After an entire week of procrastination, I’m finally posting the next installment in this “decluttering” series, and I’m going to hop right to it!
In my last post, I shared some principles that are motivating me to simplify our home and our lives…
Today, I want to share with you some practical tips that are helping me accomplish my decluttering goals, but I have to be honest first: I’m just now getting there. For instance, this is our living room…
It has been pared down and simplified to bare bones and is a DREAM to keep clean. In five minutes, I can completely tidy the room up, and that includes sweeping.
This, on the other hand, was the hallway outside of our kids’ nursery, taken after I removed every toy, blanket and extra article of clothing that was littering their floor and piled it up for sifting and sorting…
Night…mare. But I received a shipment of pretty storage containers shortly thereafter, and this room is being completely defeated. I promise to finish it, and I promise to share my progress here!
I share that to assure you that I am learning these things right alongside you, and that I am most certainly not an expert. However, I am determined to grow, I am determined to develop a better attitude of hospitality and servitude in my home, and I am passionate about encouraging you in your journey, as well.
And so here are my personal tips for getting rid of the excess that already resides in your home:
1. Make sure you are sufficiently motivated.
This might seem redundant in light of my last post, but it’s foundational: the most important tools for defeating bad habits and giving up worldly excess are godly motivation and biblical principles. Until I have an eternal purpose for doing things, I have trouble really caring much or persevering.
2. Read housekeeping blogs and articles and do what they say.
Most of the things I’m doing in my home were not my original material and have most likely been gleaned from others. Some books and blogs that have helped me along the way:
- Simple Country Wisdom: 501 Old-fashioned Ideas to Simplify Your Life. I love this book, not only for its charm, but for the common sense that is found within its pages. Click on the picture to find it at Amazon:
- Living Well Spending Less: I have only just discovered this blog, but I am already a huge fan and am finding guidance and encouragement for my clutter-conquering journey, as well as a good dose of transparency.
- The Time-Warp Wife: Another blog I have only recently discovered, I LOVE the faith-based principles that serve as its foundation, as well as all the handy (and cute!) printables and charts. I can’t wait to read and learn more!
- The Fly Lady: I came across this blog from my internet friend, Leslie. It is chock-full of tips and help, not only for decluttering, but for cleaning and developing good homemaking habits.
You would do well to learn from these ladies, each of them far more experienced than I am when it comes to housekeeping and decluttering. They will cover all the important steps for you, and now I’ll just share a few things I have personally picked up along the way…
3. Make lists.
Before you start, make itemized lists of what you really need and intend to keep, and be determined to get rid of what is not on the list. With my list in hand, I knew going into my kids closet exactly how many sets of playclothes and pajamas I intended to keep, how many toys they would be allowed to keep, how many pairs of shoes they needed for church and play…
Preparing beforehand when you are not actually looking at your stuff helps you to be objective.
4. Try to find time to declutter alone.
It is nigh until impossible to sift through excess when you have little hands and voices nearby, and I have found that this kind of work is best done when my children are out of the house. Don’t have any baby-sitters available? Do a work swap with one of your friends. She’ll keep your kids one day so you can work, and then you can return the favor.
5. If you don’t have adequate time to completely finish a phase of sorting, don’t even start.
I can’t tell you how many times I have randomly started going through a drawer or a toy box, organized everything into piles…and then it’s time to start supper. Or the kids wake up from their naps. Or I just run out of steam. When I return the next day to finish the job, it has been scattered to high heaven, and all of my work is left undone. Thus, I have learned to schedule my decluttering, and I no longer start jobs I know I can’t finish.
6. Enlist a helper.
Two are better than one, and while I personally find more success when I declutter alone, some of you might need a buddy. For instance, my Mom has a lot of trouble getting rid of things because, once she holds an item in her hands, she immediately wants to keep it. Now that she has enlisted me as her sifting buddy, though, I hold her clothes up for her from across the room, and she can objectively decide if it is something she needs to keep or not. In other words, do whatever it takes to conquer your excess…even if it looks a little like an intervention.
