The Simple Guide to a Clutter-Free Home

October 14, 2014

Here are some tips you can use to help live clutter-free.  To get started, follow tip #1, and believe that it is possible and get started, no matter how small the step.

The Simple Guide to a Clutter-Free Home

“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” – William Morris

I have lived most of my life in a cluttered home. Closets were full, drawers wouldn’t shut, things weren’t put away, and unfinished projects could be found in most rooms. That was, unless somebody was coming over. Then, the entire family would pitch in to make sure the house was presentable. Looking back, the problem with clutter wasn’t that we didn’t notice or care. Instead, the problem was we could never get ahead of the mess or ever seem to develop a system that would keep our home clutter-free.

But that is no longer the case. Today, almost every room in our home rests in a state of order – free from the life-robbing presence of physical clutter. Over the past several years, we have found a system that works very well for our family of four. And I am perfectly confident you can do the same… no matter how far away from clutter-free your home may seem.

Consider implementing the four steps found in this Simple Guide to Keeping Your Home Clutter-Free:

1) Believe it is possible. Most of us know it is entirely possible to live in a clutter-free environment. I imagine that is what attracts you to this guide. You are just looking for some extra help to get there.

But some of you are not so sure. Your house has been cluttered for so long, you have given up all hope of ever living any other way. For you, the first step to living in a clutter-free home is to take heart and believe it is entirely possible. Realize that you will never get there if do not resolve in your mind that you can accomplish it. So find some hope and take one small step. Then, take another… and another… and another…

2) Remove the excess. Our homes are full of things. Clutter begins to appear most prominently when we own too much stuff. Conversely, the fewer items we own, the easier it is to keep clutter at a minimum. The first (and most important) step in keeping your home clutter-free is to remove the excessive possessions that are stealing our lives, time, and energy.

In your process of removing the excess, it can be helpful to find a working definition of clutter to aid you in this step. Early in our journey, we began to define clutter as a) too much stuff in too small a space; b) anything that we no longer used or loved; or c) anything that led to a feeling of disorganization. With that as our guiding filter, we slowly moved from room to room, removing everything that fit the definition above.

In some cases, this step is easy:

  • Junk drawers full of unneeded items (rubber bands, old batteries, or old keys).
  • Closets full of clothes you no longer wear.
  • Decorations that are no longer meaningful and/or outdated.

In other cases, this step will take more time and intentionality:

  • Large projects such as the garage, basement, or attic.
  • Sentimental items that have collected over the years.
  • Books.
  • Other family members’ clutter that have begun invading common spaces.

The most important key in completing this step is to start with the small and easy projects first. Begin there. As you do, you’ll build up small victories. Then, after the small victories have been won, you’ll find extra motivation to begin tackling the harder cases of clutter in your home.

If you still do not feel fully capable on removing the excess possessions from your home, find encouragement in an intermediate step. For example, put the items you can’t quite part with in a cardboard box out of sight with a date on it. Getting rid of unnecessary possessions is essential, but it doesn’t have to be a race.

3) Implement habits to manage your clutter. For most of my life, I thought the key to maintaining clutter was found here. Just organize, clean, and organize again. But I was wrong. Because I had not taken the time to remove the excess in full (or in part), I could never get ahead of the clutter in my home. There were just too many things in too small a space – no matter what system we tried to implement. As a result, healthy clutter-clearing habits never had opportunity to emerge. So do not skip the removal step, it is absolutely important. And the more energy you put in removing the excess, the easier it will be to find and develop habits to better manage the things you keep.

Once you have cleared the excess, you will be able to better discover which habits keep your living space free of clutter. And once you experience the freedom and stress-free life of living clutter-free, you will find these habits easier to embrace.

Some of these habits will recur daily:

  • Cleaning the kitchen after each meal.
  • Placing daily-use items (clothes, books, toys) back in their designated homes.
  • Fully-completing projects around the house.
  • Developing an evening routine.

Some of these habits will center on specific locations that serve as clutter collection sites in your home. For us, our kitchen counter typically collects items (mail, schoolwork) during the day, our living room sees a highly-volume of traffic each day, and one of the bedrooms in our home finds itself a bit messier than the others. Each of these specific locations require extra effort and energy than the others.

Some of these habits will center of seasonal needs:

  • The changing of the seasons.
  • The need to remove excessive possessions after holidays and/or birthdays.
  • Significant life changes (birth of a child, new employment) will also require refocusing and adjustment.

Over the years, we have found clutter attracts clutter. Once it begins to collect, it requires intentional action to clear it away. Develop for your family healthy habits today to manage the daily use of the things in your home. Once identified, you’ll find them much easier to implement.

4) Slow the accumulation of possessions. To live is to consume. It cannot be avoided – especially in our society and culture. But if the influx of possessions into our homes can be slowed, clutter can be managed efficiently.

To slow the accumulation of things in our homes, we need to change our mindset and begin evaluating our purchases differently. Realize that your purchases cost far more than the price on the sticker. Each one will also require time, energy, and effort once they enter your home. Before making a purchase, begin asking yourself these questions:

  • Is this item really needed?
  • Do I have a place to store this when I get it home?
  • How much extra work will this possession add to my life?
  • Am I buying it for the right reasons?

This thought-process isn’t designed to keep you from making purchases ever again – at least, it’s not supposed to. Again, to live is to consume. But these questions are designed to bring intentionality into your life. They raise in your mind the awareness that some purchases take more from our life than they offer. They help you know the difference. And slow the accumulation of clutter-causing items into your home and life.

Again, it is completely and entirely possible to live in a clutter-free home. With this simple guide, you’ll be well on your way. From somebody who has lived both, I can quickly attest that once you begin to enjoy the physical and mental freedom that accompanies clutter-free living, you’ll make extra effort to ensure your home does not slip back into the home it used to be.

