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So, you?ve reached the point where there?s so much stuff in your home that you?ve had to look online for how to declutter, eh? Don?t worry; we?ve all been there. Right at this moment, I?m sat at my desk in an office in a house I?ve lived in for a little over a year. That?s not a long time to live somewhere, and this is a room where, in theory, I come in, sit down, work, get up and leave.
If anything, there should be no clutter at all, right? Wrong.
As with most people with something resembling an office chair, I have the benefit of being able to survey the whole office without standing up. There?s not even much of it ? technically, this is the spare bedroom and I doubt you could even fit a double bed in here. If you could, you?d do well to fit anything else. And yet, as I survey all that lies before me, I can spot at least five things that qualify as clutter, and I?m not even looking that hard.
In short, I?m right there with you.
Fortunately, I?m no stranger to cutting clutter. Those five things I mentioned might pale in comparison to whatever you?ve got to contend with. I want to think that of every member of the Robode team, I?m in the best position to share my tips on how to declutter. So, let?s get to it.
1. Define Clutter ? Or Let Me Do It For You
Given that you?re reading this on a website, I?ll assume you have access to an online dictionary too. You can find the definition from the ever-reliable dictionary.com here.
However, that?s a definition, not a tip.
In this case, let?s talk about what I consider clutter ? feel free to add or remove as appropriate for you:
- Something in your home that could conceivably stay forever but doesn?t have its own place and travels from room to room as an eyesore for hire.
- Any object that, regardless of the purchase price, now doesn?t work. It may have been expensive and hard to let go of, but you won?t use it because you can?t.
- Anything you haven?t used in a year.
- An item that still works but was forced into obsoletion. If you recently bought a new laptop, there?s no harm in having a backup. However, there?s no need to have six backups for a backup as this is not a football team.
2. Booking a Day Off is not How to Declutter
Things come and go in the home. Some things outstay their welcome, hence the problem. While there are similarities between cleaning and decluttering, they are not the same. Even if you?re the kind of motivated individual that carries out a spring clean in a day, decluttering is intense and you?re better off with shorter bursts of enthusiasm.
In breaking down sessions into manageable, 15-minute blasts, you?ll achieve more. Your brain will focus, so you?ll be less likely to give items that should be in the bin a pass. You?ll also find it easy to start. It?s difficult to peel yourself off the sofa with the promise of a day?s decluttering. Fifteen minutes with real results sounds far more appealing.
3. Start at the Top and Work Your Way Down
A typical house near me includes two main floors and a basement. An average home near my old one dropped the basement and added a loft you could stand up and move around in, unlike this one. The bungalow across the road aside, I?ll assume you have something similar ? although it doesn?t really matter. Unless you?re in the fortunate position of all your clutter living in one room, I?d advise starting at the top and working down to the bottom.
The main reasoning behind this is that you?re usually further away from the door when you start at the top. You?ve got enough motivation to read up on how to declutter, and you need to harness it. Some items will find a home. Most will go in the bin. The front door can feel a long way away after a heavy tidying session so utilise that initial motivation to get you through.
4. Turn On Your Ruthless Streak
I like to think I?m a pretty nice person. You probably do too. Today?s the day to leave niceties at the door. You?re judge, jury and executioner of the stuff you have but don?t really need and it?s time to sentence most of it.
That vase in a cupboard that isn?t an official vase cupboard. It looks nice. It makes flowers look nice too. Has it had any flowers in it in the last twelve months? If the answer isn?t ?yes?, it?s clutter and it?s time to go.
But what if you need it? You haven?t needed it for a year. Let?s clear some space and take a chance. There will be other vases in the future and they?ll probably suffer the same fate in the end.
5. Split Your Home into Areas
I?ll assume you haven?t applied to appear on any TV shows about hoarders. Hoarding is an entirely separate issue that we might cover another day. Today should be more manageable.
You need your clutter goggles. If you?ve psyched yourself up and you feel ruthless, it?s time to put it to the test. Go into the first room and scan it like you?re the Terminator. Then scan it again. I remember an old TV game show where they?d remove some items from a contestant?s house and the challenge was to work out what was missing. It?s surprisingly tricky.
Equally tricky is overcoming clutter-blindness. There?s probably more to deal with than you might have imagined. Crucially, if you don?t need or want it, it?s got to go. Survey the areas before you get to work and make a mental note of everything that?s for the chop.
