You start decluttering a drawer, only to find a hair bow that belongs upstairs in your children’s bathroom. Then you go upstairs to put the bow back and you notice the kids’ towels are on the floor. You go to put the towels into the laundry basket and realize you haven’t done a load of laundry in a while, so you start the load of laundry and head back downstairs. On your way down, you notice your husband’s shoes sitting on the stairs so you go to put those away and start tidying the shoe bench. All the while, forgetting your first intention- to declutter the drawer.
If not that exact scenario, us parents have all been through something similar. The problem is you didn’t have a method before you started. Many professional organizers have their own method for decluttering, and one may be right for you. If you’re intention is to declutter your entire home in a tidying marathon, the KonMari method (made popular by the recent Netflix special) may be right for you. However, my method works for busy families who may only have an hour, or a few minutes, at a time to declutter. Here’s how it works…
1. Set an Intention- Whether it’s decluttering the garage or one drawer, decide what your intention is for the decluttering session. Write it on a piece of scrap paper. Close your eyes and imagine what the ideal space would look like. Be realistic. Your home isn’t going to look like a Williams- Sonoma catalog when you finish, especially if you have young children or a budget. Imagine something that’s functional and easy on the eyes.
2. Set a Time Frame- Knowing how long a decluttering project will take can be difficult. However, when you’re focused on your intention, you’ll be surprised how productive you can be in a short amount of time. If the project is a large one, consider breaking it down into 30-minute chunks using the Pomodoro Method (25 minutes of work and a 5-minute break).
3. Remove Everything- Now you’re ready to begin the work. Remove everything from the space you’re working in. Yes, EVERYTHING. If you’re working in a closet, for example, the closet should be absolutely bare. (Stack all items on the kitchen table or bed.) This will give you an opportunity to wipe down all the services and start fresh.
4. Discard or Donate- Now it’s time to start assessing what was in the space. Is it something that brings usefulness or joy? If not, it’s time to discard or donate it. Selling unwanted items is also an option. However, consider the amount of your personal time it will take to sell the item. Unless the item is in excellent condition and has a great deal of value, it’s usually better to take the tax deduction by donating the item to a 501c3 organization. You can even setup a free pickup of your donation here.
5. Organize- Once you only have the items that are ready to re-enter the space, it’s time to decide how to organize them. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to create a functional system. Upcycle old shoeboxes (lined with contact paper), or purchase cheap plastic bins. Or, feel free to splurge if it’s a space that you have to look at a lot. Make sure to label everything using either a high-quality, laminated label or hanging tag.
6. Coach- Finally, introduce the new space to your family members. Explain where items are located and layout your expectations for keeping it this way. For example, say, “I’ve worked really hard today to organize our pantry and I need everyone’s help keeping it tidy. When you’re finished using something, I expect you to put it back in the same spot you got it from. If that doesn’t happen, it creates a mess that I have to deal with when I’d rather be spending time with you.”
Hopefully these tips can help you to declutter any space- big or small. However, if you’re still feeling overwhelmed, hiring a professional organizer can help keep you on task. If you’re in the south-suburban Denver area, contact me. If not, look for another professional at https://www.napo.net.
Shayla Brubaker, M.Ed., NAPO Member
The Declutter Bug