Have you ever looked around you and wanted to scream out loud? Are you surrounded by clutter and ‘stuff’ but do not know where to start with clearing it?
You are not alone. The saying “tidy space, tidy mind” has never been more important as it is now. The last two years have cluttered our brains and now we need to de-frag, but where does one begin when it comes to a home declutter?
Homes can be divided, wherever you live, into the following living areas and spaces
It goes without saying that decluttering your home is good for the mind, the body, and the soul. It supports good mental health, helps you find the stuff you need, creates good energy in the home (a sense of calm) and if nothing else, saves you money. After all, if you have less stuff, you are unlikely to lose things which means no duplicate purchases.
When I work with clients on their home declutter and we discuss where to start, I often ask the client to tell me the one room or area that really gets on their nerves. The room that keeps you up at night. So that’s where we start.
I ask them to think of it like this. Your home should only have, in the space you occupy, the things you use on a daily basis. Anything excess i.e., batteries, lightbulbs etc needs to be put somewhere else until required.
Often the problem area is the family room, where meals are shared and games are played, art is strewn about the place and books adorn every shelf. Casual clothing, school clothes, bags, food, games, pens, pencils, all in one place. No wonder the family feels frazzled with so much distraction. I encompass, for this purpose, the family room being the kitchen, the diner, the family room, utility room. In other words, each room leads into the other and thus each room is an extension of each other.
So let us start with the declutter of the family room/kitchen.
Working systemically drawer by drawer, cupboard by cupboard each area is emptied. Items to be disposed of are thrown there and then, items that need to go somewhere else are put to one side, items that are okay to keep go back into the cupboard. They may need to be reorganised but right at that moment, they go back where they were or if there is room, put to one side.
Most of my clients share the same ‘clutter problems’. One of the most prominent is the art the children have produced, brought home from school. It seems sacrilege to get rid of art produced by your little angels, but let’s face it, not every piece can be kept. It is just not feasible. Therefore, when I work with my clients on this first problem area, we often come to a compromise.
An art board is put up, and on that board for an entire week, the best of the week’s art is hung up for all to admire. However, after the week has gone by, the art is removed, and the family wait patiently for the next week’s instalment. In other words, no one is offended, art has been appreciated but in readiness for the next week’s offerings, a clear space is left to be filled.
In every declutter there are golden rules, ‘less is more’ and ‘like with like’. I often work with clients decluttering pens. One hundred pens are lovely but if half of them are out of ink, then they are not worth keeping. This can be done in no more than 10 minutes and is pretty easy to do.
A schedule for the week works well especially when you have a hectic family life, and this includes parent’s activities as well as the children’s.
Books are wonderful and putting books together and keeping them that way is a great way to have a decluttered home. I encourage my clients to go through their books and donate to charity any books that are too young for your children. Charities are happy to receive books, especially childrens’ books. This also applies to adult books. I encourage my clients to donate fiction and perhaps only keep non-fiction/educational/personal development books that you know you will reach for time and time again. As I say to my clients, if you know the ending, it would be almost a spoiler alert to re-read it, unless it was, say, a classic. After all it does not matter how many times you read Winnie the Pooh, there is no spoiler alert, just pages of education, even if you are an adult. AA Milne was a complex person and his characters based on his childhood fantasies. Tigger, almost definitely a candidate for ADHD!
Children’s toys do take up room but again, I encourage my clients to keep a minimal number of toys available to their child and encourage them to put them away at the end of the day. Less is more and most children have their favourite toys and won’t miss many of the toys you donate to charity. Any extra toys can go into the loft, garage or storage and brought out when needed. No-one wants overwhelm – even your children!
When it comes to clearing away, I use my dishwasher as a storage area, in other words, once breakfast is done, I clear the table immediately and put all plates/bowls etc go into the dishwasher, that way it’s out of sight and tidied away. You see, they have more uses than just washing plates!
Hairbands turn up time and time again, all over the house. I normally find a bowl or plastic container and gather all the bands together – given that hair is normally done downstairs then it’s fine to keep in the family room but potentially in a useful drawer, rather than just sat on the side.
Spare coins are put into a large jar, in one house I found over £30 in one area!
It’s good to have all the art stuff together so find a good-sized box which you can put it all in. I know I mention Ikea over and over, but they are great at creating family spaces with boxes for stuff and units to put the boxes into. Therefore, making your home look tidy. Encourage your children to pull out the box, play and then put the box back at the end of the day, this will help you too and get them into the habit of being tidier.
Kitchens can be a great source of clutter. I normally see lots of vitamins, teabags, carrier bags, Tupperware (don’t get me started on that one LOL) mugs and that’s just the start of it.
Tupperware does come up time and time again (I know I said not to get me started) but what does happen to Tupperware lids – where do they go and why do we end up with lots of misshapen bowls and no matching lids? It’s so frustrating. I work with my clients to find matching lids to bowls, and if we cannot find them, then we chuck. Tupperware is easy to replace but only buy what you need. If you have 2 children, then 2 lunchboxes is fine.
If you are lucky enough to have a utility room, this is the room for bulbs, batteries, washing stuff, washing machine, storage containers, camping stuff, picnic basket, tools (if you don’t have a shed) doggie stuff (food and essentials) etc, medicines, shoe polish, cleaning products, brooms, brushes, laundry products etc. If you do not have a utility room this stuff still needs to be out of sight, so perhaps outside storage space, or a space in the kitchen under the sink etc.
We all love a mug but often we can gather so many it becomes overwhelming. The best thing to do is to get all the mugs out of the cupboard and really focus on each mug. Do you like it, is the handle the right size? Do you like the words on the mug, does it bring nice memories for you, is it stain-free, does it look right with the rest of your décor? The other key question to ask is how many in the family use mugs and how many do you actually need? I think a set of 6 matching mugs, 2 extra fun ones and then 2 for each child is about right.
Cleaning products can cause a clutter blockage, but I always suggest that just one product is bought at a time and replaced when the item is running low. The supermarkets have encouraged the buy one get one free but that can cause us to become hoarders as we get overwhelmed, think we have run out and re-buy what we already have plenty of stock of!
Supermarket bags are causing a clutter issue. I suggest my clients keep 3-4 bags in the car (as many as you need for a family shop) and that is where they are kept. Maybe a couple of extras at home as spare but other than that, no more are needed.
I could go on and I will but hope this blog on how to start your home declutter helps. Once you have done the big declutter the rest should be plain sailing, as everything will be in its place and your home will feel better organised to face the world.