6. Keep a Rubbish Bag to Hand
I wanted to say ?rubbish container? in the heading but that brings to mind a Tupperware box without a lid. That would be a pretty rubbish container. The point is, your job is to get rid of as many things as possible. Unless your TV qualifies as clutter, you don?t need to make a trip to the bin for every individual item.
The reason why you might prefer a box over a bag is that the kinds of things that qualify as clutter can often be repurposed. Some go in the bin; others go in recycling. Some items might qualify as no longer needed might still be good enough to go on eBay or at least to the charity shop.
Sorting as you declutter is a recipe for disaster. Remember, we?re capitalising on short bursts of inspiration here and we don?t want to waste it on a mental game of SwapShop. Instead, put everything together in a way you can sort through it later ? just remember to get into that ruthless frame of mind before you do.
7. Try the Tornado Approach
The tornado approach is named as such because it?s shorter than a hurricane but still picks up everything in its path with high intensity. Don?t stop to think. Unless something clearly belongs where it is, scoop it up into the storm. Then, head downstairs ? spinning optional ? and dump everything in the living room. Turn off ruthless you, turn on your favourite show and put everything into piles.
You can do whatever you like, but you could set up your piles as:
- Keep but Somewhere Else. With ruthless you gone for the day, you might get a bit sentimental. The thing you picked up isn?t clutter after all ? it just needs somewhere to live.
- Rubbish/Recycling/Sell. You ain?t gotta go home, but you gotta get the hell up outta here.
Ahem. Sorry, got lost in the moment there. Essentially, the tornado approach to decluttering gets everything out of a room that doesn?t belong and leaves you with the relatively easy job of sorting later when your hands are otherwise unoccupied.
8. You Don?t Live in a Museum
Well, unless you do. For the most part, I can?t imagine many Robode readers living in a museum and so you?re under no obligation to keep old things on display. Age doesn?t matter; it?s all about functionality. If you?ve got a load of vinyl records and a player that debuted with The Beatles, may I introduce you to Spotify? that?s not clutter. It still serves a purpose.
However, if you?ve got an old iPhone with a cracked screen and a battery that won?t hold its charge, well, I hate to break it to you but it probably won?t ever be worth anything. It doesn?t work, and it?s practically worthless ? it?s a prime candidate for recycling.
Just don?t pretend you?re a collector. If you are and you have numerous items on display in a case or on a stand, those items have a home. By definition, they?re not clutter. If you?ve got two Funko Pops you bought in 2005 at the back of the kitchen cupboard, you may once have had ambitions as a collector. If you haven?t bought one since, you?re probably not. They?re clutter. Fortunately, they at least might be worth something so look them up on eBay first.
9. Give Some Items a Trial Run
While I won?t make any promises, the chances are I won?t be stood behind you to tell you what?s clutter and what isn?t. The best you?ll get out of me is this article on how to declutter. You have to make the big calls, and that can be difficult. Perhaps you haven?t used something in a long time, but you?re not sure how long. Maybe something doesn?t have a home now, but you?ve booked a week off work for a trip to Ikea with storage on the shopping list.
That stuff is on the clutter precipice, and you?re not sure whether to give it a push.
When I moved house, everything was packed into boxes ? nothing out of the ordinary there. When I arrived in the new home, we started to unpack. Then we got bored with unpacking and made do with what we had. Two boxes went in the basement.
In just over a year since the move, my family as a whole has experienced two lightbulb moments related to those boxes. ?Oh, it must be in the basement,? we cried. One time, it was. Whatever it was.
So now, as I sit and type, there are two boxes of stuff in the basement. I know for a fact that I haven?t used those things in a year because I haven?t touched them in a year. It?s a compelling case.
Among the underlying principles of how to declutter is not merely moving potential junk from one place to another. That?s passing the problem rather than solving it. However, if you?re still ruthless you, I?ll trust you to decide on some items that are on the line.
Box them up and put them somewhere out of the way ? garages, sheds, lofts and basements are great. Anywhere easy to access is not. If you?ve got a small kitchen appliance on clutter death row, don?t keep the box in the kitchen where you can pull it out and put it back. Make it an effort to get to.
Twelve months later, you can decide. Never put anything back in the box. If it comes out, you need it, and it requires a home. Anything still in the box a year later is ready to move out.
10. Don?t Wait for the Right Time
Decluttering isn?t a marriage proposal. There is no right time. If you?re waiting for one, you?re procrastinating, and that?s not productive. Remember? ruthless you? switch it on and clobber that clutter.
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