Declutter Room By Room in your Small Home
Declutter Room By Room
You have too much stuff! You’ve come to the realization that the more stuff you have, the less freedom you experience. So, you’ve reached the point where you’ve had enough & you’re ready to shed some of the inanimate objects in your possession.
If all the above is true, & you’re not a hoarder or compulsive spender, yet you’ve somehow acquired stuff you don’t need, then you’re reading the right article! It’s not your fault! The media (especially television) brainwashes us into continuing to purchase long after our needs are fully met.
Hoarding is the persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value. The behavior usually has deleterious effects—emotional, physical, social, financial, and even legal—for a hoarder and family members. Hoarding can be related to compulsive buying.— Anxiety & Depression Association of America
Before You Start Decluttering
Before you can begin the decluttering process you’ll need to know where to put all that stuff you don’t want. So first thing is to organize specific spaces to put all your unneeded possessions. Start by creating a place in your home for:
Sometimes it’s easier to get rid of belongings that you don’t use if you know that it’ll really help someone else to have it.
Get a big box, find a place for it in a central location & label it “Charity”.
When the box is full, take it to your nearest charity store (some of them will even pick up right from your home). Procure another box immediately so without delay you can continue the de-cluttering process.
Many materials are now recyclable. Check with your city hall. They can tell you which materials are recyclable in your area & which can be recycled together (therefore stored together). There will also be information listed as to what recyclables will be picked up & the location to drop those that cannot.
You’ve never recycled? Yikes! You might as well tell me that you murder kittens for a good time on the weekend. Better yet, don’t tell me at anything at all. Just start recycling immediately.
Many believe that to live an environmental lifestyle they have to make drastic changes so as to leave the smallest footprint possible. Not true. The fact is that each of us just needs to do what makes sense for our lifestyle. At different times of your life, your footprint will be different sizes. Recycling is a great start. It has been embraced by most cities, which makes it easy to participate. You just need to be organized.
First you need to set up your recycling centre(s). I guarantee it will be used overtime during the un-cluttering journey that is to follow.
Dedicated location(s) are best. Either centralized or decentralized - in a small space it doesn’t matter so long as you make enough room & set up what works for your lifestyle. Be sure to keep both your recyclables & the containers you store them in clean & dry.
Organize stacking laundry baskets, clear containers, trash bins or whatever both fits your space & the materials that need recycling. This can be set up in a closet, integrated in your kitchen cupboards or integrated into a shelving system. Some folks actually have a storage room in their small home. You could, if you chose, use it for all your recycling needs. Whatever works for your lifestyle.
In small spaces this will most likely work better. It’s best to set up mini-recycling centres undercover, in convenient locations around your small home. For example:
- Newspapers & magazines – In a gorgeous basket by the fireplace or sitting area where they look like they belong.
- Office Paper – In an attractive lidded basket near your computer.
- Cardboard – Usually needs to be cut down & can usually be recycled with paper so make sure that basket near your computer is big enough.
- Tin/glass/plastic – set up a bin out of sight in a kitchen cupboard or closet.
- Batteries/light bulbs – plastic berry baskets or old Kleenex boxes in a convenient cupboard.
Make up labels that specify what the recycling storage container is for & include special instructions like remove caps or cut-down cardboard. Stick these labels on the side/top or under the lid of the containers.
How much space you need will depend upon how many newspapers & magazines you read, the extent of the packaging of the items you purchase, how many people live with you & how often you want to take your recycling out. Be sure to keep a master list of all your mini recycling centres so when it comes time to take it all out, you won’t miss anything.
Story of Stuff
Nasty! With today’s recycling & repurposing efforts, this should be the smallest pile of all. Unfortunately, every household creates waste. However, before you conveniently toss that widget into the garbage, remember that it’ll be sitting in your city’s land-fill for a long, long time.
A major decorating faux pas is placing a large household garbage can out in the open for all to see… & smell. Let’s face it. There is no way to make a garbage can attractive.
- It takes a long time to fill a large garbage can with garbage – it takes less time for it to start to stink. Disgusting!
- Specifically sized plastic garbage bags must be purchased for the large garbage can. This is both unenvironmental & financially wasteful.
Use a small pail. The key word is small. Keep it under your kitchen sink behind closed cupboard doors. Then you can reuse any packaging that cannot be recycled to place other refuse in before taking it out.
