Is your abode in a jumble?
Have you been wanting to fix this problem but do not really know where to start? Or maybe you know where to start but cannot motivate yourself to actually do it. You are too attached to your things. You have no time. The reasons are endless. Trust me, I know! Maybe today’s post can help. While I am not offering to clean out your house for you, I want to share how I just cleaned out my own, and hope to inspire you to do the same. I’m talking closets, clothes, toys, beauty products…I decluttered almost the whole thing and I am very proud and more than happy that I did. Yes, it takes time and effort but I promise – once it is done, it just feels freakin’ amazing!
I keep hearing about the widely popular KonMari method but let me start by saying that I did not employ any specific method to my madness at all. My goal: Get rid of crap. My method: Complete and utter ruthlessness.
I set an appointment on my calendar to really help me stick to my plan. Seriously, an appointment! This was definitely necessary as the amount of excuses that kept popping into my head as to why I cannot clean out our clutter “at this very time” were downright mind blowing. I gave myself four days (roughly three hours each during the last week of my kids’ summer camp when I knew they were not going to be home) to complete my project.
My strategy was to go room by room and space by space to get a sense of accomplishment when I was done with one and to save some time by not going back and forth. Also, knowing that I could not get everything completed in one sitting, I did not want to leave the whole house in half-shambles in the meantime. Ready, set, go!
Let me forewarn you: Although our house is not all that big and I generally keep it pretty tidy, I found so much stuff it is unreal! Stuff that had been sitting on shelves for years, subconsciously causing me anxiety, crowding my space and clouding my mind. Seven travel cosmetic cases. 66 gift bags in a variety of sizes. A huge box full of broken-into-tiny-pieces crayons. I kid you not!
I started with my closet – clothes, shoes, jewelry and other accessories. I took inventory of everything I have, paid attention to what truly reflects my style and what I actually like wear. Then I weeded out the rest. Three pairs of sandals that almost look exactly the same – two are gone. White tees that are not quite white anymore – gone. Old business suits, skimpy cocktail dresses, the “just in case” items, the “I might wear them again one day” items – gone, all gone! It feels very liberating and my closet now looks awesome. It’s far from a minimalist or capsule wardrobe (although I would like to go into that direction one day) but it is very easy to navigate, and I love everything in it. Getting dressed in the morning is finally a breeze; even when I’m in a hurry, I can quickly find clothes that fit and that I am confident wearing.
My Kids’ Closets:
Since we do not have a basement or designated storage space, our kids’ wall closets double as storage. One side is for their clothes, the other is to keep things like luggage, Christmas ornaments, board games and the likes. For years, everything has been sort of shoved in. Out of sight, out of mind…that is, until you actually need to find something and fast. We had unopened birthday presents we stashed away last year co-mingling with baby toys that the kids had outgrown years ago. I took everything out, separated and evaluated it and then put back (in an organized fashion) only what we still really need and/or want. I also tweaked the actual storing method for a few things here and there, i.e. instead of stacking up 10 board games that are a nightmare to get out every time you need one on the bottom, I put them on the shelf side by side like books so they are easily visible and accessible.
Wrapping paper, tissue, paper, gift bags, bows…let me just tell you that I will never in my life need to spend money on either ever again. That’s how much of this stuff was hiding in the dark corner of my son’s closet. I used a couple of long stackable Rubbermaid boxes with lids and an old basket to separate the items by category for easy access. Next time time I need to wrap a last minute birthday gift it can be done in a jiffy.
Kids Clothes: This is a total no brainer but I kept only the clothes that truly fit them. A dress my daughter used to look so cute in two years ago? My son’s polos that are just a little too short for him to wear? Adios. Pants and leggings that have tears and holes in the knees – I mended them or got rid of them altogether. Also new: I hung up all of their tops grouped together by season (jackets furthest away, then sweaters, then t-shirts front and center), the rest is organized in drawers. Now all socks are paired up and the kids only have a limited but wearable selection of shoes. Heaven!
I hate to say it but the worst room to clean up was my daughter’s. Why? She is an avid artist and there were mountains of pictures, scraps of paper, and “projects” all over her desk and dresser. She also likes to find “treasures” – things like little beads, pieces of glitter, colorful feathers and rocks she puts in various receptacles in her room, and she loves tchotchkes. Whatever little plastic creature made in China – you name it, we got it! Most of them even more than once, accumulated at various birthday parties, carnivals etc. Like any five-year old, my daughter is seriously attached to everything – there is a good chance she will cry if I throw away a wrapper she decided she “needed” for something “special.” That is why I had to clean out her room when she was not there. Sounds cruel? It really is the only way!
