Clutter control takes the place of Spring cleaning. Most of us don’t spring clean the way Grandmother used to: taking down and washing the curtains, dusting the walls, removing furniture, taking up and beating the carpets, and washing, then waxing, every floor. Instead, we look around and say: where did all this stuff come from?
Is every single room in your house cluttered? Do you need a method for dealing with it? Face it, your house is cluttered for a reason. Finding where your stuff fits on the clutter list will help in decluttering.
Start by getting large boxes or heavy-duty trash bags. Label them: SAVE/STORE, GOODWILL (or other recycling charity), and DUMP. You might also want to have boxes for each kid who is supposedly going to want an item “some day”. Then enlist all members of the house. Tell them you’re decluttering a particular room and if they want a say if what happens to the items, they need to help out. Show them the boxes and explain your method of clutter control.
Tackle one room or area at a time. Focus! Don’t get overwhelmed! Start in one corner and deal with each item. Quickly put it in a category, then take the appropriate action. Don’t spend time inventing reasons to keep things!
Clutter Control Categories
1.) Memory clutter. We keep stuff in this category because it evokes a good memory. Little Bobby’s baseball cleats from first grade, your old Playbills from the time you went to new York City, or your grandmother’s broken teapot. You don’t need the item, you need the memory. Take a picture and put the item in the appropriate box.
2.) Needed Someday Clutter. You know this stuff best, because you handle it all the time. This is stuff like the single mitten, the drawer full of unmated Tupperware, the chair that would be good if someone caned the seat, or six years of old magazines that you’re going to cut the receipes from. Harden your heart and get rid of it. Ask yourself: can someone else use this? The answer is almost always, “No! No one else can use this item in its current state.” Well, if no one else can use it, neither can you. Get rid of it.
3.) What Oprah calls “lazy clutter” like junk mailed piled up, the free hat you’ll never wear or the 17 extra poly grocery bags you picked up at the last senior expo. You don’t really want the stuff but it’s too good to throw away and you haven’t gotten around to removing it. You could get some immediate satisfaction by stashing anything useable into the rummage sale bag for the Church or Goodwill, and putting anything else in recycling or the dump box.
4.) Some one else’s clutter. That’s why each member of the household is present. If they’ve moved away to college or California, then you have to take on the task. But don’t bypass that clutter category, even if it ends up in the Store/Save box in the cellar. If they’ve moved away to Heaven, then much of this stuff falls into Category 1. Take a picture, keep one small treasure as a sample, put the appropriate items into the kid’s boxes as mementos, then let the good stuff move on to charity so someone else can enjoy it.
5.) Extras and duplicates clutter. Lots of clutter in my kitchen is because I have not one, but two old fashioned meat grinders. A French press, plus the drip coffee maker it replaced, plus a percolater. 12 egg plates. Decide whether you want the extra item, or would rather have the room it’s taking up. If you haven’t used the percolater in five years, get rid of it. How many egg plates do you need? Why do you still need the food processor if you always use the immersion blender? As soon as you bring in something new, get rid of what it replaces.
6.) To be repaired clutter. Art with broken frames, a bookcase you can’t use until it’s reglued, or a pot with a handle that needs a screw are all common examples of stuff that would be useful (and hence, not clutter) if it was repaired. Take a look. If it’s been in that state of disrepair for more than six months, you don’t really want or need it. Get rid of it now. The next time something breaks, fix it or throw it immediately.
Be methodical and set a timer. It’s really easy to get discouraged and overwhelmed, so take some satisfaction in filling one trash bag and one charity box. The FREE ads on Craig’s list, and your local Dump Store, can be your real friends. If you stay on task and spend twenty minutes a day on one room at a time, you’ll see real improvement in your clutter control.