It's Thursday, so I'm due for another update on my decluttering efforts. If you remember, this was my main goal for 2015, which I labelled "the year of no clutter".
Well, we are now in May, which means that we are getting close to the middle of the year. Am I finished? No, not by a long shot. But am I improving? I still have a long way to go, but the first, most important steps, were taken, and those steps are what I wanted to share with you today.
These past few months have been filled with interesting experiences and I learned a lot.
There are lots of helpful resources and tips online (Pinterest is a good source, if you don't want to lose yourself in a Google search) and I have read many of them, though after a while I realized I had to make choices.
I ended up ignoring those posts advertising 100+ solutions for a clutter free life, because who has time for 100+ solutions? If I can implement half a dozen and stick with them, I'll consider it a victory. An I also put aside all suggestions of minimalist houses because...well, realistically, it's never going to happen.
So, where do you start? Here's the first step:
Ok, so unless you are a pathological hoarder, you don't really have clinical issues. But if you have a cluttered house, then you do have a problem.
Is it hard to admit? I'll go first then: my name is Teresa and I have a cluttered house. There. I said it. and truth be told, I've know it for quite some time.
My husband kept throwing hints at me, but I dismissed them with a series of excuses: worry about your things and I'll worry about mine...this can be useful one day... oh, but I love my books and my crafts, I don't have any other hobbies...blah, blah, blah. Nothing but excuses. I've had to come to my senses and realize I needed to do something about it.
And it's not like I didn't have bad examples in my family, since I've had to clean out two houses full of clutter after my grandfather passed away, and I've had to partially clean out my mother's house when she moved (yes, she still asks me for that box of stuff she had in the garage and that failed to show up at the new house...). But somehow, throwing away other people's clutter is easier than throwing away our own.
Will recognizing you have a problem with clutter solve that same problem overnight? No. Brace yourself, you're going to work hard for it. But it's the first step, and unless you are prepared to take it, clutter never going to go away.
Like I said, decluttering is a lot of work. And you need time for it. You need time to plan what you want to do, and how. And unless the only clutter in your house is in one or two drawers, you're going to need more than one day. I've given myself one year.
Why? If you want to do too much too fast, you'll be rushing it, probably making bad decisions. You'll be overwhelmed in a short period of time and lose your momentum. And clutter with either not disappear completely or start accumulating again shortly after. Like everything else in life, you need to balance things out.
Use a calendar and plan weekly decluttering tasks that you can easily fit into your regular schedule. If you can take a full day off to tackle something, do it. But as a working mother of two, let me tell you those days don't come often, if ever at all, so it's better not to count on them. And if you just have ten minutes available to dedicate to decluttering, make the best use of them. Ten minutes a day will work wonders after a while, as long as you are patient and stick with it.
By now you know you have a problem and you've planned how to solve it, but when you actually start to sort through things, that's when the going gets though. Because everything you saved at home was put there for a reason (even if you can't remember exactly what it was right now). But you need to know that there are options available.
When I started decluttering, my greatest problem were books. I had tons of them. Literally. I've purged significantly and I still have full bookshelves. But I really can't get rid of my books. I love them, and once in a while I want to re-read a few of them. Well, I didn't get rid of them, I transformed then into digital books (well, not all, some I really got rid of) and I've stopped buying more physical books. Now my books are still accessible whenever I want and I'm slowly gaining bookshelf space.
Books are just an example, you can apply a similar approach to a series of other things, like kids art or souvenirs from those fantastic holidays twelve years ago. Frame what you feel you really need to save and display it in your walls and photograph the rest. Keep the photos, throw away the stuff.
Same for clothes. Have you used a certain item more than once the the past two years? Does it still fit (your body and/or your current lifestyle) at all? It you answered no to any of the previous questions, it's time to fill a bag for donation.
I've been slowly purging my closet and I've donated several bags of clothes already, but there is still work to be done. Before kids, I used to bring a t-shirt from wherever we went on vacation. Now I have a pile of t-shirts that are over eight years old and that I rarely wear. I'm still thinking of a creative way to dispose of them (if anyone has suggestions, please let me know) but they will need to go.
I've also had success with the following exercise: I take out of storage something I saved to upcycle or try to reuse in the future. I leave it on top of a table or the bed in the guest room, clearly visible (you don't want it hidden, or you forget about it again). If after two weeks it is still there, unchanged, I toss it. If I can't find the time in two weeks to tackle it, it's because I have more important things to do. And likely always will have.
Overall, the hardest step is the first one, then it gets progressively easier. I'm still learning as I go along but I like sharing my experiences and hear from others that followed or are following the same path. So, if you have any tips or ideas to make decluttering easier, just pop in and say hi!
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