Last week in our Spring Cleaning series, we at Crucial discussed a great starting point for your annual cleaning spree: checking your roof and crawl spaces. This week we’re going to get you started on that spring decluttering. You know, the annual, “Do I really need to keep this Summer ’12 Pottery Barn catalog?” (Hint: unless you participated in making the catalog, probably not). We’re going to cover some great decluttering tips to get you started and touch on some things you definitely shouldn’t do. After all, whether you live in a one-bedroom apartment or a 16-room mansion, decluttering is a big job and intensely personal. Also, keep in mind that spring cleaning isn’t usually a one weekend job unless you live in a studio apartment. A proper spring clean can take twenty hours of work to do. Spacing that out over a few weekends can really help keep the job from stressing you out.
Decluttering Tips #1: Start Small
You know that saying, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”? Well, that’s doubly true when you’re looking at decluttering after a year’s worth of activities. After all, you’ve got birthdays, parties, holidays and everything else that happened in your life. That’s a lot to go through and it can be a little overwhelming. So start with one area. It can be your messy coffee table, or even your dining room table. Start somewhere small and move on from there. Don’t aim to do the entire house in a day either. You won’t finish and you’ll get discouraged. Small steps, small bites over the course of a month.
It can be tempting when you’re in the middle of a declutter and you want to move on to something else. Don’t do it. Stick with that pile of receipts in front of you. It has to be done eventually, and if you get it done now, you won’t have to do it later. This is also why you should do one room or one section of a room at a time. And once you have that small part done, don’t clutter it back up as you go. Is that coffee table clear? Don’t put anything on it that doesn’t belong when you’re tackling the entertainment center.
Decluttering Tips #3: Paperwork? Use the 2-F Rule.
When you look at paperwork that’s accumulated through the year, be it magazines, receipts, or things you aren’t sure of, sort it according to the two F’s: File or Frame. Ask yourself if it can be filed (receipts, warranty paperwork, bills, instruction manuals, etc.), or if you can frame it (kid’s artwork, things you are proud of (like that 2012 Pottery Barn catalog), or other celebratory papers). If it doesn’t fit into either category, toss it. Once it’s sorted, put it away. Invest in a file box with hanging folder rails or an accordion folder where you can put things. Speaking of boxes…
Decluttering Tips #4: Hold off on Buying Containers
When you start your decluttering, it can be tempting to run out to your local Target and stock up on bins, shelves, and new containers. Don’t give in though. If you don’t know what you’re going to put in those shiny new things, you’re just adding to the clutter. While you may end up needing a new container or two, wait until you have things sorted before you buy them. After all, your goal here is to take away from the clutter in your home, not add to it. Sort first, and then get what you need.
It’s pretty tempting to just go with the “throw everything away” plan when you start sorting through your accumulated clutter. After all, how many toys do your kids really need? Before you start leaving things out on the curb for Wednesday’s trash day, remember there are other options for your clutter. These options generally fall into the following categories:
- Donate to charity
- Sell (garage sales, craigslist, eBay)
Charity donations are easy. Just bag the stuff up and take it to a drop off spot. If you’re getting rid of a couch or other furniture, you can also schedule free pickups by Salvation Army or Goodwill. You can find donation locations and other information here (Salvation Army) and here (Goodwill). If you’re planning to sell items, find a place to store them until garage sale season is here. We’ll cover some tips on making the most of your garage sale in the coming weeks. If you are tossing larger items, make sure to check your local ordinances on the rules regarding oversized items and electronics. Some townships or cities prohibit leaving these items curbside.
Decluttering Tips #6: Keep at It
Once you get going, don’t stop. Finish the small are you’ve started and continue on. Once you get your entire house done, start back at the beginning. Keeping the clutter out of your house isn’t just a once a year event. Even if this is your first year forging order out of chaos, keep it up the rest of the year. Set aside an hour every weekend to go through your home. Pick one room each week and put things in their place. With a little practice, you’ll find that dealing with the paperwork and new things that come into your home are easy to deal with. The key is to do it in small doses.
There you are. Now that your home is decluttered, or on its way to being decluttered, you can start actually cleaning. Next year, when you clear away the clutter for spring cleaning, it should only take you a fraction of the time, especially if you’ve kept up with it throughout the year. Next week, we’ll cover some great ways to tackle each major room in your home, from an easy way to brighten up the tiles in your bathroom to a stress free way of cleaning the blinds. Until then, we at Crucial Vacuum want to wish you a great week.