Maria Syrrist, decluttering & organising consultant at Free Up Zone says…
Don’t feel you have to do it all at once. The best thing to do is to break the project up into small sections and do one section at a time. So, if you’re doing the kitchen, start by doing the drawers. The next day or next week do some of the cupboards. If it’s the bedroom, do the clothes first, then shoes, then bags and so on. This way the task feels less challenging and daunting.
Think small to start with. As above, do things like drawers first, then the cupboards, then floor cupboards and finish with worktops and surfaces. The reason I say do the worktop surface last – even if that can feel messy – is because when you have done everything else, there should be places to put that stuff in. If not, try to make space for things like papers, pens, and other items that normally clutter your surfaces.
Ask yourself some hard questions. This is a real problem for many people as they accumulate a lot of sentimental items. If they are taking over your house, the best thing to do is to go through each item and really ask yourself why are you keeping it – are you keeping it because you feel guilty getting rid of it? If that is the case, it is much better to give it to charity. You may need support from family members to let go of certain sentimental items – discuss with your family whether the item is something that should stay in the family and whether anyone else wants to take care of it.
Be the most brutal in the bathroom. Get rid of all creams you don’t use. For some reason it's tempting to buy many different hand creams, sprays, hair products, perfumes. But do we need so many? And most importantly, do we use them all? Keep the goodies and give the rest to friends and family. Do we need six different types of shampoo and conditioner? Stick to one at a time. And save only the make-up you actually use. If you haven't used it in the last six months, it doesn’t matter how expensive it was, you won't use it. Use small boxes to organise, nail scissors, tweezers, hairbands, make-up, small hand creams and so on. You can use boxes in both your cabinets and your drawers.
Declutter at least once a month after you have done the ‘big’ declutter. This will help you to be on top of things. But that doesn’t mean you have to get rid of things every time. It just means you are keeping an eye on what you have.
Lizzie Grant, professional organiser & founder of Declutter on Demand, says…
Find your motivating factor. Your reasons for decluttering may not be the same ones that motivate other people. Ask yourself what currently frustrates you about the clutter and work out what the benefits of decluttering would be. Hold onto this as you make a start. Preparation is also key – you will need bags (bin bags, supermarket bags and/or recycling bags), labels and a pen.
Sort out one category or area at a time. Avoid feeling overwhelmed and making a huge mess by just sorting through one category or small area at a time, e.g. a couple of shelves. This makes it much easier to find time to declutter and will avoid you making decisions you regret because you were tired or demotivated.
Divide items into four piles. Keep, Action (e.g. dry-clean or repair), Donate and Recycle. Have labelled bags ready for your action, donate and recycling piles so you can put items straight into these bags. This system saves you time and means you’re less likely to second-guess yourself. To decide what to keep and let go of, ask yourself questions like: do I love it and use it? If not, why not? Would you buy it again now? What purpose does it serve in your life? Does it make you feel positive or negative? Do you have something else that serves the same purpose and which you prefer?
Ignore the guilt. It’s really common for people to hold on to things they have been gifted out of guilt, even though they do not like or need the presents. However, give yourself permission to donate, sell or re-gift presents. The thing about gifts is this: once given to you, the gift is yours to do with as you wish. So, if you want to let go of them, you can. Another mistake is people remember how much money they spent on their belongings (often clothes) which they have never used (and probably never will). This guilt of feeling they have wasted their money makes it hard for them to let go of these items. It can be more helpful to remember that we all sometimes spend money in less-than-ideal ways. All we can do is move forward and do better next time.
Invest in the right tools. People often buy storage and organising solutions before they have properly decluttered. However, the problem of having too much stuff in the first place has not been fixed. Therefore, the storage solutions don’t provide the desired solution. Wait until you have really decluttered, then measure the space before you buy storage and organising products. From there, invest in drawer dividers to organise items in drawers, containers for grouping items on shelves and shelf inserts for maximising space.
Don’t let anywhere be a dumping ground. Areas like garages so often become a dumping ground for all sorts of items. The trick is to decide what types of items really need to be stored in there. Declutter anything you no longer need or want. You may find a lot of things which need to be taken to the tip or picked up by a waste collection company to be recycled. Create zones so that you know exactly where to go to find things like DIY tools, Christmas decorations, gardening items etc.
Develop new habits. It can often take developing different habits to prevent clutter creeping back over time. Start a new habit so that at the same time every day you take time to put things back where they belong and to sort out little bits of clutter. That way you keep on top of things as you go along and can maintain a clear space long term.
Kathryn Lord – @More_To_Organising on Instagram – says…
Think about what will make the biggest difference. Start where there are things that bother you most in the day and that will make a real difference to daily life. Streamlining children’s school uniforms, for example, might make the school run easier. Organising kitchen cupboards could make mealtimes less hassle. It’s common to see people try to do too much at once. It’s overwhelming and means they give up. When you just do a little at a time, it actually becomes a fun habit.
Rethink those sentimental items. It doesn’t have to be you hang onto the original item in order to hang onto the memory. For children’s artwork, for example, take photographs and then recycle the rest. You don’t need to keep that canvas with one feather stuck to it! Also, use a multi-picture frame which you can add artwork to as they do it. That way, the best pieces can be kept but they don’t take up too much space. Once it’s full, have a cull!
Label everything. Take out the guesswork so you don’t have to go into every box or container every time to know exactly what’s in there. You could also use labels with photographs on them so small children and people who don’t live in your home know what is where. Colour co-ordinating items is another good hack. It means everyone – children included – know instinctively what belongs where and why.
Lead by example. That way, the rest of your family or housemates will learn to follow your habits. Encouraging them will lead to these habits being naturally ingrained, too. It’s harder to pick up these habits as we get older, so the sooner you can positively reinforce the behaviour, the better.
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Professional organiser Vicky Silverthorn says…
Before you do anything, open up all the cupboards. Many people start a kitchen or bedroom clear out by taking everything out of the cupboards and putting it on the countertops or floor – trust me this will fill the space quicker than you think! Instead, look at what you have in the cupboards and ask yourself, ‘Do I really need that serving platter in that space all year round? Or should I put it into home storage and put something more practical there instead that I use more frequently?’
Shift the shelves around. Take advantage of the vertical space in your cupboards and rearrange your shelves to fit better suited items. Many people forget to do this. Even if you don’t have huge amounts of storage, rearranging the kitchen shelves will help your kitchen live up to its potential and get rid of clutter for good.
Reuse old jars or containers to create more storage. If you’ve got old food jars lying around, give them a wash and use them as storage pots for leftovers, dried food or snacks. Why not take off the labels and rename them too? I use my Cricut Joy label maker to label all my jars and containers so that everything has its place. Plus, it's so compact, it's easy to stow away and take out again when I need it.
Organise your kitchen like a shop. Post-Christmas, rearrange your cupboards so that you have items with the closest use-by date at the front, and push items with longer dates to the back. Then, whenever you do a shop, put the new items at the back. And if you find food that’s about to reach its use-by date that you can’t use, take it to a food bank.