I mentioned in my post last week about selling our home that I have been sorting, cleaning, and organizing. We have lived in our home for 8 years and it is easy to fill a house when you have tons of storage space. Simplifying our possessions has been a year long process for us. We started by selling things last year to make money and to clear some closets. When I opened our closets this year I was surprised by how much we still had. However, I found it easier to part with more things this year.
Daniel and I are tempted to go crazy and live like vagabonds with each of us only having a backpack. I always picture myself like Samwise Gamgee with an iron pot hanging from my pack, because you never know when you will need to stop and cook something. We aren’t that crazy and we still need proper beds and a home. I am not sure where our future home will be exactly, but I do know it will be a lot smaller. This is why we need to cut our possessions. Thankfully, I have been doing this so much I have devised a system. Some of these tips aren’t new, but I have found that they have worked for me.
5 Tips to Declutter Your Home
1. Clean out one area at a time
I am still very inspired by Pat Flynn’s one project at a time concept and I use it all the time. I don’t start one area until I am done with the previous one. For example, once the front closet is completely done, then I will start on the bathroom cabinets. Completing one victory at a time keeps you motivated.
2. Make keep, trash, donate and move piles
Remember that show on TLC called “Clean Sweep”? That show taught me how to de-clutter. On the show the family had to sort everything in a room into three piles: keep, sell, and trash. Then they would have a huge garage sale. I apply the same principles to my process. I take everything out of the area first and start making piles. Sometimes one pile is the “go to garage” pile or the “go upstairs” pile.
If I am going to have a garage sale coming up then I make a “sale” pile. If not, then that pile is “donate.” I try not to make a sell and a donate pile at the same time, because I find it too much work to keep up with everything.
3. Decide if it is useful or beautiful
The trick to sorting is to keep moving and make quick decisions. This is an oldie, but goodie tip from Tsh at Simple Mom. In her post “The Clutter You Can’t See” she defines clutter as “anything you don’t love or need that takes up space.” She then goes on to share a quote that I have taken to heart:
“Having nothing in your homes that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” -William Morris
When going through my stuff I would ask myself two questions:
1. Have I used this item in the last year? If the answer is no, then I get rid of it. If the answer is yes, then I usually keep it.
2. Do I find this item useful or beautiful? If the answer is yes to either one, then I usually keep the item. If an item is broken and I have never repaired it in 6 months, then I get rid of it.
4. Let go of the guilt that comes with gifts
I am surprised by how often I come across things that I kept because they were given to me and I had the room to store them. I feel bad about getting rid of the item, because it was a gift. Then I realize that the gift is mine now to do whatever I want with it. If I can pass it on to someone else, then I do. I had tons of lotions and perfumes that I never used sitting in my bathroom cabinet. It was time for them to move on.
5. Make a memory box
A lot of the clutter and closet filling items are simply things I want to remember. My friend McKenna advised me a few years ago to make a memory box. The problem is that I had tons of memory boxes all over the place filled with random papers from travels, wedding leftovers, and college coursework. I took the time to go through each piece and toss out the duplicates and unneeded items. I decided to keep 2 or 3 memory boxes. Then I could only keep what fit in those boxes. I took pictures of items that I wanted to remember, but weren’t significant enough to keep.
I am amazed at how many bags of trash I have filled. I love the freedom and peace of mind that I have gained from decluttering my home. Every time I go through my stuff it gets easier to let go. I know this is a tiny piece in our plan to travel the world with our kids. Decluttering may not be a prerequisite for everyone to travel, but it feels like it is for us.