Friends, welcome to the final part of my mini three-part series on unfucking your life in 2019. I stole this title from a great website: Unfuck Your Habitat. And by god, that describes best what my physical surroundings need for the coming year! 2019 will verily be the Year Of The Great Declutter in our home, and ideally most of that will happen in the next couple of months. N and I are equally fatigued with the constant clutter that surrounds us and of not being able to bloody find anything when we need to, and then discovering it three months later after we finally decide to replace it….
I am 175% certain that we both have a huge amount of STUFF that can be streamlined, donated, stored, or just plain (responsibly) trashed, and that the remaining stuff can be organised much more sensibly.
|Check out the first two posts in this mini-series:
Part One: Support and Education
Part Two: Slowing Down and Taking Note
This particular project has been in the making for a while now. Over the past couple of months I’ve been gathering links and resources to help me make a solid plan for the house, and then (the tricky part) stick to it.
Decluttering on a whim can be an intimidating business if you go to YouTube or Pinterest to search for ideas. This is because every third home-maker in America seems to have produced a slick set of printables for you to buy for $2 each and I’m sure those are super useful if you have 3 children and a whole load of en-suite bathrooms and closets. But we’re just two people in a small semi-detached house with three petite bedrooms. We only have one kitchen and one bathroom. And so all those videos and Pinterest links get overwhelming pretty quickly. But nevertheless, as we both love books and our hobbies and are also a bit old and have acquired a lot over the years, we’ve ended up with a shocking number of things. This isn’t about living in a Pinterest-worthy space, this is about having a home that is tidy and organised and that makes living in it much more pleasurable and convenient! It’s time to pick up the reins, take control, and do some ruthless decluttering.
(This post is not sponsored and there are no affiliate links.)
How to clear out
This might seem like a no-brainer, but knowing how to clear out is surprisingly not all that intuitive in practice, and the lack of a plan can prevent you from actually starting the project.
There are a lot of ready-made checklists out there that can help you produce an entirely your-home-specific plan to declutter by room. Inspired by many of the links that I’ll add at the end of this post, I started in an Excel spreadsheet by creating one page per room. Each room is made up of sections, for example: Living Room – bookshelf, drawers and cupboards, dining table area, sofa end-tables, fireplace, TV unit, craft corner, floor space. (If you want to use a ready-made printable, search “Konmari printable” on Pinterest and dig in. Example here.)
(N.B. I haven’t actually read Marie Kondo’s book but I know that the Konmari method comes from it!)
Go around the rooms in your house and make a pen & paper list of each of the areas you want to work on, and remember always to leave “floor space” and “other” categories.
Once that’s done, make a plan for each of those areas. This is what I did, for example:
- Living Room.
- Drawers and cupboards.
- Take everything off/out and put on floor.
- Wipe down inside cupboards/drawers.
- Sort into DONATE/THROW/STORE/KEEP (see section below on making these decisions).
- Put everything back.
- Make sure everything has a home! Use label(s) and boxes if necessary.
- Drawers and cupboards.
(We have clear plastic boxes for storage and I splashed out a while back on a Dymo label-maker, but you could just buy simple plain white sticky labels from just about any budget shop or stationery shop.)
Pretty much every single area within every single room has this sort of checklist underneath it, like so:
You can see that when this is printed it appears as a usefully ordered checklist and we can tick as we go along.
When you are donating or trashing items, please remember:
- Choose charities wisely. Not all charities are created equal and some do more good than others. The Charity Evaluator will help you out here.
- Consider giving stuff away for free on your local Gumtree/Freecycle/free ads site; this has the added bonus that someone will come to your house to take it away.
- Trash responsibly. Recycle where possible, donate where possible, but if you absolutely must trash stuff, please try to do it as responsibly as possible. Google “how to trash responsibly” for a whole bunch of guidance on this.
- In the UK? All your recycling questions are answered here.
Asking ‘The Question’
It’s all very well making a solid decluttering plan and then pulling all your stuff out of drawers, shelves, nooks, and crannies, but how do you decide what to get rid of? What if the decision is hard? It helps if you can ask yourself the right questions, and there are a lot of resources out there that can help you, but none have been more profoundly helpful than this amazing infographic produced by Happy Organized Life. I’ve printed this out and will keep it on hand throughout our decluttering adventures.
This infographic forces you to ask the following questions:
- Do I love this?
- If I saw it again in a shop, would I buy it?
- Is it still in good condition?
- Is it worth the time/money to repair? If so, set a deadline.
- Have I used this in the last 12 months?
- Will I use it in the next 3 months?
- Is this the only item like this that I have?
- How many items like this do I really need?
- Is this item impossible to replace/borrow if need be?
- Do I have a designated place for this in my home?
- BE BRUTAL: does this item fit into the vision you have for your life/home?
This will help you to weed out the stuff that can be donated, repaired, trashed, digitally stored, physically stored (e.g. Christmas tableware!), etc.
Actually doing it
You’ll find that making a solid plan and schedule for your decluttering project will make the first steps seem infinitely more doable. However, it’s still important to carve out the time to dedicate to the exercise, and we are planning to do just that (or rather, I am and N is happy to be project-managed).
We actually have a household Google calendar. We both add our individual and mutual appointments and that way we never double-book ourselves and we each know where the other is. N knows not to schedule day-long bike rides when we have a family meal scheduled, for example. So I’m planning to use this to block out weekend time to dedicate to the areas we want to cover, and in that way we’ll progress steadily through them one by one. I’d recommend half days at the most to prevent burnout, and make sure to reward yourself for each block done! You can still use your calendar if you’re living solo – it helps to hold yourself accountable! And you know that there’s nothing more motivating than getting shit done, right?
Should you power your way successfully through your entire house, (well done!!) it helps to have a plan in place to maintain the tidiness and organisation you’ve cultivated. Here are some tips for remaining clutter-free:
- Try to schedule in mini-declutters once every 6 months or so.
- Interrogate each new purchase you make – whenever you bring new stuff into your space, try to remove something else, and ensure everything has a permanent home. (Google something along the lines of “minimalism questions to ask new purchase” and you’ll get plenty of suggestions.)
- Implement a clear surface policy – tables, fireplaces, kitchen counter-tops. Find everything a home so that your surfaces are clutter-free.
- Implement a 60-second rule – if a job takes less than 60 seconds, just get it done. More via the links below.
- Learn how to clean and maintain a cleaning schedule that works via the Unfuck Your Habitat challenges.
- Download the free cleaning checklists that tells it to you straight via Unfuck Your Habitat.
Why not schedule in weekly cleaning time via your Google calendar as well? Honestly, I was once a deeply untidy person and was entirely ambivalent about cleaning. These days I try my best but having a house full of stuff makes all of these jobs a hundred times harder. Clear the decks, get decluttered, and start as you mean to go on. Don’t give yourself a hard time if you have a lazy few days. You’ll live! But if you’re like me, a tidy house will produce a tidy mind, and keeping on top of this stuff (tricky though it can be) is actually a way to maintain mental-wellness.
I’m really looking forward to The Great Decluttering of 2019 and I’ll let you now how I get on. Hopefully better than my great cookbook project of 2018. Eeesh.
Some helpful decluttering/staying tidy and organised links:
- How to declutter your life and your mind
- 10 Creative ways to declutter your home
- The One Minute Rule: How to declutter your life in 60 seconds
- One question to help you successfully declutter anything
- How to declutter your life and reduce stress
- How to declutter your life
- Unfuck Your Habitat
Header image https://unsplash.com/@citrusboy