Waiting for the perfect day to declutter your home? How about when you finally take long service leave? When the weather is just right? When your adult children all commit to come home for a week-long working bee? When the stars align? Please don’t wait any longer. And please don’t waste your precious holidays, family visits and beautiful sunny days decluttering!
I have been helping people declutter their homes since 2006, and I almost never work with anyone for more than four hours at a time or more than once a week. Why? Because decluttering is mentally exhausting – not for me, for the client whose possessions hold grief, joy, guilt, pride, regret, missed opportunities and wasted money. Decluttering is not an event, it’s a process and over the years I’ve learned some tricks that you can use at home to make the job easier:
- Set aside a manageable amount of time (no more than three hours) and tackle one small area that you can complete in the allocated time. For example, if you only have an hour, don’t try to declutter your whole kitchen, just do that annoying corner cupboard with the broken sandwich maker and rusty baking sheets.
- Start with items of low emotional involvement. Don’t try to make a decision about your childhood books, get rid of old phone books instead.
- When sorting, keep your categories broad. Most people fall into the trap of trying to sort and organise things too precisely at the start only to find that some random item messes up their beautiful new system. If you have a mountain of paper, don’t start by setting up a perfect filing system. Sort the mountain into four categories:
- Active – these are the papers you need easy access to – the school tuck shop menu, addresses, bills to be paid and notes to respond to.
- Archival – things that you need to keep, like tax records and your will and birth certificate, but don’t need at your fingertips.
- Memorabilia – special cards, children’s artwork and photos. Not sure what’s worth keeping? Use the smile test – if it makes you smile it’s a keeper.
- Trash – my personal favourite spot for paper.
Now find a handy home for the active stuff and put the archival stuff and memorabilia in their own boxes someplace safe.
- Weed constantly. Wore a jumper that made you feel like the Michelin Man all day? Don’t put it back in the wardrobe. Never wear it again! Even for cleaning out the garage on a bitterly cold day. Don’t wait until you have time to clean out your wardrobe. Put it straight in the donation box!
- Start now, because when that perfect day comes, you won’t want to spend it decluttering.
Written by Wendy Hanes