This post is Part 1 of How to Easily Make Your Living Space Clutter-Free and Keep It That Way. Be sure to check out Part 2, which provides 12 easy ways to keep it a happy, productive space, clutter, and stress-free.
See a cluttered living space? A good chance a cluttered stressed out mind is there, too. Too much clutter can create the type of low-grade stress that drains you of energy, focus and drive. It can be overwhelming to walk into a room piled with stuff and even sitting among all of it can bring you down. But being organized is not about having bragging rights to perfectly color coordinated files or alphabetized pantry items, but all about having more time for yourself and your family while enabling you to live a more balanced, healthy life.
I hope you have been able to start creating a living space that is more an expression of you and your lifestyle with my tips from How to Design Your Space To Improve Your Mood, Your Health. But, another important step to making sure that space of yours is the healthiest refuge for you is to get rid of all the stuff that doesn’t serve a purpose, isn’t a reflection of you or your lifestyle, or maybe even adds stress to your day! So, let’s devote a bit of time to making a stress-free space, narrowing down what you need, what you don’t and then creating an easy plan to keep it that way.
WHY DECLUTTERING YOUR SPACE CAN LEAD TO A HEALTHIER LIFE
If you are not convinced that those piles of clothes on the floor, mail spewed on the entryway table and unfinished projects on your kitchen counter affect your mood, your health, here are some reasons to consider taking a bit of time each week to clear away the clutter:
1. Create a warm and inviting welcome.
Walking through the door of your home after a long day and into an orderly space that says who you are shut out the chaos of the outside world and helps you and your family unwind and release the stresses of the day.
2. Focus on what matters.
Too much clutter can easily overwhelm your brain and ability to focus, says this study. All the stuff around your space can distract you by drawing your attention away from what you want to focus on – your relationships and your goals.
3. Add more free time.
If all the clutter is about, you end up spending a lot of time putting things away before you can even clean your space or start a new project.
You also spend a lot of time searching for the items you need. Your child can’t find the scissors or tape for the school project and he or she is frantic, the bill you need to pay can’t be found and now it may be late, you can’t get dinner finished because you can’t find the tomato sauce you bought last week and the other cans are expired, etc.
4. Increase your concentration and get better results.
When you are not distracted by all the mess, you can concentrate on whatever you want to focus on a whole lot better.
Your ability to focus could also affect the results of certain projects. That school project will surely go smoother and the result may be a lot better if your child’s supplies are there and that special dish may be a lot more fun to create (and even taste better) if you are not distracted by the piles of papers on your kitchen counter reminding you of what you need to do next.
5. Your space will look cleaner, be cleaner and even smell better.
The visual vista from room to room will be so much clearer and brighter. No visual interruptions of stuff. And cleaning your space will go so much faster. There won’t be so much stuff to pick up, move, and put away to wipe away the dust and dirt. Your place will smell better, too, when it is cleaner!
HOW TO GET STARTED DECLUTTERING YOUR SPACES
Here are a few quick steps to take first before decluttering that will help the process go smoother, be more effective and even make it a little fun (I promise!):
1. Make a list of each room you want to declutter and choose the room or rooms that are bothering you the most or that would make the biggest impact on your life to declutter and begin there.
2. Designate a day of the week and how much time you are willing to give to the job. Keep to that schedule. Even 30 minutes once a week can do wonders! And, once you have it decluttered, if you keep to the tips in part 2 in keeping your space clutter-free, a massive Herculean effort to declutter shouldn’t be necessary.
Remember to enlist help! The stuff can’t be all yours (unless you live alone) so find the clutter creators and persuade them to see the benefits and how you will tackle it together. Remind them of the timer and create dates together when everyone can work on the task.
3. Pick up some free boxes (at least 5 but you will need more) from wherever you can get them – work, grocery store, a neighbor that just moved in, etc. (Try to recycle and don’t buy any new containers.) Then, label the boxes with stickies or marker like this:
- Give Away
- Not Sure
- For Others
4. Find a timer or use the one on your cell phone.
5. Find a great playlist or two to keep your energy up and make it fun.
6. Start planning something fun for yourself and your family when all the decluttering is complete. A special dinner, family outing, extra downtime in the bathtub – whatever makes you smile.
5 STEP PROCESS TO SWIFTLY CLEAR THE CLUTTER
Follow these steps to a cleaner, decluttered, happier space:
1. Pump up the volume on the music that you love and turn off your phone. That includes everyone. No interruptions or even daydreaming. Remember the time you set for yourself needs to be a focused period of time – otherwise, you will let yourself down and be frustrated on what you were not able to accomplish.
2. Set your timer and begin with the first box, Trash. Do the first sweep and walk through the space focusing only on what you can put in the trash box. Your space will immediately look lighter and better.
