So, it is January 2, 2017. You made that New Year's Resolution to declutter your home, but you don't know where to start. You stare at the mountain of clutter and shudder in fear of what lie within that pile. It seems like a daunting task, and you are already contemplating chucking the idea and saving it for next year, when the pile will be even bigger.
The thing is, it shouldn't seem overwhelming or daunting. You should change how you feel or look at clutter. It is a nuisance and it brings our self esteem down. It makes us feel cluttered on the inside, sometimes stifling us. So, how do you start? Where do you even begin?
Well, let's look at a couple of strategies:
The Kitchen Sink:
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So, where does cleaning the kitchen sink come in to start the process? The Flylady's train of thought is that if you first clean your sink, it has a domino effect by getting your line of site going. Once you have a nice, clean, shiny sink, you begin to look at the room as a bigger picture. You want your kitchen to sparkle like your sink, so you move to the next task until the kitchen is sparkling. And let me tell you that it does work!
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The Visible Clutter Solution:
For me, one of the places I like to start is by tackling the clutter on visible surfaces in the primary living spaces. I generally start with one stack at a time. I find that once you have cleared off one surface and cleaned it, then the desire to move to the next surface begins to grow. I generally try to create three piles (using boxes, bins, or baskets): One for keep/file/put away, another for give away, and the third for trash. I encourage people to do this quickly, as if you hold a piece too long in your hand, you tend to over analyze the piece and keep it for the wrong reasons. You should know instantly if it is a keeper or not.
Once the pieces are cleared away, put away, given away, or thrown away, I then dust or clean the spot (depending on the surface type). The freshly cleaned surface has the same affect as shining the sink does: Once it is clean, you want to clean more.
Dealing With Paper Clutter:
One of the things I struggle the most with is paper clutter. My office is buried under paper clutter, often because it does tend to overwhelm me. But the problem is, it keeps me from wanting to enter or use my home office/craft room. And I want to use it as an office/craft room.
But it doesn't have to be that way. There are generally rules that help us understand and eliminate the paper clutter once and for all.
Use one folder to gather all of your credit card receipts, bank deposit receipts, and ATM receipts. Once you receive your bank statement (whether electronically or by paper), go through the file to reconcile your bank statement, then safely shred all of the paper in that folder. The only time you need to save a receipt is if it is to be used for tax purposes (medical receipts and business related receipts). For those, I recommend using a separate file to gather those. Or, even better, scan the receipts into your computer and save to a specific file folder. Then safely shred those receipts.
Other documents, such as utility bills, I generally keep those for one year, and in a separate folder for each bill. Years ago, I was a caregiver for a disabled woman. I was completely in charge of her finances, so the filing method I used for her monthly utilities, was to sit down, pay each bill, mark on the bill receipt the date, check number, and amount that was paid. I would then place all of the bills for that month into the largest of the bill envelopes (generally the telephone envelope) then file it in a drawer for one year. Once the year was up, I would then shred the paperwork. However, these days, the mass majority of my bills are electronic (and paid electronically). When I go online to pay the bills, I will either print the confirmation page, or save the page as a PDF and file in a folder on my desktop for that month. (The paper version goes into a folder for that month). I would then follow the yearly method after that, as well.
However, there are some paper (and electronic) documents you may want to keep longer. For example, auto loan information (including payments) will need to be saved for the life of the loan. And then I save for at least one year after the loan has been paid in full for a "just in case" scenario. Same with mortgage information and investments.
As for taxes, it is suggested that all records be kept for up to seven years, as the IRS can audit you up to six years after you have filed your taxes. This includes the receipts that I mentioned above.
A neatly filed system makes life so much easier on every level. For example, if there is a question on a bill, you'll know exactly where to go to get that information. And in the case you do get audited, you are not caught with your pants down.
What To Do With Seasonal Clutter:
I don't really like to use the word "clutter" when it comes to seasonal items, but if you are like me, and you are staring down your Christmas decor now that Christmas is over, you may feel somewhat traumatized by the thought of taking down the Christmas decor. You begin to ask "where do I story this", "what do I keep", and "how on earth did I get all of this stuff". But, the thing is, this is the perfect time to declutter your holiday clutter.
I use the same method as I do with any decluttering attempt by segmenting everything out into three piles/bins/baskets: Keep, Give Away, or Trash. Again, you should not hold on to a piece for more than a couple of seconds, for exactly the same reason you do with other types of clutter. Holding on to it for more than a couple of seconds results in you keeping something you don't love. After everything is packed away, I suggest storing your Christmas bins in an out of the way place that is easy to access. I won't go into it right now, but mine was not easily accessible this year, and it wasn't by my doing.
How To Declutter The Closet:
I'm not going to get into the nitty gritty details on how to declutter the closet, as I've done that already several times. But the key thing to remember is if you have not worn it in over a year, then you do not need to keep it. If it is worn, torn, or just plain old/out of style, it is time to trash it (worn and torn items should never be donated or given away). I understand sentimentality about some items (wedding gowns, confirmation dresses, and baptismal gowns), but you need to really think about if it is necessary or unnecessary. Especially when space is an issue. There are some organizations that take gently used wedding gowns and turn them into burial gowns for stillborn children. Plus, be honest with yourself: If you are now divorced and still hanging onto that particular wedding gown, is it really necessary to keep it?
When it comes to seasonal items, use rubber bins to store them in an easily accessible storage place. This allows your to have space in your closet to allow your current seasonal wardrobe to be wrinkle free, as well as easy to find.
And for people like me, if you are hanging on to a recently purchased clothing size that you are trying to attain again, I would highly suggest reading my blog Did I do the right thing.
Once everything is done, take a step back and admire your handiwork. I will tell you this, that I would not attempt to do all of this in one weekend, but I would do it over the course of three or four weekends. Attempting to do it all at once makes it harder on you, and could lead to burn out on the whole process.
Another thing to remember and live by is that if you bring in a new item into your home, give away or throw away another piece you already have. I mean, com'on, do you really need those jeans from the 1980's?