7. The cardinal rule: if you don’t love it or use it, get rid of it.
There are, of course, exceptions to this rule, but for the most part, this is the best way to determine what you should keep and what you shouldn’t. Stop holding on to the things that don’t make your heart go pitter-patter. (Important side note: this rule ONLY applies to things, not people…). My husband and I just narrowed down our movie library to the truly defining and timeless ones, transforming our entertainment center into a treasure trove of films rather than a place where we store all the cheap movies we’ve bought over the years. It’s crazy what a difference these sorts of simple changes can make in your home, bringing meaning and fluidity into what was just random and pointless and hoard-ish before.
8. Make designated piles.
Sometimes it can be so overwhelming when you are staring at a mountain of stuff and you don’t know what to do with it; narrowing your items down to “keep” or “don’t keep” can be impossible. So create specific piles (or bags…or empty diaper boxes…), and be as creative with them as you want to be. Here are some I frequently employ:
- Keepsakes – some things just need to be kept, and that’s okay. Put them in a safe box and store them forever in your attic and let your kids deal with them after you die.
- Family, Friends or Church Nursery – I often remove toys and play-clothes from our house and take them to my Mom’s where all the grandkids can enjoy them…and oftentimes, our kids are much happier giving up their toys when they know they’ll be going to someone they love. This is also true of the church nursery, a perfect home for your excess (but not junky!) toys, books, outgrown diapers, and play clothes, for those times when kids at church have ‘accidents’. I have a friend who used to take her son’s stained or outgrown playclothes to the local daycare for that same reason, and I thought that was such a good idea!
- Purgatory – I have learned the hard way that my children either completely forget about crafts they made or junky toys they’ve acquired…or they ask for them out of the blue and I discover that they loved that item more than anything ever in the entire world and now I’m the bad guy who threw it heartlessly away. Thus, rather than trashing those types of items immediately, I have a special box that I call “purgatory” where they can secretly hang out for a couple of months until I know for sure it is safe to send them out the back door. This box has served me VERY well.
- TRASH! (My favorite). So easy. So quick.
- Garage sale or Goodwill. I don’t keep a separate pile for Goodwill, because if is is not quality enough to sell, it is not quality enough to donate. If you wouldn’t sell it, trash it immediately. Goodwill (or anyone else) doesn’t need our t-shirts with the armpit stains. Then, whatever I don’t sell at our garage sales goes immediately (like, that day) to Goodwill or to someone else who could benefit from it. Just don’t under any circumstance bring that stuff back into your house!!!
- Consignment. I have a special section of my garage sales dedicated to consignment quality clothes, with firm and appropriate prices. It is easier to give up quality clothes that I don’t wear when I know I might be properly compensated for them. Or you could make it even easier and actually take them to a consignment store! (I just like cutting out the middleman…)
Your piles might look completely different than mine, but…you get the point. Make lots of piles.
9. Declutter often.
Sad news. This kind of work doesn’t last as long as you think it will. You have to stay on top of it, and expect decluttering to be at least a monthly, if not a weekly, chore. Yay…
10. Put kids toys up. The higher the better.
Best thing I’ve ever done. Organize most of your kids toys into separate bins (with the exceptions of their stuffed animals and such), put them somewhere out of reach, and hold the key to what gets played with, when. The benefit of this is at least threefold: a) Their room stays clean, except for daily maintenance like making beds and putting away clothes, b) they actually play with the toys you get down for them rather than getting everything out at one time and wandering around aimlessly in the wreckage (I know you know what I’m talking about!), and c) more often than not, they wind up using their imaginations instead of relying on toys for entertainment. And guess what? You don’t have to clean up after imaginations! Just when I was looking for the courage to take this step, I came across this blog post: Why I Took My Kids Toys Away (and why they won’t get them back). And I have to concur with everything the author says: this really works, and our entire family has profited from it.
Again, nothing new or revolutionary here, but if it any of the above tips help you in your decluttering process, I will be so pleased. And if you have any tips or ideas or blog posts to share with us, please do so in the comments section – we’d love to hear from you!
Coming up soon in the “My Sweet Home” series…”Junk Be Gone: When You Live with a Hoarder”