are you hoping to move one day? Are you hoarding, but want to change? Then choose your priority.
- What is driving you crazy? Your closets? Your bedroom? The kitchen counters? The basement? Then randomly pick a spot and move through the room systematically until you’ve handled every item – and I mean every – and made a decision to keep, toss, or donate.
Here’s a recommendation for folks who are hesitant to part with their items: Gather a few meaningful things and pack them up in a box. Mark the box with the date. Create a reminder on your phone for three months from now to open the box. Did you miss any of your stuff? I thought not! Toss it out.
About Rhea: The Clutter Queen (a.k.a. Rhea Becker) is a Boston-based writer and editor, whose credits include the Boston Globe and People magazine. She started her decluttering business 16 years ago. Although never a packrat, she knows what it’s like to break the connection between yourself and a once-beloved object.
Expert: Marshall Weber, Organization Expert at Stor-It Self Storage in Boise, ID
My decluttering strategies relate to properly optimizing the use of a storage unit. A lot of people want to declutter while also being able to hold onto prized possessions, so they rent a storage unit.
However, you shouldn’t just toss everything into a unit haphazardly and forget about it. Once you’ve narrowed down the items you absolutely must keep, pack them in boxes that are all the same size. This allows for easy stacking and navigation within your storage unit.
Also, create an inventory of your items and keep that list in a safe place at home. While the idea of decluttering usually means you are getting rid of things you don’t need, when it comes to storing items, you might need them again in the future. Don’t forget what you have in storage! Keep that list handy so that out of site does not become out of mind.
About Marshall: Family owned and operated self-storage company, Stor-It, has been a part of the entire Idaho movement of storage since the 1970s. With the advancements in technology and the internet, Marshall’s tenacity for technology and learning has allowed him to keep Stor-It as a leader in the storage industry.
Expert: Paloma Baillie, Certified Coach and Professional Organizer, Owner of Balance by Paloma
Here are some practical tips and hacks that you may find useful. But first, know the key to organizing: take it one room, one project, at a time.
Bedroom(s): You can use plastic containers with locking lids to store off-season fashion (gloves, beanies, bathing suits, beach wraps). You also can remove lids from unused plastic containers and repurpose them as pull out drawers in cabinets. Moreover, repurpose baskets or clear containers to store, for example, summer sandals (stored vertically, bottom-to-bottom) with fancy shoes in the front and flip flops in the back. This way, you still can see all of the options.
Bathroom: As shoe boxes can be repurposed and re-labeled, use a box for bathroom supplies you don’t use every day to create space.
Closets (coat, linen, etc.): Linen closets can be a luxury, so when you don’t need thicker blankets, flatten them in a vacuum storage bag and slide it under the bed (same thing for sweaters). Try to limit yourself to two sets of bedding to alternate and maximize storage space for clothing.
Office: An over-the-door organizer has a variety of clear pockets where you can store office supplies, for example, if you don’t have room for a proper desk.) Everything is laid out, so you have easy access and can see items more clearly. (Incidentally, you can do a similar thing with jewelry and make-up, sorting by type – pencils, lipsticks, brushes and eyeshadows.)
About Paloma: Balance begins at home. As a certified coach and professional organizer with more than 15 years of experience, Paloma provides a hands-on personal service that assists clients to clear the negative and useless.
Expert: Gabi Garrett, Organization Coach
The first step in decluttering is to not overwhelm yourself! Many people find the idea of going through their possessions so overwhelming their afraid to start. However, decluttering your home will add hours back into your week which will help simplify your entire life.
To reduce overwhelm, I recommend dividing your house into small segments.
Your list may read: kitchen drawers, makeup drawers, linen closets, bedroom closet (this one may take a few trips!).
If you have an entire day, or weekend – you can dedicate time to clearing out each section. Crossing off the to do list will make you feel like a winner, even before the trash bags are on the curb. However, if you’re
busy, you can set a timer for 45-60 minutes and do one segment per day. You
can have your life and home in tip top shape in seven days.
About Gabi: She is a writer, organizational coach and yoga teacher. She finds joy in helping other women find their purpose, and time to live! Her first novel, Kicked Out of Therapy, launches in 2019.
Expert: Elizabeth Dodson, co-founder of HomeZada
My favorite decluttering task I like to undertake the beginning of each year is to go through my home’s closets. Once I go through them, I get rid of items I no longer need or use. And I also make the closets look clean and organized. Closets tend to become the hidden areas of our home that we throw items into and often forget what was in them. I often find items that I thought I lost or misplaced which come in handy elsewhere in my home. Once I have gone through all my closets, I gain more storage for items that belong in each of my closets which creates more organization in my home.
By decluttering my closets, I can also quickly update my home inventory. I annually update my home inventory by taking photos and documenting the items I have in my home. Closets are the hidden areas of our home that get overlooked but get stuffed with items. With all the recent challenges with fires, hurricanes, tornadoes and volcanoes, it is important to know what is in every nook and cranny of our homes. Organized closets and knowing what you own keeps you on top of the items behind closed doors.
About Elizabeth: Elizabeth co-founded HomeZada, an online and mobile home management solution. HomeZada strives to educate and provide resources for homeowners in all areas of home management, including home inventory, maintenance, remodel projects and finances. Elizabeth has over 20 years of technology experience and an MBA from Loyola University.
Expert: Veronica Hanson, Vacay Visionary
Decluttering can have great rewards for your quality of life. If you find yourself losing things on a regular basis it’s likely you could benefit from some possession minimizing.
In case you think I don’t know what items you secretly want to keep, I really do:
The clothes you will fit in again after you lose 15 pounds—need to go.
The drawer of cords and batteries to items you think you’re going to find—need to go.
The broken items you’ve been meaning to fix for years but are obviously not important enough to make a priority—need to go.
The food in your pantry that you’d only consume during week 3 of the apocalypse—needs to go.
The numerous items of college/high school memorabilia that remind you of the good old days—pick one favorite and get rid of the rest.
When you really get focused on sorting through your things, you will realize you’ve managed to accumulate hundreds of thousands of items.. Go through each room of your house one by one. Empty every drawer, clear out every cabinet, and literally touch every item in your home. Ask yourself these questions to determine if you will keep, donate, or sell:
1) Have I used this item in the past year?
2) Does this thing bring me joy?
3) Is this object sentimental?
4) Will my next of kin see value (monetary or sentimental) in this
item when they are responsible for my home after I’m gone?
Not to be morbid, but all these earthly possessions will one day become someone else’s responsibility, and I wouldn’t want to cause weeks of stress on my kids while they sift through my junk.
About Veronica: Veronica turned her journey toward minimalism into money. When a solar eclipse filled every local hotel room she cleaned her house and listed it on Airbnb. One year, 53 nights booked, and $41,331 later she has turned her systems into a business teaching other homeowners her money making methods.
I don’t know about you, but these decluttering tips have me itching to get started right away on tackling the clutter! You can see a common theme amongst these experts: We have too much stuff that we attach sentimental value to.
What strategies do you use to declutter your home? Which expert’s decluttering tips did you enjoy the most? Please share those below!
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