Whether it’s your bedroom, living room, home office or your entire house, living in a cluttered and dirty space distracts you from your goals. I know, no one likes cleaning and many of us have no idea how to go about organizing. But I promise you, doing this first will help you achieve your goals and help you find the motivation to achieve them as quickly as possible!
Organizing/Tidying…not cleaning…your home.
Tip 1 (time to complete…5-10 minutes):
Walk through your home with a notepad. Write down each room and underneath, list the top 5 things that bother you in that room. This will probably be the first 5 things you notice. Walking through my home, this is what I found (even after cleaning and organizing!). I like doing this about once a quarter, just to make sure that everything is going well.
Coffee table clutter
Flat surface clutter
Keys, sunglasses, phones, etc.
Spots on the floor
Fingerprints on the Refrigerator
Robe on the bed
Things on the counter
Loft (TV Room)
Spots on carpet
Clutter on bar
Fingerprints on the light switch
Tip 2 (time to complete…30 minutes):
Once you have your list, choose a room every day and tackle it! You will need: a garbage bag for trash, a garbage bag for donations, a bin for items without a home. The trick here is to do this as quickly as possible…and be ruthless!
Tackle the trash first. This includes: broken toys, clothes with holes/stains that you will never wear, old papers, magazines, newspapers, junk mail, pens that don’t work, etc. I take my in-house recycling bin to the room I’m decluttering to make this process easier. Recycle it or trash it. Just do it quickly and then take the bags to the outside garbage bin. Don’t forget to go through cupboards, closets, and look under furniture!
Second, donate, trash or put away. Be ruthless here and challenge yourself to find a random number of things to donate or throw out. When I first began, my house was so cluttered that I just simply put everything I didn’t use or didn’t love in the donate bag (or trash bag if it wasn’t donation worthy). I filled the back of my SUV with donations every day for a week and still had so much left over, it was embarrassing! Now, I use a random number (depending on how I feel that day) between 20-50. Most people use 20-30, however I really love purging and some days, I really love being able to remove 50 things from my home or even a single room! This may seem overwhelming, but I promise you, once you begin, it becomes easy.
With what you have left, put it away. Don’t pile it to put it away later, because let’s be honest, it’s not going to happen. If you’re in a common room, like the living room, you can take a basket (laundry basket works great), and collect things that belong to the kids, things that belong in their bedroom or play room, and make one trip. But don’t just set it in there, actually put it away. By doing this, you aren’t moving your clutter to another time/day and you’re saving yourself the time and energy you’d be exerting later. “Do it now!” needs to become your new motto! Or if you have older kids, a spouse, etc. make a bin for each of them to address and put away when they get home.
For everything that doesn’t have a home, that you don’t know what to do with it, put it in a bin. We’ll find homes for these things later, put it in a designated spot in your home where you will put all of your items without a home throughout this process. We aren’t stuffing! We’re simply waiting until the entire house is decluttered before creating homes for these things in the extra space we’ve created by purging the stuff we no longer need, use, love.
You will want to do this process in every room in your home. Choose one room a day and get it done! It’s a lot of work at first, but I promise you, you will not regret it and you won’t miss all of the clutter!
Tip 3 (time to complete…5-10 minutes):
Cleaning the room. Yes, we still need to do this! But we’re going to do a quick surface clean, not a deep clean, right now. Start at the top and dust. Use a rag or a dust catcher and move quickly in the room from top to bottom, removing all the dust (and cobwebs?) from ceiling fans, light fixtures, picture frames, shelves, etc. Anything that catches dust, dust it! This should only take about 3 minutes; you just want to remove any visible dust. I like to time myself to see how fast I can do it. I’m always trying to beat my previous time. Next, it’s time to wipe down the surfaces. Use a multipurpose cleaner or a wood polish (for wood furniture), to quickly wipe down all the surfaces, removing finger prints, excess dust that the dust catcher left behind, sticky spots, etc. Again, as fast as possible! Last is the floor. Vacuum the floor really quickly. Even if you have a tile floor, vacuuming is faster than sweeping. On your tile floors, if you notice any dirty spots, after vacuuming, simply take your multipurpose cleaner and a rag and quickly spot clean those areas, or if you have a Swiffer or similar quick mop, use that. Just remember…we’re surface cleaning, so don’t start scrubbing grout.
When I first started this process, I spent about 2 hours in each room. But my house was VERY cluttered and dusty and gross. I have four dogs and yeah…the dog hair was insane…and everywhere! I couldn’t simply just vacuum and spot mop…I mean, I could have, but it bothered me so much that I really couldn’t. I was on a roll! If you find that you’re on a roll, finish the process through Tip 5, and then go back and do a deeper clean.