If you’d like to know more about the most important principles we learned during our journey into living with less, you’ll find great value in our book, Simplify: 7 Guiding Principles to Help Anyone Declutter Their Home and Life.

 

Our thanks to Joshua Becker for a well written approach.

Let us know how this works for you!

JoEllen & Muffy

 


Answers to Questions About Hoarding

October 10, 2014

Randy Frost 9 LRDo you have questions about Hoarding?  With all of the shows and articles of late there are often a lot of misconceptions.  Joshua Becker’s interview with Terrence Shulman will answer many of those questions.

For more infomation, or to find  resources or books on the subject, follow this link to a list that we have put together.

JoEllen & Muffy


The Change of Seasons and Your Closets!

October 9, 2014

It’s still quite warm out, but Fall has arrived!  And with that change of season comes the necessity of a change of clothes…if you are like me, my main closet is too small for all of my clothes and I must bring my cold weather clothes down from the attic.

While changing your closet around can be a bit of pain, look at it as an opportunity to make some changes.  Instead of packing away all of your spring and summer clothes, pull out those clothes which are too small, too big, out of style or just not favorites any longer, and donate them. Cleveland has many new consignment stores on both sides of town; go on-line and find the nearest shops.  Most will ask for donations that are for the current season, so find items for fall and winter that you know you won’t wear again.  You can pack away spring items and take them later – be sure to label the box so you know what is in there.  Not donating any special items?  Goodwill , Salvation Army and Easter Seals would all love your donations.  Passing things along is a wonderful way to share with others while clearing some space in your closet!

Not sure whether you will wear it again?  Our favorite trick which you can try is as follows: when hanging your clothes up, place all the hangers backwards.  When you wear an outfit, hang it back up correctly.  Next spring you will see what is still hung backwards and you now know what you never wore!  It may be just enough to convince you that the outfit is no longer needed.

Do you have a tight fit in your closet?  Do you need new hangers, underbed storage or new shoe racks?  JoEllen and I just went to The Container Store in Columbus last week and saw many storage solutions in many shapes, sizes and colors.

Muffy at The Container Store

 

A large selection at The Container Store

Visit The Container Store and see what might work in your closets. One of our favorite shoe solutions is found at IKEA.  Buy as many cubes as you need – stack them up high to use the vertical space!  This system can be enhanced by adding drawers which are also available.

For more ideas and inspiration be sure to visit our Organizing Clothes and Shoes board on Pinterest.  And for fun, you may want to check out the Celebrity Organizing board to see some very large and very organized closets.

Be sure to let us know if you have any questions,

Muffy and JoEllen

P.S. This post is from one of our recent newsletters.  We email free tips every month; follow this link to have them delivered to your in-box.

 


Is Your Workplace Prepared for A Disaster?

September 12, 2014

For even more tips, be sure to check out FEMA’s (Federal Emergency Management Agency) web site for more information on how you can “Be informed, Make A Plan, and Build A Kit”.

JoEllen

 


A New Way of Counting

July 4, 2014

fireworksA friend of ours recently forwarded an article from the New York Times that we would like to share with you. In his essay Let Me Count the Days, James Collins performs some mathematical computations and realizes that he “owned more staples than I could possibly is in my lifetime, or several of my lifetimes.” He goes on to say that “Nothing says mortality like the realization that you will live only long enough to use up 3.2 percent of your office supplies.”

This post is not about life expectancy, but rather a different perspective on the amount of anything that you own or are thinking of owning. What has come to your mind as you read this?

• Is it your supply of staples or other office supplies? How many do you actually use in a week/month/year? Is buying in bulk really going to be less expensive if you only use half of what you have purchased? Plus, the added cost of storing (and finding) the extras?
• How many un-read books are on your night stand and/or book shelf? Like, Mr. Collins, perhaps you should think about how many books you actually read a month, and then be more selective in your purchases or requests from the library.

• Magazines? How many subscriptions do you receive vs the number of magazines that you really read? Is there some thinning out that can take place?

• What about all the bags you have been saving for another use? Whether they are paper, plastic or gift bags, think about how much of a supply you really need to keep on hand. You know that there will always be more coming into your home.

• Do you shop at place like Costco or Sam’s Club? Buying in bulk will save you money, but will you be able to eat what you have purchased before the expiration date?

These examples could go on and on, but we think that you probably get the picture. Remember, the more things you have the more things you need to care for: to dust, to store, to read, to use….to find….. Is any of that causing you stress? Like Mr. Collins, take out your calculator and do some math.

We hope we have inspired you with this perspective.
Have an enjoyable 4th!!!

JoEllen & Muffy


Questioning What Paper You Need To Save

June 27, 2014

paper pileFiling systems are great, but we often see lots of paper in over-stuffed drawers that have not been opened in years!  How often do you really go back into your file cabinet to retrieve a document that you saved? Studies suggest that only about 20% of the papers that you file will ever see the light of day again.

Before you file that piece of paper, be sure to think about whether you will really need it in the future. If it is for a current project, taxes, investments or legal purposes, then the answer is YES.

Otherwise, ask yourself these questions before your file:

  • Will I remember that I filed it?
  • Will I remember how I filed it?
  • Could the information be obtained more quickly via a Google search?
  • Could the information be obtained more quickly via a search of my computer files, Evernote, or other cloud based service?

Hopefully these questions will guide you to your decision.

Happy filing,

JoEllen


College grads: Time for Self Storage 101

June 9, 2014

If it all is too much for your home, then consider a small storage unit—they come in a variety of sizes, and perhaps you know of others who are willing to share the space and expense.  Check out a facility near you and do the math—–reclaiming that extra space may not be all that expensive.

JoEllen


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