This is brand new for my city & meant for those folks who cannot compost!
If you eat your 8 servings of fruits & vegetables every day, this will be the larger pail. You’ll need a large dish for your daily organic waste. If you cannot compost, you’ll have to use the organic waste receptacles. Here’s how to store between trips:
- Line both the garbage pail & the large dish with a single broadsheet of newspaper.
- Put the lid on the pail & place the large dish on top of the lid.
- Place the entire ensemble underneath your kitchen sink.
- As you go about your daily cooking & enjoying your meals, toss your organic waste into the large dish.
- Each night before you go to bed, lift the organic waste out of the dish using the newspaper liner & set onto an open newspaper sitting on the counter. Tightly wrap the organic waste in newspaper & place inside the pail.
- Wash the dish if needed. Line with newspaper once more. Set back on top of the lidded pail.
- All ready for tomorrow!
You’re Ready to Start Decluttering!
Google will lead you to many de-cluttering ideas spouting specific systems such as: take a Saturday or a whole weekend or many other bizarre, all encompassing schedules… Hell no!
That’s a great way to sabotage yourself before you even get started. That’s too much work. This task is going to be emotional, so be gentle & take your time – start slowly.
Over the next little while, as you go about your business, keep in mind that you want to get rid of stuff. Anytime you’re in a cupboard, closet or drawer poke around a bit & pull stuff out you know you won’t use & throw it in your garbage, recycling or goodwill box.
If you find yourself becoming more ambitious & want to step up the decluttering time frame, take one drawer, shelf or cupboard a day, empty it completely & declutter, putting back only what you need. At some point you’re going to have to get this aggressive anyway.
Over the course of time – however much time you need – you’ll cull every nook & cranny several times. Get rid of:
- Anything that you don’t absolutely love – even if they were gifts.
- Broken items that are either too expensive to fix or you won’t use anyway.
- Anything that you have more than one of.
Isn’t it ironic that the smallest room in your home must hold the most amount of stuff? Be harsh. Pare down your skin routine - wash your face with Dove soap, exfoliate with baking soda & use a daily moisturizer with SPF 30. Your skin will be happier for it. The only over-the-counter drug you’ll ever need is Ibuprophen. Get rid of:
- Anything you have more than one of (no, you don’t need 5 pairs of tweezers)
- Stale-dated or unused products
- Samples that were bundled with products
- Bottles of like substances can be emptied into one another – recycle the empty bottles
- Drugs (over the counter & prescription) need to be brought to any pharmacist to be recycled properly.
Sometimes it's easier to focus on what to keep:
- One set of gorgeous dishes that can go into both the microwave & the dishwasher
- Recipes or cookbooks that you actually use
- One of each kitchen tool
- Only the small kitchen appliances that you actually use
- The pots & pans you use
- Fridge & pantry foodstuffs that are identifiable & that you’ll use & that are within their due date
- Clean out outdated paper (invitations to events, expired coupons & calendars).
- Even declutter your desktop computer (emails, documents, pictures & music).
- Do you really have the space to save 15 years of Christmas & birthday cards? Recycle as many as possible. Paste the keepers into a scrapbook.
- Keep only the receipts that you really need for tax purposes.
- Recycle outdated magazines & newspapers
- Get rid of CDs, DVDs & books you don’t use
- No, you won’t ever find a use for that extra mystery remote control
Sometimes it's easier to focus on what to keep:
- Clothes that fit, are the right colour & those that you wear all the time
- Two sets of bed-sheets & pillowcases
- Winter duvet/cover & a summer blanket
- Jewellery that you love & wear
- Accessories that you love & wear
Balcony or Patio
I’m assuming your balcony is small. So you’ll want as few items on it as possible. One large pot will hold the same number of flowers as a collection of small pots but will look less cluttered & won’t need to be watered as often. The shape of your large pot should maximize the space on your balcony & not interfere with traffic.
If you are already blessed with a bunch of small pots, spray paint them (with an appropriate environmental product) all the same colour. That way the eye is drawn more to the flowers rather than to the pot itself. A collection of small pots, lanterns & other outdoor décor will look less cluttered if gathered together. Find an outdoor shelving unit or trolley to collect them on. One garden dwarf allowed.
