Wednesday, January 16, 2019

My Secrets for Decluttering and Organizing

Last August our daughter and family were visiting from Germany. Our son and family from Chicago came for a week to be able to celebrate my dad's 90th birthday and see all the family. While he was here our son heard about an opening teaching at a university in town. They had been doing everything they could to find a way to move here to be closer to family, so he immediately applied. They ended up staying two more days for interviews and two days after he got home (and three more Skype interviews) he was offered the job!

Just two weeks later they moved in with us. We were together for three weeks and then we left on a three week mission trip. When we came back they had made an offer that was accepted on a house, but the condition was that the sellers weren't moving until January. So my husband and I moved into my parents' basement so the family of six, who also homeschool, could have the house to themselves until their place was ready. To help my parents we did lots of odd jobs and I did all the cooking for dinners.

Being out of my house has forced me to live with less of my things. That has gotten me thinking about what I can live without permanently. Besides that, we plan to do some renovations to open up our house a bit more and I am losing four wonderful drawers, a cupboard, and our coffee space in the kitchen. I think it will be worth it because with seventeen family members in town, our Sunday dinners have gotten really crowded. I moved back into my house this week and am in full organize and toss mode. Well, sort of...

After cleaning the shower, this is probably my least favorite task. Actually it may be my absolute least favorite. Decision making is not my forte and it takes me a long time and a lot of energy. I'm depleted after just an hour because I'm so scared I'll get rid of something that I will wish I hadn't. And that I will keep all kinds of things that I have no use for! And then, the organizing in a useful, helpful manner--that is just not part of my DNA.

So I did some researching last week. Here are the most helpful hints I gleaned for decluttering, simplifying, clearing out, and organizing:

  • Get in the mood - I did this by researching how to organize and declutter, by watching shows on how to do it, and, probably the biggest factor, was the life situation we are in. But I was ready to toss, organize, and clear out.
  • Make time - Going through your things, reorganizing, and making decisions takes time. Don't expect to go through a cupboard where you have been stuffing things for five years to get done in 15 minutes. I know that my project is going to take days, but I'm in for the long haul. So be realistic about the time this will take.
  • Limit your time - On some TV shows they get up early and work 15 or 18 hour days to go through their things. (Of course, it requires extreme cases to make a show interesting!) No one has that kind of time. Plus, if you go too long, you won't be making good decisions. But I think sometimes the best thing to do is to estimate how much time clearing out one drawer or one cupboard will take and set a timer for that amount of time. If you want to complete the task when the timer rings, that's fine, but knowing you only have to work for 45 minutes, might get you started. 
  • Buy organizers - When I was setting up my spices, I found an expanding stairstep spice rack that was perfect. I was motivated to put my spices in alphabetical order and get rid of spices that were dated from five years ago!
  • Don't overbuy organizers - If you look, there's an organizer for everything. Sometimes just putting things neatly into drawers and cupboards is enough. You can rack up a big bill if you fall for every organizer available.
  • Ask questions:
    • Do I love this?
    • When was the last time I used this?
    • Does it have only one use?
    • For clothes: 
      • How many other pieces of clothing does it match?
      • Does it fit?
      • Try it on. How does it make you feel?
      • Does it need mending? Can I do it or get it done reasonably?
      • Is it outdated? Faded? Worn?
But my first and most important question is:
  • Why am I keeping this?
When I ask myself this question first, I can evaluate the purpose of the item, whether it has useful or sentimental value worth keeping. This has been a key to me getting rid of things that I don't need to clutter my house and life.

  • Reward yourself - whatever little reward will help motivate you, do that for yourself. Maybe 15 minutes of sitting and sipping a cup of coffee or pop. Maybe watching your favorite program. Maybe getting outside for a short walk. You've worked hard, give yourself a prize!

I wish you a clean, clutter free, and organized house and life this year!

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  1. All you ideas are solid ones. We recently moved from our roomy 4-bedroom house to a tighter two-bedroom apartment. I did a lot of "right-sizing." To get through it, I had a mantra: A Bag a Day. That is, each day I would fill a bag with either trash, give-aways [to various charities] or save for my kids. The discipline of a bag a day really helped me get through the ordeal of lightening up on my possessions.

    1. Wow! What a great goal! Not easy, but a good way to tackle a big job.

  2. I have to admit, I love throwing things out and giving things away. I am not a fan of clutter and I don't like to keep things that don't have a purpose. However, on the counter in my kitcken (in the corner) ther is a pile of things that's been there for months that I have been putting off! You've motivated me to clear it out!

    1. A "junk corner" or drawer, is kind of necessary (unless you are my husband or mother-in-law!). There are some things that defy categorization. I like to keep things where I see them or I forget I need them (like my pedometer).



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