Friday, August 14, 2009

Uncluttering Your Life

It's kind of a chicken and the egg situation...is my life chaotic because my house is cluttered, or is my house cluttered because my life is chaotic?

Regardless of which you believe, the truth of the matter is that establishing control over one will automatically make you feel better about the other...this has been proven time and again.

Since I have been focussing exclusively on purging and organizing your home so far, I thought today I would give equal billing to the other half of the equation. Here is a poem which has been a lifesaver to me. During times of extreme stress and chaos in my life, I have even posted this in my bathroom so that it is the first thing I see in the morning, and the last thing I see at night.


Although it is a prayer, you need not be religious to benefit from this. The first stanza is my personal "Mission Statement", and I repeat it to myself on those days when it all seems too much...enjoy, and pass it on.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Backsliding

So I have spent most of the last 3 weeks helping a friend purge and paint her 130 year old semi-detached Victorian house in preparation for sale.

She has lived in the house for the past 43 years, so needless to say the task was monumental.

I am so impressed with how she has taken it on, determined to move on to a simpler, more serene life in a much smaller apartment.

Although we are not yet finished, we decided to take a much needed week off. At least from her house...when I looked around my small, one bedroom plus den apartment I realized how much I had neglected my own space.

So on the weekend I began the cleaning...

I moved into this apartment in May, and still have not found storage solutions for everything that I brought with me. It has been six years since I first made the decision to downsize and simplify, and I thought I was doing very well. Until I made the decision to convert my linen closet into clothes storage. As I unloaded the linens, I was horrified to discover 5 sets of sheets, 5 sets of towels, and 4 bath mats. Who needs 5 sets of sheets for one bed? And whatever happened to my "one in, one out" rule?

Yes it is very clear to me that backsliding happens...it is insidious and unexpected. Staying clutter free requires diligence and discipline.

So off to Goodwill I go with 2 sets of sheets, 2 sets of towels and 2 bathmats, renewing my vows once again to purge, purge, purge!

Don't be discouraged....even the most devout declutterers slip up occasionally! It's like cheating on your diet...forgive yourself and move on.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Basic Principles of Decluttering Your Home

So yesterday I rambled on about tackling your problems in manageable steps...and asked "Where do I begin?"

Personally I always start with whatever is bugging me the most. Is it the dumping ground inside your front door? The dining room table that is used for everything but dining? Kids toys everywhere?

Whatever it is, that's where you should start. Forget about the "make a detailed plan of attack and stick to it approach"...it doesn't work. If you are a life long clutterer, what you need is some instant gratification...visible results of your hard work to keep you going. If you don't see a measurable change in your life as a result of what you've done, let's face it, you're not going to keep working at it.

Regardless of where you choose to begin, I've found there are some basic steps to decluttering that apply to all situations.

First step is to get 4 bins, baskets, bags...whatever works for you. Label them as follows: Keep, Toss, Give Away, Move. The purpose for the first 3 is pretty obvious; the last one, Move, is where you will put all of the stuff that has accumulated in one spot that really belongs elsewhere in your home. Don't worry about returning it to its proper place just now...throw it in the Move bin and we'll deal with it later.

Now comes the part that people find difficult...letting go.

Let's start with Toss. If it is broken, Toss it. If you seriously plan to have it repaired, give yourself 30 days to do so. If you haven't fixed it within that month, you are not going to...Toss it! If it is worn out, Toss it. If it is stained, Toss it. One comment about the Toss bin...please do not throw out anything that can be recycled....put those items in your regular recycling bins.

Next we come to the Keep and Give Away categories. I have a very simple mantra that I use to make decisions on what to keep and what to purge...If I love it or it is functional I keep it; if it is neither, then it goes. When I say "love" I mean "love", not "I kind of like it", or "it's cute"...you have to really love something to keep it. Functional means that it serves a clear purpose in my home in its' current state....it's not too big, or too small or falling apart, or.....

If you stick to these principles you will be able to quickly organize any area of your home.

Oh, back to that Move box....once you have finished sorting and organizing the area in question, then you can walk around the house with your Move box and return all those lost items to the room where they belong. Don't worry about where they are going to go in those rooms...you'll deal with that when you are ready to organize those areas. I keep a small basket (8"x 12") as a permanent Move box. When I do my daily or weekly cleaning I put any items that have wandered from their home into the basket for redistribution back to their proper place. If you make a habit of this you will find your home is much less cluttered. If you have more than one level to your home, keep a Move basket on each floor. Don't make the basket too big or you will just be creating another dumping place...keep it small and empty it regularly.

Lastly, I keep a permanent donation bin. Store this wherever makes sense for you. In my home the dining room table is rarely used so I keep a decorative lidded basket under the table. Whenever I notice something that I no longer love or is no longer functional for me, I put it directly into the basket. When the basket is full it goes to charity. Doing this on a regular basis means you will never have to do a major purge again.

Where do I begin?

It seems that is the biggest question faced by anyone who feels overwhelmed by the clutter in their home or in their life...Where do I begin? It all seems so overwhelming when we consider the mammoth task we face.

I think that is the secret....don't think about the size of the task...think about taking it one step at a time. Anything is possible if we break it into small, manageable pieces. Also remember that what is a manageable task to your best friend, your sister, your mother, may not be a manageable task for you. Organizing and decluttering, whether it be your home or your life, is a very personal task, and only you can determine how much you can accomplish in each step.

So don't be discouraged by the size of the task, and don't let anyone else measure your progress for you...this is one time when it really is all about you.

Each day I will write about some aspect of the decluttering process...things I have tried that worked, and those that failed spectacularly! I will also include some of my favourite organizational tools, whether they be storage containers, organizing systems, labelling suggestions or just hints and tips to help keep you moving forward towards your goal.

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