Tip 4 (time to complete 5-10 minutes):
Remember that list you made? Time to tackle it. These are the areas that most bother you that need to be cleaned or need an organizational fix. A good example is my kitchen counter. It is VERY far from the front door, however it’s where everyone puts everything. I have a small kitchen, so a pile of mail, a set of keys, a wallet, phones, etc. just makes it seem dirty and cluttered. The problem I have is that when I clean everything and clear all the clutter, someone sees the nice clear surface and decides that it’s the perfect place to put their things. After years of frustration with this, it’s time for me to make a “landing pad” and a charging station for our devices!
Address the areas that are quick and don’t require a “make-over”. Bins are a great way to do this. For my shoe problem in the living room (which is just off the entry way), I put bins for each member of the household, labeled with their name. Ideally, they put their shoes in the bin when they take them off, however if not, I can easily and quickly put them away so that shoes aren’t littering the living room. For the areas that require some serious thought and a plan, leave those to last as you tackle the rest of your list, one room at a time.
Tip 5 (time to complete…varies):
Time to find homes for the stuff you collected in the bins and start your small project list for those “serious thought” issues from Tip 4. This will take the most time and may not be completed in a single day. Think about the things you’ve collected that do not have a home. Do you use them often? If so, put them in the room where you use them. You should have plenty of room for these items now that you’ve cleared some space. If you don’t, leave it in a bin in the room until you can devise a storage method for it.
If the things in the home-less box are things you don’t use, but don’t want to get rid of because they have sentimental value, cost a lot of money, aren’t yours, etc. then you have some tough decisions to make. For those things that are sentimental to you, but are things you don’t want to display, make a memory box. Get a pretty box, put your memories in it, and place the box on a book shelf or in a cupboard that you’ve designated for memories. This can be done rather inexpensively with a shoebox and some contact paper, wrapping paper or wall paper. Just cover the box and put a label on the outside for the memories contained within.
For those items on which you spent a lot of money, but aren’t using…it’s time to accept the fact that the money is gone, and you can’t get it back. Can you resell it? Can you gift it to someone who will really appreciate it? An excellent example of this is my flute from high school. It’s a really nice, rather expensive flute. But I haven’t played it since I was sixteen years old. A few years ago, there was a donation drive for families who lost everything in a very large fire. I was donating items and I wanted to donate my flute. I never use it, it’s in amazing condition. I figured if someone didn’t play the flute, they could at least auction it off. It just needed a quick clean and polish, which I did. I was so happy at the thought of it going to someone who really would appreciate it. My boyfriend saw it, heard what I was doing and was adamant that I hold onto it. He said it was my history, a memory, and I should keep it. I did keep it, but it has bothered me ever since. I came across it in my recent purging and decided that this time, it’s going to a good home. I don’t love it. I don’t display it. I don’t play it. It’s just taking up space in a closet that I could use for something else. And somewhere out there is a high school student who would love a beautiful flute. The item doesn’t create the memories. Those memories exist in my mind and heart, with or without the memento.
Your kids’ artwork is also something that is very difficult to get rid of. When my daughter was small, I would keep all of her artwork for the year. After school ended, we would go through it together and she could keep her top 5 pieces. We also went through the rest of the items she had set aside in previous years. Sometimes she would see something that she had saved and ask, “Why did I even save this?” and toss it. Involving her in the process meant I didn’t need to feel guilty about it. It was her work and she was deciding. Plus, it taught her to look at things for how much they meant to her, rather than to simply hold onto everything because she created it. I still have her bin of items. It’s a rather small bin, but they are things that have remained important to her over the years, and so we have them.
I will caution you about purging items belonging to your significant other. What I do when I know they are things that he never uses, but I ask him if I can get rid of them and he says no: I put them in a box in the back of the closet. This began early in our relationship. He would bring home all kinds of work papers and leave them out. I asked if he needed them and he would say yes, they were important. So, I left them where they were, cluttering up my counter, table, bar or whatever. It really bothered me, but after a few weeks, I noticed that he never touched them. I created the box in the back of the closet and from then on, any “important” papers went there. The first time I showed him the box, we had been together five years and the very large box was full. There were papers in there from before we met, old magazines, receipts, etc. None of it important. I asked him sit down and go through it. Ninety-eight percent of it was garbage. Now, I ask him to go through the box more frequently. I still won’t throw out his things, but I really don’t want a closet full of papers that have absolutely no significance. He understands that I need this and goes through a much smaller box without complaint when I present it. After seven years together, however, I do take the liberty of throwing his t-shirts that are stained, ripped, etc. into the rag bin.
Now make your small project list. This is a list of projects for which you will need more time, materials, thought, or planning. The list might include items like a landing strip (for keys, purse, wallet, backpacks, etc.), a place for mail and bills to be paid, a decorative way to display a collection, adding a bookcase or cube case to your room for extra storage, or adding Command Hooks to a wall, cupboard, etc.
Once this is finished and you’ve gone through every room in your home, look around and feel the sense of accomplishment! You’ve accomplished a goal in record time! How quickly can you get this done?
Please send me your questions, areas in which you want help, or comments! I’d love to hear from you!