No matter how long you’ve lived in your home, whether you’ve just moved in or lived in one place for a decade, you’ve likely got a lot of “stuff” you’ve got to organize. Every home has a pile of stuff – or rooms full of piles – that need to be sorted in order to “unclutter” your home.
At times, getting your place cleaned up may seem like an enormous insurmountable challenge. Furthermore, all that mess takes up space in your unconscious mind, and can increase your stress levels. Here are a few ideas to get you started in cleaning up the mess, and half the battle of any challenge is just getting past the inertia of not doing anything.
So here’s how you can get started.
First, pick one room where you’re going to start and just work yourself through that room one task at a time. You don’t have to do everything all at once. Your goal is simply to make slow and steady progress. Here are a few more tips to get you moving one step at a time from “utter disaster” to “clean and worthy of photographs”.
Put all clothes away. Start with this “low hanging fruit”: hang clothes up, put shoes in the closet, and put all dirty clothes in one place. As an added bonus, take all the clothes that don’t fit anymore and give them away to a thrift store or donate them to those less fortunate than you. Do you have a ton of clothes that fit just fine but you never wear them? Practice this simple rule: if you haven’t worn it in the last year, toss it. And here’s another: if you wouldn’t buy the item for $1 at a thrift store, there’s no reason for you to keep it.
Clear off surfaces. Do you have a coffee table covered with coffee cups, magazine, books, mail and who knows what else? Take that one surface, get it organized and looking like an actual coffee table. How about the counters in your bathroom or kitchen? Take a few minutes to get them cleared off and wiped down. Take the same approach with bedside nightstands, tops of chests of drawers, desks, etc. Pick one surface, and get it cleared off.
Whenever possible, put things away immediately. When you walk in the door, put your keys where they belong, hang up your coat, put your briefcase away. Never put something down thinking “I’ll get that later.” Even if you do come back to it at a later time, it’s one more thing you have to worry about in the interim, and even small things take up space in your brain and can create a low level of constant anxiety. Just put things away as soon as possible and give yourself the luxury of forgetting all about it.
Learn the power of the micro-task. You don’t have to spend the next three hours cleaning the entire house. Take 15 minutes and clean off one table. Organize the books on one shelf. Clean one bathroom from start to finish. Clear out one shelf of the refrigerator of old leftovers or nearly empty condiments. Once you’ve finished with your micro-task, you’ve earned yourself a break. And here’s a key thing to remember: once an area – no matter how small – is clean, keep it that way. Don’t do another micro-task later that somehow moves clutter from one place to another you’ve already cleaned.
Pick one random pile of stuff and sort it to completion. Perhaps you’ve got stacks of important papers or magazines or newspapers that you’ve promised yourself you’ll get to later. Well, make the time to tackle just one stack right now. Get a shopping bag, pick a pile of stuff and go through it piece by piece. Your goal is to make sure that each item in the stack gets touched only once, and is then acted upon, read, recycled or trashed. Be relentless. If it's a magazine more than two months old, throw it out. Keeping an old guide to some far away destination? If it's related to something you don't already have on the calendar within the next three months, throw it out. You can always look it up again when it’s more relevant.
Quick sorting tip: don’t read entire magazines or newspapers looking for some crucial piece of information you might have missed. Quickly glance at tables of contents or the headlines on the front page or section, and if you don’t see whatever it is that you thought might be valuable enough to keep, toss it.
Make a stack of thing to be returned to other people or places. Library books, borrowed dishes, clothes, anything you've borrowed from a friend. Put them in a shopping bag. Take some time this weekend to make sure those things end up where they belong.
Practice the Rule of Ten. Get a bag, and fill it with ten things that you don’t want anymore or never use. Pick ten things, no more and no less. Do this every weekend for a month, and that’s forty items that are no longer cluttering up your home. If you do this a couple of months in row, your house will be visibly cleaner, and you’ll feel lighter as you walk through your home.
Get your kids, spouse or friends to help you. Make party of it. Put on some dance music and just get it done. A little help will make the job go faster, and some camaraderie might even make it fun.
If you want to give it your all and get your entire house done in a weekend, by all means do it! On the other hand, if you want to clean up your life without giving up all of your life to do it, try these simple approaches to decluttering your home. In no time at all, you’ll have the kind of home that uplifts you and gives you peace of mind.