A New Year means new resolutions as many of us look to take on those big life changes we’ve been putting off. This year eating better, exercising more and spending less money all top the list for most popular New Year’s resolutions.
Decluttering and organising the home is rarely the most popular New Year’s resolution, but potentially the most helpful. With presents piled up from Christmas and that hard to shake crimbo-limbo feeling, leftover food probably isn’t the only thing you’ve got lying around.
A tidy home really can make for a tidy mind, and getting organised at home could help start your New Year off right. A stress-free home and a more organised life could even leave you more time and motivation to tackle the rest of those resolutions.
How to declutter and get organised
If you’re feeling overwhelmed just thinking about diving into that cupboard in the hallway or sorting through the room that used to be a spare room, take a deep breath. Decluttering and getting organised doesn’t have to be the torturous experience we’ve all come to avoid. In fact, armed with a plan of action and a few of our top tips, you might be surprised how easy it can be.
Identify the problem areas
Anything can start to seem overwhelming when you look at the big picture. Identifying the key problem areas in each room is the best way to break down the mammoth spring clean into smaller and more manageable tasks. For each room, note down the problem area at the top of the page. Use a different page for each problem so you’ll have plenty of space to take down more notes later on.
Each room usually has a common problem, such as shoes by the door or piled in a hallway cupboard. Here are a few things to keep an eye out for in your own house.
- Junk mail piled up on a table in the hallway.
- Bathroom cabinets – usually cluttered with old medicines and toiletries.
- Junk drawers – typically found in the kitchen and office desks.
- Downstairs closets.
- Attics or basements.
- Spare rooms that have gradually become junk rooms.
Analyse the problem
To help solve the problem correctly you need to understand why the problem exists. Simply resolving it often results in a temporary solution that is quickly forgotten. Creating a solution that fully addresses what is causing the problem is more likely to result in a long-term solution that works.
You’ll likely find that there is a sequence of issues causing the problem as a whole. Asking family and guests to remove shoes, plus unwillingness to take shoes to bedrooms, plus a lack of space in the hallway closet or entryway are probably all reasons that shoes pile up in these areas.
Find the solution
Identifying the solution for each problem area needs to be done before you start to declutter. Although all your rooms and problem areas will need some degree of decluttering, you need to make sure you set aside enough time to tackle each area in one go. To do this you need to know how long it will take you to implement your organisational solution and to get any materials or tools you need so you can put them in place straight away. This will ensure you don’t end up with half organised rooms all over the house, a situation that can often make decluttering properly even harder.
The solution will likely be a combination of behaviour changes and a physical tool to help you keep things organised. Messy hallways are usually resolved with more coat hooks and a shoe tidy solution like a small rack. This organisational tools will also need to be kept organised by everyone to remain a long-term solution. Here are some more solutions to some of the most cluttered areas in the home.
- A mail organiser in the hallway, or even separate ones for different family members. You can also look at your mail to see if there are any companies you could unsubscribe from to cut down on the junk.
- Storage containers can help you group tools and keep the garage organised if you plan on keeping this as a storage area. You might also want to revisit this area more often, such as once a month, to keep it organised in future.
- Drawer compartments can help keep drawers organised if they still need to be used for things like stationary or more miscellaneous items.
Now you can start on your first room, ensuring you have all the supplies you need to implement your organisational solutions after. Again, it’s important to make sure you set aside a day or a weekend to tackle the room. If not, then you may find rubbish or items to donate to charity hanging around the house and creating even more clutter. You’ll need enough time to sort through the room and take trips to the recycling centre, charity shop or storage.
Decluttering can seem like a huge task, so it also needs to be broken down into something more manageable. The four-box rule is a great way to get your head around decluttering and make firm choices. To do this, you’ll just need four boxes or containers each labelled Rubbish, Give Away/Sell, Storage, Keep. Everything you own should fit into one of these categories.
This is simply anything that you don’t want to keep and can’t be sold or given away. Items that are damaged, broken or just too old to be of use to someone else can be binned.
Give Away/ Sell
Anything that you don’t want to keep and is in okay condition can be given away or even sold. You may have a friend that will find a use for it, or simply donate it to your local charity shop. Many items can also be sold online, and you may be surprised by how much some of your clutter could be worth.
Top tip: As a rule of thumb, question anything that hasn’t be used in the last 6 months or year. It’s important to be strict at this stage to avoid keeping any potential clutter. If in doubt, you can always put the item into your storage category or give it to a friend for a while to test whether you actually need it or not.
This is for items that you can’t get rid of but don’t use regularly, and it can be the trickiest category. It can be tempting to start to store anything you’re immediately unsure about and simply move it to another problem area such as the attic. This is an easy trap to fall into but simply causes even more clutter in the long run. Be realistic about why you need to keep something that you don’t use regularly.
Typical items that you might want to store include seasonal clothing that you may not have worn for 6 months but don’t want to get rid of. We recommend grouping similar items together and taking inventory of what and where you store it. Seasonal clothing, for example, can be boxed into containers and stored in the attic or under-bed space where they’re still easy to reach when needed.
A small personal storage space can also be a convenient way to store important or sentimental items that are simply cluttering your home. Maybe you have extra furniture that you’re keeping for when the kids move out or items that you have an emotional attachment too. When you don’t want to bin or sell these items, you can find surprisingly affordable personal storage space starting from as small as a single locker.
Finally, your keep category should hopefully be your smallest box. These are the items that you use on a regular basis and they can be kept tidy with the organisational solution you implement.
Top tip: You may mistake items with an emotional attachment as something you use regularly, perhaps because you see it every day. If you’re still experiencing problems with clutter, reassess these items. Consider if you really need them, or whether they can be kept in storage or with another family member that might have more space. You can even create a scrapbook or decorative display to try and incorporate them into your home without causing more clutter.
Keep the clutter away
Once your room is decluttered you can refer to your notes and implement your organisational solution. The key to keeping clutter at bay is to keep returning to the room on a regular basis to assess whether it’s staying tidy. If you notice rooms slipping into disarray in the weeks after your spring clean, return to the room and reassess the problem and potential solutions again before it turns into more clutter.
Often, new habits and behaviours will need to happen to keep things organised at home. This can take a while, so whether you live with kids or roommates, keep looking at the problem areas together.
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