How to Clean a Cluttered House: Clutter Cleaning Tips for Pack Rats
I'm a pack rat. I collect things, I store things, and above all, I save things. What if I need that for a costume one day? What if I want to give that to my kid (who isn't born) one day? I can't give that away; there are so many memories attached to it!
If you're a pack rat like me, the chances are that your house is filled with clutter. Whether it's in storage or splayed out all over the basement, eventually you are going to run out of room. You'll have to move out of your house because there won't be room for YOU anymore.
Well, it's time to de-clutter-ify. Here are some tips to help you come up for air in your ocean of clutter.
Storage options for clutter
Clutter, Clutter Everywhere
Tip Number 1: One room at a time
If you look at your whole house or apartment as one big clutter pile, you will never begin to clean because the task will seem utterly unsurmountable. When you get into a cleaning mood, pick one room to clean. It doesn't have to be the worst room; in fact, it's probably better if you pick a less cluttered room so that the task is easier to complete. You are more likely to succeed in cleaning a room with a medium amount of clutter, and your success will give you a proud sense of accomplishment, leading you to feel more optimistic about the possibility of de-cluttering the house.
If you finish de-cluttering that one room in less time than you thought, you can move on to another room if you want, but don't feel obligated to do so. You've accomplished enough for one day.
Tip Number 2: Make new piles--piles with a purpose
If you're a pack rat, you're probably no stranger to piles. Piles of paper, piles of clothes, piles of toys: everything just piles up. To cut the clutter, you need to make some new piles. Get some boxes or big plastic bags. Give each of them one of the following labels:
- Give Away
- Throw Away
This is a variation on what some "organizational experts" call the Four-Box Method. Everything MUST go in one of these boxes. Do not let yourself be indecisive with even one item. Be ruthless. If you feel the pack rat instinct kicking in, fight it!
Once the boxes are filled, follow through with what you've promised in the labels. Take the Throw Away box and put it outside. Figure out where you are going to store and display the items in those boxes and then DO IT.
The Give Away and Sell boxes are a little harder. Since those two actions depend on another party to be completed, you may have to wait a little while before actually giving things away or selling them. If that's the case, put those boxes in very visible places so that you are forced to remember them often. Find a charity or store such as Goodwill or Salvation Army for your Give Aways. If you have a Sell box, you have to figure out where and how you will sell these items. Yard sale? Craigslist? eBay? (If you choose eBay, get started on researching at my eBay Encyclopedia Hub.)
Tip Number 3: Set a date for a yard sale
There's nothing better than a deadline to get your butt in gear. Unless, of course, it's the promise of money. Just by writing a date on the calendar, you give yourself 2 strong motivations to get rid of the clutter. See if family members or neighbors also have clutter that they want to unload for a joint yard sale, which always draws bigger crowds than single yard sales.
Organize Your Space
Sage Advice on De-Cluttering
- Peter Walsh's 10 Tips to De-Clutter Your Home
Is clutter taking over your home? Organizational expert Peter Walsh has these tips to reclaim your space.
- Declutter 101: Strategies To Cut Clutter | Organized Home
- FlyLady.net: How to Declutter
FlyLady shares her tips for decluttering the home.
Tip Number 4: Give yourself the organizational tools to succeed
If you simply cannot bring yourself to get rid of a large portion of your clutter, then you need to invest in storage units to at least better organize that clutter. Book shelves, display cases, stackable crates, desk organizers, file cabinets, shoe racks, DVD towers, photo albums, chests of drawers, whatever can best organize the particular type of items that are crowding your house. If the clutter is going to reside in your home, you may as well give it a top floor apartment.
Tip Number 5: You don't need four of everything
Eliminate duplicates. Another tendency of pack rats is to buy in duplicate and even triplicate, "just in case." What if I run out? What if one breaks? What if I lose one? You have to silence those nagging thoughts and get rid of the unnecessary copies of the clutter.
Tip Number 6: Appearances DO matter
This is a similar thought process to the way you cleaned up when you were eight years old---stuff everything under the bed so Mom thinks you cleaned up. However, this is for YOUR peace of mind, not Mom's. When things LOOK cluttered, you feel cluttered. Work especially diligently on surfaces and parts of the room that are readily visible. When your room looks less cluttered, your mind will become more relaxed.
Tip Number 7: Commence a clothing interrogation
Excess clothing can be a huge source of clutter and one of the most difficult to eliminate. You have to be especially ruthless if you're drowning in clothing clutter. If you need to get rid of clothes, ask yourself these three questions.
- Does it fit?
- Does it look good on my body shape?
- Have I worn it in the past year?
If you answer no to any of these three questions, you need to think long and hard about why you're keeping it. If the answer is that you might one day fit in it if you lose/gain weight, keep it only if the weight change is a realistic goal. If you can't come up with a GOOD reason for keeping an article of clothing, donate or sell it.