The Rest of Your Stuff
- Get rid of extras. No, you won’t need them someday. One of each object that you use is all you need
- If you buy only black shoes, then you only need a black purse or belt
- If you have 5 or 6 twist-ties or elastics on hand, you probably have enough
- Get rid of outdated technology if you’ve already replaced with something else
- Why do you need both a land-line & a cellular phone?
That Doulton figurine that your aunt found for you in a pawn-shop? It was so thoughtful of her & she thought you would like it because your Mother used to collect them. Yes it was a good deal because it would have been expensive to buy it brand new. But it’s the furthest thing from what you want.
Your aunt might be hurt if she found out, but your loved ones need to learn that you’ve made the choice to live with only what you need. Don’t worry, with family you can pretty much get away with anything as long as you’re consistent.
Get rid of it!
As you continue on with your decluttering journey, more worthy & even expensive items will find themselves on the chopping block. Hey, if the item is not needed, so be it. Sell, sell, sell. Consignment shop, garage sale, craigslist, kijiji, you get the gist.
It’s easier to get rid of unneeded quality items if you can make money selling them. However, don’t get hung up on making a ton of money. Considering the cost of square footage – it costs more to keep something that you have no use for.
How To Stay Decluttered
All the while you’re honing your decluttering skills, you’ll be presented with opportunity after opportunity to bring more things into the home. Our economy & society is built on consumerism. Resist!
At some point during your decluttering journey, you need to sit down with the friends & the family with whom you tend to exchange gifts. Explain to them that you’re trying to live in your small space comfortably, which means living with only the possessions that you need. Give them a choice:
- Cease exchanging gifts altogether because your relationship doesn’t require it
- Exchange taking each other out for meals
- Exchange gifts that are experiences (like tickets to a play) & spend that time together
- Give the same gift back & forth
- All your friends & family can pool their savings & buy you a massive house in which to keep all their gifts
If you put it like that they’ll probably understand. Let them make the choice & you’ll most likely get cooperation. You may still get the odd material possession, but it will be well thought out & perhaps even something handed down & sentimental.
Obviously, there will be items that you have to purchase. Antique shops, vintage stores, second hand thrift shops, garage sales & Craigslist… all are available to you. Trendy boutique shops & stores selling cheap disposable furniture are for gathering ideas.
Before you pull out your credit card, ask yourself, “will this object/furnishing enhance my home & still fit into my goals in terms of space”? Whatever you own you must love to the point that it moves you. Even so, never buy anything just for it’s esthetic value. Every object in your home must have meaning.
Here are your rules for buying a new object (or even keeping an old one):
- I am in love with it
- It’s practical & will be used everyday
- It has more than one purpose
- It has history (perhaps even within your family & has been handed down)
- It’s a symbol of something or someone who means a lot to me
- It’s a quality piece
- It has great value for my dollar
- I know exactly where I’m going to put it
Choose objects that follow as many of the above rules as possible. If you’re shopping don’t find the right piece immediately, be patient & keep looking. If you find the correct piece but it’s too expensive, be patient, save up, wait till it goes on sale & then buy it.
Compulsive buying disorder (CBD) is characterized by excessive shopping cognitions and buying behavior that leads to distress or impairment. Subjects with CBD report a preoccupation with shopping, prepurchase tension or anxiety, and a sense of relief following the purchase.— World Psychiatric Association
In the beginning don’t worry too much about organizing. If you start moving your belongings around you’ll just find yourself moving them again. This can become frustrating, so just leave empty spaces. Instead, focus on:
- Those decluttering decisions,
- Hauling stuff out of your home &
- Disposing of it ethically.
As you go along you’ll get a better idea of how you want everything organized. You’ll know when you have a really great organizing idea. As you go along, you will cull over & over again. Eventually, decluttering & organizing will be done in the same fell swoop.
Lastly, throughout this decluttering process stay present to what you like, what you dislike & what is important to you. These are clues & will help you to understand your personal style. Because, not only do you want less stuff, you want your dwelling to be more comfortable both functionally & esthetically.
The longer you declutter, the better you’ll get at it. I warn you this experience can be tremendously liberating & I predict that you’ll become as addicted as I am.
Good luck! Please share your decluttering stories & ideas in the comments.
All rights reserved; no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise, without prior permission. Copyright 2015.
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- Sylvia Leong
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