Wednesday, January 4, 2017

How to Start

I've been decluttering for a while now. Like, twenty years. Seriously, twenty years! I would expect I would be done by now. I would expect my home to be clean, and tidy, and without a lot of excess.

To be honest, it's a lot better than it was when we started. We bought a book shortly after we were married that promised to rid us of the clutter. We would be able to find what we need when we need it. No more looking for scissors because we would know where they were! No more buying duplicate items because we couldn't find what we need -- or because we forgot we had something until we went to put it away and found another one there. We would save money and time! Birds would descend from the clouds, singing!

As time has passed, our needs and wants have changed. Things that were once desirable have become clutter.  We have reduced the amount of stuff we have, but I am sometimes still overwhelmed by the amount of items in our home. So I started this project to reduce the amount of stuff in our home and reduce the stress in our home.

But what do you do if you've just started. What if you look around your home and see cabinets, baskets or piles of ...things. You don't like to open the closet door because there is too much to deal with there. Your pantry is full, but you never look in the back, and you just keep replenishing the items in the front. You can't find a working pen when you need to sign a form. You need to eliminate a lot, not just ten or fifteen pieces.

I've read a lot of different books on the subject. Some tell you to start in your highest traffic stop, so you get an immediate result. Some say to work all weekend, and others advise doing a little every day. Marie Kondo recommends taking everything out and putting back only what you love, and who am I to argue with her? But I will, and I have another tack that works for me. Just pick something, and get rid of it.

I know it sounds foolish, but if you're just beginning, I find it is too easy to get wrapped up in what you should declutter, and how, and when. If you are starting, just get started. If your drawer is too full of kitchen implements to open, then get rid of the ones you know you don't need. Carry the unloved spoons, dull knives and weird implements to a box by the back door or bag in the trunk of the car (don't put them in the garage,it's too easy to forget about them there). When you leave the house, or when you drive by a donation spot, drop them off. You don't have to get a receipt, just let them go. Now you have a working drawer, and your life is easier. If it's not a drawer, if it's an end table, just go for it. Repeat as necessary.

Using this method as a starting point, you will not get rid of all the clutter in your home. You will not end up with a minimalist magazine (Pinterest?) spread. But you will get rid of enough that you will have room to work.

This is not the time to decide whether you want to get rid of the rolling pin that belonged to your grandmother. You never make pie, you don't like pie, but you loved your grandmother. After you are living in a home that you can breathe in, you can consider how you want to remember and memorialize your grandmother. But to START, just get rid of the easy things. If you find yourself waffling over something, put it aside for now. If you find yourself waffling over everything, take a break. Take the box (bag) of donations out of the room, empty the trash and recycling cans, do something to relax. Then come back to whatever needs your attention next.

A Special Note About Paper Clutter: Do not start decluttering with paper clutter. Do not start by trying to eliminate the pile of bills, adverts and school papers that have climbed to two feet tall. Paper clutter is more time consuming than other clutter because each piece is so thin. Important things can hide between pieces of unimportant things, and because ten items of paper clutter are a quarter of an inch high; ten items of any other clutter will half fill a box. If you have paper clutter on the refrigerator, on the counter, on the desk a different strategy needs to be taken. Spend 15 minutes (or whatever time you can) eliminating the clutter from the top of the pile AND DON'T ADD TO THE PROBLEM. Make the hard decision before adding new paper clutter to the pile.

You may miss out on a few things this way. If you receive a new issue of Reader's Digest in the mail, you may have to pass it along (leave it in the doctor's office, or give it to your neighbor) rather than reading it if you have a lot of magazines in the pile. Obviously, if you have a lot of magazines in the clutter pile you aren't getting around to reading them anyway! If the weekly grocery circulars arrive in the mailbox, recycle them as they arrive at the house. You may miss out on a great coupon, but it will be worth it to reclaim a great piece of furniture.

By working at the clutter problem from both ends -- reducing what has accumulated and preventing new accumulation -- you can eliminate the easy clutter. Once you see a difference in the way you live you can develop the momentum you need to address more difficult, entrenched clutter.

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