Clutter breeds at my house. Seriously. Or maybe we carry its spores on our skin and clothes and they drop off in all sorts of random places around my home and then spring to life while we’re sleeping.
All I know is that clutter multiplies in my house. It’s always been a problem for me, and I’ve spent years looking for a miracle cure, all to no avail. Sadly, there is no organization wand I can wave to make clutter disappear and no clutter spray that will kill clutter on my counter top for up to 6 weeks.
Oh, if only…
No, there is only one real way to handle clutter, and that is with a slow, ruthless, systematic approach.
Which is exactly the sort of approach I’m putting into action now that we’re on summer break. I have been tackling clutter with a vengeance and, believe me, nothing in my house is safe when I get into true decluttering mode. In fact, if you decide to drop by my house, I don’t advise sitting in one place too long or I’m liable to toss, store, or file you away somewhere. No kidding.
So what strategies am I using? Nothing earth-shattering, just a few simple, common sense tips for handling the clutter beast in a sane, realistic manner.
If you have major clutter issues, trying to solve the whole crisis in one day just isn’t going to work. Go at it slowly, one spot at a time, maybe just for 5 – 10 minutes at a time. Or you can even implement my little Trick of 13 for de-cluttering by tossing, storing, or filing just 13 things at each sitting.
When clutter builds up, it may take a while to get it under control again, and dealing with it in small chunks is far more manageable and more likely to be successful in the long-term.
Stay on task.
I’ve been doing this decluttering thing long enough to know how it works: You may sit down to clear clutter from the top of your desk, then before you know it, you’re going through desk drawers and finding billing statements and insurance policy information and old birthday cards. Oh, and look! It’s your grandmother’s wedding album…
No, no, no! Focus on the visible clutter first. Only when all surface clutter has been contained should you begin worrying about sorting and organizing things that are hidden away.
Learn to let stuff go!
Let’s be honest: Most of the time our clutter could be cut in half if we could bring ourselves to throw more things away. (Or donate them.) Keeping stuff out of obligation, guilt, or mere neglect is a sure-fire way to find ourselves buried in clutter.
So here are the major clutter culprits that need to be dealt with in a brutal, no-nonsense manner:
- Things you don’t love, don’t need, or don’t actually use. Whatever it is, if it doesn’t fit in at least one of these categories, you need to get rid of it, no matter who gave it to you, how much you paid for it, or how useful you think it might be someday. That said, it’s perfectly okay to keep something that isn’t useful just because you love it. And it’s just as okay to keep something you don’t really like but that is useful to you. Just don’t clutter your life with things you don’t like, don’t need, and don’t use.
- Broken things. I have a terrible tendency to set broken items on a counter top or dresser or bookshelf with the intention of fixing it, only to have it collect dust and get in my way for the next six months (or longer) until I finally decide it’s not worth fixing and throw it away. Don’t do that. If something is genuinely worth fixing, immediately set a time and place to make the repairs. If it’s not or you can’t, then throw it away!
- Things you can’t identify. Am I the only one who comes across UHOs regularly? You know, Unidentified Household Objects that look like they might have come off of some appliance, gadget, or toy. Sometimes I find myself insistent upon keeping these things for fear they might be important. Listen, if hubby and kids can’t identify it and everything seems to be working fine without it, you probably don’t need it.
- Children’s artwork. This one is tough for me. Honestly, sometimes I feel like I’m sinning when I throw away my children’s handiwork. But we have to be realistic, Moms. There is just no way to keep each and every precious creation. Absolutely save your favorites, but take photos of the rest and throw them away. (And, incidentally, I’ve searched the Bible on this subject and cannot find a single scripture regarding the sanctity of crayon drawings, finger paint, or paper mache projects of any kind. Artwork-purging is not a sin. What a relief, huh?)
Make organization easier for yourself.
If clutter isn’t going in the trash, then it needs a new home. When you have places to contain all your random clutter, it suddenly becomes much easier to sort it all. The old adage, “A place for everything and everything in its place,” can only happen when there really is a place for everything!
Sometimes this does require an investment, but while you may not be able to afford the gorgeous storage baskets from your favorite home décor store, you probably can afford some bins and baskets from your local dollar store. While they might not be as eye-pleasing, they’re likely to work just as well, helping you conquer your clutter without the high price tag.
For paper clutter, accordion files are probably my favorite solution. And plain old pocket folders, purchased around back-to-school time for $ .10 a piece, help contain tax receipts, important documents, and of course schoolwork.
Create a place for everything, and it will be much easier for everything to find its way there.
I’m sorry I couldn’t offer you an organization wand or a clutter spray. I’m still waiting on one of those to be invented. What I did offer was a few realistic, common-sense rules to keep in mind when tackling clutter. One of them might just be exactly what you need to conquer the clutter beast in your home!
So what methods do you use to tackle clutter at your house? Can you add any suggestions to those listed here?