Clutter-clearing 101

What is clutter exactly? Excess stuff, right? Well sure, but more than that, clutter is a sign of procrastination. It is the bicycle you've been meaning to have repaired, the books that need to be returned to the library, the hideous vase from Aunt Mildred you can't bear to throw out, and the heaping piles of paperwork that need sorting. I think this is why we find it so hard to de-clutter. It requires a lot of decision-making, some that you may have been putting off for years — no easy task. Let's begin by setting an intention to fearlessly face the decisions that need to be made. You can do it!

1. Get motivated. Clutter clearing can be physically and emotionally exhausting, so now is the time to gear up and fuel your motivation. Tear out images from magazines, or create an ideabook on that you can refer back to when inspiration flags.

If you enjoy keeping a journal, here are a few questions you might like to ponder over a mug of hot tea before getting started:

  • How would clearing the clutter from my home make life easier?
  • What will be the most challenging area to work on?
  • In three words, how would you like your home to feel when this is done?
  • My intention for this project is: _____

More: 39 Ways to Organize Your Stuff

2. Pick the low-hanging fruit first. Get started on the right foot by making a quick sweep of your whole house, pulling out the obvious clutter. This includes items going to the trash or recycling, things you have been meaning to return to other people, and other things you know you want to be rid of.

This step is meant to be easy and lightning fast. Put on upbeat music, grab a few bags or bins, and set a timer for 15 minutes. I am always amazed at how much better my home feels after a short clutter-busting spree!

3. Pretend a camera crew is coming over. This is a fun little mental trick to play: Imagine that your favorite home design magazine is sending a full camera crew over to photograph your house for the cover story. What would you hide? How would you change your furniture arrangements or displays? Once you have made a room "camera ready," consider making some of the changes permanent.

4. Repeat after me: less is more! If you find yourself using "But I might need this one day... !" as an excuse, this step is for you. Be honest. Do you really need two dozen ratty old towels, or will four nice fluffy ones for your family and two extras for guests do? When you winnow down to what is truly needed, loved, and used, you will begin to find cupboards and shelves opening up and daily tasks becoming a little easier.

5. Separate emotional clutter from the gems. I am not going to tell you to get rid of Grandma's wedding dress or those bins full of your child's artwork. The point here is to be intentional about what you are saving and why. Items that you want to be able to pass down to your children should be stored properly to avoid damage, while other mementos could be put on display where you can appreciate them on a daily basis. 

On the other hand, beware of memorabilia that carries negative emotions, like photos of exes, gifts you feel guilty for hating, and diaries from really low points in your life. Out they go! There, doesn't that feel good?

6. Curate your collections. Collections can be wonderfully creative additions to your home, but they have a tendency to get out of hand and lose their impact. The solution is twofold: curate with purpose, and create intentional displays. By narrowing down the focus of your collection — white ironstone, say, or plates featuring birds — you can create a more interesting and cohesive collection. 

Then, find one location where you can fit all of the pieces in one display for maximum impact. Still have too much? Try selling a few pieces on eBay or locally.

7. Make your bedroom a sanctuary. As the least public room in the house, it is all too easy to let the bedroom become neglected. Piles of dirty laundry on the floor, unread magazines spilling out of the bedside tables, dust bunnies, shopping bags, children's toys, you name it, it ends up here. Which is a shame, because having a tranquil bedroom can promote restful sleep and help reduce the stress of busy days — something we all can use, right? 

The good news is, while other rooms may be difficult to pare down because they must perform so many functions, the bedroom is pretty simple. All you really need are the essentials: nice bedding, lighting, a hamper, alarm clock, and perhaps a scented candle or small vase of flowers. I'm going to take my own advice this weekend and spruce up my bedroom!

8. Give frequently used items pride of place. As you move through each room, think about which tools you reach for most often and try to put these items within easy reach. Place your favorite long-handled wooden spoons in a crock on your counter top and a pot of fresh herbs in a sunny window near the stove. I am constantly surprised at the beauty in useful objects, artfully displayed.

9. Involve the whole family. Sigh. Not so easy, but so important! Encourage children to fill a box with old toys and clothes to bring to a children's charity. If it seems difficult, try timing the big giveaway before a birthday or major holiday when new toys will be rolling in. Once you have purged your home, set up new systems in key areas used by all. Baskets and hooks in the entryway or mudroom and bins at the foot of the stairs would be great places to start.

10. Maintain your space. Think about instituting a "One In, One Out" policy in your household. By letting something go each time you bring in something new, you can easily stay on top of the clutter in your home before it reaches epic proportions. For instance, if you purchase a new pair of sneakers, toss out an old pair; when you buy a new book, choose one you've read to donate to your local library. 

Similar to caring for a garden, doing a little each day or week will help your home flourish.

Full story on Houzz:  Clutter-Clearing 101 

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