3. Using the remaining four boxes, review the items in the rooms and place them accordingly. You may prefer to do this step by performing four separate room sweeps like in step 2 with each box category or focus on a part of a room and decide on an item and place it in the box where you think it fits.
- Give Away: Some items you can decide on quickly for this. If in question, ask yourself if you have used the item the past year or if at all. If it is not of sentimental value or useful to your everyday life, really consider giving it away.
- Relocate: These are pretty obvious. Our stuff travels to other areas of our home where they do not belong. No need to put it back in its proper spot right now. Just put it in this box for the moment..
- Not Sure: This box is for items you can’t immediately decide upon. You are not sure if you want to give it away or keep it. During the process, if your “Not Sure” box is getting too loaded down, don’t worry! Just keep going through the room. Don’t stop and think too hard about it. You will take that box and put it away for a bit and see if you miss anything from it. If not, then you can give it away.
- For Others: I added this box because I come across stuff that is not for me to decide. For example, my husband has a busy schedule and accumulates a lot of papers and leaves them about. They are his papers and I don’t want to toss anything important or of value to him. I respect that and put them in the “For Others” box with his name on it. Then, when he is able, he goes through the box – often when watching a game! It’s a winning solution for both of us as I don’t have to look at the papers and he can go through them when he can focus on them
4. When the timer goes off, wrap up your last task, pick up the “Relocate” box and begin returning things to its proper storage place.
5. Place the “Not Sure” box in the basement or some other place you won’t see it. Wait and see over the next few months if you reach for any items in there. If not, your “Give Away” box just grew!
Don’t forget to thank your declutter team for their help and remind them of the next decluttering session and time.
SPECIAL DECLUTTERING TIPS FOR EACH ROOM OF YOUR HOME
Here are some special tips and considerations for decluttering certain rooms in your house that may help along the way:
- This room can really get bogged down with a sea of bottles, serums, foams, lotions spewed all over the sink area. It is tough to clean all around those little things! Try to keep the sink area clear of the clutter. Keep the items you use daily at an easy to reach and accessible spot, but out of sight. (Bottom shelf of medicine cabinet perhaps or in a box that you can easily grab each day from under the sink.) The other items you use once a week or month or every now and then can stay in other storage caddies under the sink or on higher shelves in the medicine cabinet.
- Consider relocating your first aid kit items (band-aids, rubbing alcohol, salves, ace bandage, etc) to another location. We keep ours in our mudroom for easy access in case of an outside or kitchen injury.
- Review all medications (including over the counter ones) for expiration dates at least once a year. I do this every spring.
- Larger clear containers are great to hold all those little tubes and whatnots we tend to collect.
- The closet is a big task, I know. I like the idea of the “one in, one out.” Just as it sounds – if you bring something into your closet, you have to part with something from your closet. A little tough but what a great way to keep it spacious! I try to do this, but, I admit, I am not always successful.
- The thinner hangers that are velvet covered are a great aide to allow more hanging space and keeping tops from falling off and on the closet floor.
- Keep the items you use frequently at night (hand lotion, your reading glasses, lip balm, etc.) in an attractive container on your nightstand and you won’t have to dust around all those little things. Or, if you have a drawer, use that of course. Keep the top as clear as possible of the tiny items.
Entryway or Mudroom
- At the end of each month, check all coat pockets, backpacks, gym bags and toss the food wrappers, shred receipts, return loose change to your wallet or bring to your car for tolls, etc.
- At the end of the season, take all coats, hats, scarves and have them mended, dry cleaned, etc. Consider storing out of season wear in another location and keep your entryway or mudroom for just seasonal items.
- Make sure to toss expired foods from pantry and refrigerator. I give my fridge a quick check each week the night before the garbage collector comes and toss what needs to be. The pantry, I check each fall and spring.
- Clear jars with lids are great for snacks, cereals, nuts and seeds and other little bits to keep them fresher and from spilling over and making a mess.
- Keep frequently used cooking tools in storage jars on the counter for easy reach and keep your most used appliances easy to reach as well or out on the counter. The items you don’t use often can go on higher shelves.
Living or Family Room
- Keep all remotes in a designated box or tray near the sitting area that is easy to access. (They might be less likely to go walking off.)
- Consider canceling magazine subscriptions you never get to read and clutter up your area.
- Keep throws and extra pillows in big basket near the sitting area to throw in easily and keep them off the floor.
What about you? Can you function in a cluttered space or do you feel more relaxed when your home is more organized? Share your favorite tip, if you like, in the comments.
FOR EVEN MORE ON THE TOPIC . . .
- Check out my cinch of a method to clean all your brushes in 5 minutes.
- Did you catch my 21 tips to getting out of the kitchen faster?