The global health crises has meant that we are all staying home, and thus the clutter keeps building up in all the nooks and crannies around the house. Eventually, you will need to deal with it. How to start decluttering? It sounds such an easy thing to do, right? After all, it’s just clutter. But what exactly is decluttering? The dictionary defines it quite simply as; “To remove clutter from a room, an area, etc.” So, really all you have to do is remove all your clutter. Another dictionary describes decluttering as “to remove things you do not need from a place, in order to make it more pleasant and more useful”. The first definition at least gets the literal meaning correct – removing clutter. However, the second definition assumes that clutter is by its nature anything that is no longer wanted or needed, and once it’s gone, you have a pleasant and useful room, which is not correct at all.
What is Clutter?
So, what is clutter? The dictionary defines clutter as: “(a lot of objects in) a state of being untidy”. This is where the difficulty starts. There is an assumption that all clutter is of no use, unwanted, and needs to be removed. Our clutter can be almost anything, but what defines it as clutter is that it is not being displayed or organized in a tidy fashion. Clutter is the stuff you use all the time that never seems to get put away. Your family jewels can be clutter. The family jewels will remain “clutter” until you create a safe, organized place to keep them.
Clutter is the stuff you use all the time that never seems to get put away
Decluttering is a series of decisions and actions about the removal or organization of items in a room. The goal of this decision-making process is to have a room that is tidy, organized, safe, and comfortable. You will need to decide upon their usefulness, their condition, their best location for storage, who is responsible for the item, and how to dispose of any items. As you can see, de-cluttering is a complicated process as it involves a lot of spatial thinking and decision making.
Let’s go a little deeper again. The decision-making process starts with knowing what you have to decide about. Easy when there is a coat strewn across the armchair; you pick it up, take it out of the living room, and hang it in the hall closet. This becomes more difficult when there are many things on every surface, some ornamental, some sentimental, and some practical. You have to see what needs attention before you can begin to make any decision about it.
How To See Your Clutter
Seeing a solution. It’s interesting, I have been thinking about what we really see, what we think we see, and how hard it is to see with fresh eyes. As a Professional Organizer, when I begin my work with a client, I literally bring fresh eyes to a situation. I also bring many other skills, but it’s what and how I see that separates me from my client.
And until the other day, I never really gave it too much thought. I was with a client in her new home organizing her home office. She mentioned something about needing a hook for her tea towels in her kitchen. The subject of her tea towels and the hook was brought up quite a few times in conversation. She had bought a hook, but it didn’t fit on the door beneath her sink. We went into her kitchen, and she stood, dumbstruck, looking at the problem of her tea towel. I asked her why she felt she needed a hook for the tea towel and why specifically in that spot? “Well, in my old kitchen, my hook was right here under the sink. It worked so well for me”.
We ultimately found an equally good spot to keep her tea towel in her new kitchen. The interaction over the tea towel really struck me, however. She hadn’t had a home office in her old house. So, when it came to organizing her new home office, it was a fresh start, no back story, and the work flowed effortlessly; the solutions were intuitive and practical. Her kitchen was a bigger problem because she had ways of doing things that had become habits. She was “seeing” her old kitchen, relating to her old kitchen. It was kind of like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole and all the time not seeing that the hole was round and the peg square. It wasn’t that she didn’t know how to organize; she wasn’t seeing her new kitchen with fresh eyes.
So, how do you begin? You always begin de-cluttering by “seeing” what clutter you have. And when I say “seeing” the clutter, this is also very personal for each person. Some people like a cosy room with lots of memorabilia and decorative accents, while others like a more Zen look.
Some people like a cosy home while others like a Zen look
For example, one of my Organizational Personality Types© is the Nester. The Nester, as their namesake’s states, like to nest. Their homes will generally have many decorative accents that relate to the people, interests, and comforts of their life. When a Nester de-clutters, they will need to focus on the big picture of the room. They will want to see how many photographs are in the room (framed, loose, cards, etc.), or how many blankets, or how many candles.
While the Filer will need to focus on all the little spaces, corners, and areas in a room, this is because Filer’s are always wanting to put things away. However, they don’t necessarily put things away; they just put them somewhere – out of the way – and eventually, all these “out of the way” storage areas create clutter.
Before you start the work on de-cluttering, remember that the goal is to create a room where all the fixtures, fittings, art, and decorative accessories are being displayed and organized in a tidy fashion. To achieve that goal, you need to be able to see
- what is not being stored properly
- what is worn out, not useful, or outdated
- what does not belong in the room at all (whether it is to be donated or belongs in another room)
Tips For How To Start Decluttering
- Take a photo of the area in question. Sometimes it helps to look at something through the eyes of a camera.
- Itemize every single item in the area. Say it’s a mantlepiece. Write down everything on it, including matchboxes, pens, and bits of paper. I can assure you that when you itemize everything, you will realise that, in fact, you had not seen at least 25% of it.
- Don’t group things in your mind when looking. If there are candles on your mantlepiece, then count how many.
- Ask a friend to come and take a look and point out any areas that might look cluttered. A second set of eyes is always good.
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Check out my Pinterest Page for more tips and resources on decluttering.
Free Professional Organizing Advice for you!
We could all use something to look forward to right now. I want to do something that will add value to your life, that would help you during these confusing and challenging times. When you are organized there is less chaos, less overwhelm. An organized home can bring you a sense of calm, ground you, and help you feel more in control. It is one of the things that we can influence and control despite what’s happening in other areas of our lives or communities.
I am offering a “mini organizing consult” for free, share it with your co-workers, family, and friends on Linkedin, post it on Facebook, or Instagram, or Twitter. Let everyone know because I want to give back and help you. Now is when people really need it.
All you need to do is complete this FORM, attach a photo of 1 area in your home or office that you need organizing help with. Every week I am going to choose at least one person to work with. Here are a couple of readers I have helped already:
- How do I declutter my makeup drawer?
- How to organize my students planning notes and supplies while teaching online