Getting Rid of the Clutter
by Liz Tolsma
Have you ever watched the TV show American Pickers? Two men travel the country searching for treasures hidden in people’s barns, garages or storage trailers. They’ll find old signs, movie memorabilia, motorcycle parts and a host of other items. Often the places they pick are packed from the floor to the ceiling and from wall to wall, necessitating them to crawl over mounds of stuff to get to the good items.
While you might not have multiple buildings overflowing with your collections, you most likely have at least one spot in your home which would thrill the pickers. Right now, that would be my basement. You risk breaking an ankle going down there to the deep freeze or to get a tool from the workshop. Yes, I have to climb over boxes to get meat for dinner.
At first blush, cleaning up this mess, getting rid of unneeded items and organizing the rest appears to be a monumental task. Hours worth of work. Dirt and dust. Impossible decisions about what to keep. So how do you go about tackling such a huge project?
For whatever reason, closets seem to be one of the prime dumping grounds for our “stuff.” Maybe that’s because when company is coming, we just shove our messes into the closet. Out of sight, out of mind.
Start by emptying out everything. Everything. If you haven’t worn it or used it in a year, get rid of it. Donate it to your local church, rescue mission or resale shop. It’s easier to part with items if you know they’re going to a good cause. Some people like to put their clothes back into the closet with the hanger backward. After a season, you’ll be able to see what you’ve worn and what you haven’t. That makes deciding on what to dump much easier.
Organize what is left. Shoe organizers are lifesavers, and they aren’t expensive. If you’re short on room, you can find hangers to clip multiple pants or skirts on a single hanger. The same thing goes for scarves, belts and ties.
Counters are great clutter magnets. Papers, mail, gloves, lists—almost anything—ends up on the kitchen counter. Sit down with the stack of paper one evening and go through it. You’ll be surprised at how little of it you need. An expandable file folder with multiple pockets is a great way to organize what you have to keep. Then it’s all handy and easy to access.
Designate a place for hats and mittens. Even a plastic bin by the back door can be a huge help in keeping those items off your counter and in a place where they’re easy to find in the mad morning rush. Hang hooks by the back door or on your refrigerator for your keys. Once you’re in the habit of putting them there as soon as you walk in the door, you’ll never have to search for them again. Purchase a charging station that can charge multiple devices at one time. That will help to eliminate all the cords getting tangled on the counter.
Take care of school items as soon as they come in. When your kids bring home a field trip permission slip, fill it out and send it back the next day. Buy an inexpensive plastic rack to sort and store bills that need to be paid. They’ll never be late, at least not because they got misplaced at the bottom of a pile of papers.
DECLUTTERING THE BASEMENT AND GARAGE
Starting with small projects like the counters and closets will give you the confidence that you can declutter your home without opening it to the American pickers. Now you’re ready for the big time—the dreaded basement and garage.
First of all, realize that these projects will take more than one day. Don’t try to finish it in one fell swoop, or you’ll end up discouraged. Break it into smaller chores that you can accomplish in a shorter amount of time, such as the workbench or the one corner where stuff is piled to the ceiling.
Bite the bullet, and be realistic. How many screwdrivers do you really need? How about those owner’s manual from three refrigerators ago? What about bicycles that belonged to kids who are now 30? Resale shops are a good place to donate your unwanted items. Or hold a garage sale. Just be sure to price your items low enough so that they move. And donate whatever doesn’t sell.
Plastic bins, tool hangers and so on can help to organize what you have left.
Toys cluttering your living room or family room? Large baskets and plastic bins are a great way to keep them contained. Have the children pick up the toys a couple of times throughout the day, such as before lunch and before bed. Have them race each other to see who can put the toys away the fastest or sing a song while you’re putting them away to make it more fun for the kids and less stressful for you.
As a family, take 15 minutes a day to clean up. If your kids are old enough, they can help. Use this time to pick up clothes and toys and put papers and such things away. With several of you working on this, you’ll be amazed how clean and organized your house stays.
Go on a 30-day decluttering mission. On the first day, throw away one item you no longer use or need. On the second day, get rid of two things. On the third day, go for three things. You get the pattern. It adds up and in a month, much of your clutter will be gone.
Look to Pinterest for organization ideas. It’s chock full of clever ways to declutter and organize.
What better way to start the new year than with a clean, organized home. And just imagine how much time you’ll save not having to climb over boxes to get to your dinner.
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