I got rid of pretty much all the things the kids have not touched in a while – toys they have long outgrown and those that are broken-beyond-repair. To manage their (limited amount of) smaller treasures that were keepers, I used a couple of stackable baskets that fit into their dresser cabinets and in which I organized everything by category. I also switched out some books and puzzles that were hiding on the higher shelves in the closets and put them on the easily reachable book shelf in our living room (that was freed from useless stuff) and sorted through their toy boxes that were full of planes, trains and automobiles. Phew!
Art Projects/School Work:
This one is a biggie! For the kids’ school papers and art projects, I made these folders a couple of years ago (this definitely required a good amount of time given that I am not at all crafty but hindsight, it was totally worth it!). They are awesome because they do not take up a lot of space, and everything looks clean and uniform. The best part is: You have to be extremely picky with what you want to keep as each folder and box has a very limited capacity of what they can hold. School pictures, report cards, diplomas, special drawings, things we made together when I volunteered in their classrooms – all keepers. Random math homework from November 5th – gone. I kept a valentine from each of the kids’ best friends – not all 18 from everyone in their class. You get the idea: Be selective and again, ruthless! Repeat after me: I cannot keep everything.
The bathroom was surprisingly easy as I have been pretty good about keeping my beauty product hoarding problem under control. Diligently finishing up cosmetics before purchasing more of the same or similar, returning/swapping/gifting products that do not work for me and taking advantage of samples all have helped in keeping my beauty addiction to a manageable level. Yet, I still went though my beauty stash and got rid of some useless extras and products that were expired. Now I know exactly what I have and where everything is; all things I truly love and that work for my skin and my lifestyle.
This one was also super quick and straight forward: I folded all towels and linens neatly and got rid of the ones that have holes or stains. I also stacked the blankets, keeping about five and getting rid of the extra however many that we will never need. Done!
As you may have noticed, I left out the kitchen (which I somewhat recently decluttered when I did my big plastic elimination) and living room. I will probably get to the latter in a little while, too, but for now it is not as anxiety-inducing as the rest of the house. Also, I did not touch my husband’s closet. Sorry, babe but here you’re on your own! Our garage is a whole different beast altogether that has a lot of items in it that we are planning on selling – mainly baby gear such as strollers, car seats, bedding and a mattress. But all in due time!
So what did I do with our old stuff? Donate, donate, donate. While there are many reputable charities that accept donations (use your good old google machine for ones in your area), we typically give to the Vietnam Veterans of America. This organization sells whatever is sellable and uses that profit to help vets in need. Once a month they come by and pick up designated donation bags that you leave out by the curb – no appointment necessary. We also donated some books and toys to my husband’s hospital as they are always in need of things that keep little ones entertained. Some pictures and schoolwork went to the grandparents. The rest of our stuff went into the recycling bin and the last little bit in the garbage.
Were my kids mad when they came home? Did they mention that anything went missing? No, not all! Truthfully, both kids were super excited to see how orderly their space is. They never asked once about a certain paper or a specific Chinese figurine since their most prized possessions and favorite toys are all still there, just now more neat and accessible. They enjoy easily finding items that are no longer covered by half broken or otherwise useless stuff. In addition, my husband repaired a few toys (glueing wheels back on cars, putting new batteries in remotes etc.) that were temporarily forgotten about and that are now brand new and exciting to them again. It’s like giving our kids presents without spending a dime!
As you might be able to tell from my level of enthusiasm, I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I no longer have anxiety about opening drawers and no longer waste time digging around trying to find certain articles. I feel calm and in control when I walk through our house. Honestly, decluttering is better than therapy and it is completely free. I have every intention of keeping our home this way by screening thoroughly what comes in through the front door in the first place.
One more thought before I leave you to your own devices: Memories do not live in things. Memories live in your soul, in your heart and in your mind. They do not live in a sweater you have not worn in three years. Sure, keep some special items that are dear to you (your wedding dress, baby’s first onesie, photo books, letters…) but be discriminatory. Ask yourself: Is this thing worth taking up space in my house? That’s what worked for me. I hope it works for you. Good luck!
This will be my last post for a little while as my second round of yoga teacher training is starting up again in a couple of days. Follow me along on Instagram or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions or comments you may have in the meantime.