April 12, 2017
There is enough advice on decluttering and organizing to fill an entire wing of a bookstore, and a quick online search brings up billions of results. But if it were as simple as picking up a book and following the author’s advice, wouldn’t we all have perfectly organized, streamlined homes? Well, judging from my own experience, and from the experiences of the many Houzz readers who have chimed in with comments on the subject, there is a lot more to culling clutter than tossing things in a bin.
Our relationship with our home, and the things in it, is charged with emotion — it’s not so easy to let go of things when something as simple as a rusted tackle box or a worn photograph can bring memories flooding back. In the past several months we have been exploring this topic, and some of the best tips from our conversations are pulled together in this guide.
Below, find eight ways to move through your own mental and emotional roadblocks to work through your clutter, from the inside out.
1. Come to terms with whether you're naturally organized or not. Glossy magazine spreads featuring perfectly organized spaces with nary a stray paper or lone shoe out of place may be fun to look at, but they are not right for everyone. The fact is, some folks are more inclined to be neat and orderly, while others feel more comfortable with a lot of stuff around. Instead of fighting against your nature, learn from it and work with it.
2. Put things in perspective. The ideabook below, by Alison Hodgson, is a great place to start any decluttering journey. Hodgson and her family lost their home and all of their possessions in a fire, and the lessons she has to share are invaluable. If you are wondering where to begin, or how you could ever possibly get rid of things you love, it is a must-read.
3. Face your fears. This is what stands between you and the refreshingly clean and neat home you wish you had: fear of making a bad choice, fear of tossing out something and regretting it later or fear that a family member will make you feel guilty for getting rid of something. We are all experts at coming up with excuses for keeping things we really don't want anymore. Confront your fears, and you may find it easier to let go of possessions that have become a burden to you.
4. Tackle your top problem area. What's the one thing in your home you find it hard to even consider decluttering? Think about starting there. For some it may be books; for others, china or clothes. Find the one thing that would make the biggest impact if you could streamline it, and start your work there. Use tip number three (face your fears) and dig in.
5. Get and stay motivated. Find your motivation by imagining what a clutter-free home would feel like. What would it allow you to do? Why do you want this? Keep your answers in mind as you start decluttering. Once you have gotten the ball rolling, stop yourself from backsliding by developing a few key habits: for every new item you purchase, get rid of a similar item, and when you see something that needs to be cleaned, put away or returned, just do it.
6. A special note for parents. Having kids in the house, as any parent will tell you, can ramp up the chaos in even the most (formerly) orderly homes. Luckily, as parents, we do have control over a great deal of the stuff that enters our homes, including toys. For starters, rethink how many toys and games your child needs — an overabundance of playthings is less appreciated, harder to clean up and more likely to get broken or wasted. To get a crazy-cluttered family home back in shape takes some work; there is no doubt about that. But the habits you form to manage the kid chaos will pay off insanity at home, and you will be passing those good habits along to your children.
7. Get help if you need it. If you are still feeling overwhelmed or if the job seems too big to take on alone, you can get help! Call a really organized friend and bribe him or her with free food in exchange for decluttering advice or physical help. Or call in a pro. Professional organizers have seen it all, can help you sort out even the most cluttered space, and can teach you systems that will help prevent your overstuffing your home in the future.
8. Take it to the next level: Simplify your life. Once you have been working on paring down for some time and are feeling good about the progress you have made, consider taking things a step further. Downsize to a smaller, easier-to-maintain space, go paperless or challenge yourself to get rid of things you don't use.