Wednesday, June 19, 2013

How to Get Rid of Clutter - the fun wrecker.

Unfortunately, we weren't able to start our walkway project because of all the rain.  Instead of that project, I'll share my ongoing project of getting clutter out of the house.  Unless you are one of those super organized types, you probably have clutter in your home as well.  It fills the drawers, closets, cabinets, attics and garages and generally makes you a miserable and sometimes pretty depressed or bitchy (at least in my case anyway).

So then, what is the definition of clutter?

The Dictionary defines Clutter as:
1. A confused or disordered state or collection; a jumble: sorted through the clutter in the attic. 2. A confused noise; a clatter.

v. clut·tered, clut·ter·ing, clut·ters
1. To fill or spread over in a disorderly manner: Boxes cluttered the garage.

2. To make disorderly or hard to use by filling or covering with objects: I cluttered up my desk with old memos.

I find clutter mentally suffocating.  My clutter is mostly items that I bought many years ago and loved at the time but do not bring me value or joy anymore.  They cause me stress and take up physical space in my home.

My husband and I are not hoarders or anything (yeah - that's what they all say) but my attic is full of junk that I rarely, if ever, use.  My stuffed closets are full of clothing and bedding.  I might use a third of it.  Most of it moved with me from my former home during a stressful time after a divorce.  I just wasn't ready to deal with the decisions of what to give, toss or keep.  Add to the stress of that time, that my present lovely home was a major fixer upper.   I didn't unpack a lot when I moved in because of the house projects.  Once a room was done, I would go to the attic, open boxes and find some items for that specific room.  Then I would shop more to decorate the room while never fully unpacking the attic boxes!  You can probably see where I am going and can picture the mess of half unpacked boxes all over my attic right now.  The once organized piles of boxes are a mess and who knows what's in them anymore!!

Like most of you, I don't live alone and my sweet husband brings his share of clutter. He loves his electronic gadgets and holds on to the original boxes (just in case he wants to EBay later!), keeps cords, cables, wires, etc... He also likes bags, clothing and loves shoes! He seems to hate to give up his old bags, clothing and shoes. We both need work in the clutter area... no one is innocent here.   LOL.

So that's my history of excuses... It is EIGHT YEARS later and I still have the same clutter literally hanging over my head in the attic.  It's not a good feeling...  Actually feels a lot like failure but I won't give up!  I've had enough of this clutter.  It's bringing my spirits down and I need to get it out of the house.

I have made some minor progress.  It is mostly thanks to getting older, wiser and deciding to be a "grown up" (boring but necessary at some point).  I got tired of worrying if the house was good enough for people to visit.  My work schedule was busy and I had a very long commute.  I also have a side business and a lot of family responsibilities.  I hired a cleaning person to come in once a week to help.  Honestly, it really wasn't helping.  I was using the cleaning person as an excuse not to do anything around the house and it was just getting worse. Cleaning people don't do intensive cleaning (unless you hire them specifically for that).  They dust tables, vacuum and lightly mop and clean the bathrooms and clean some mirrors.  The rest still has to be done.  Cobwebs form and dust bunnies set up house under dressers, beds and sofas.  The insides of drawers and cabinets need to be organized and cleaned and the outsides wiped down.  Anyway, there is a lot to do to keep up a house and it can seem overwhelming if you don't have a plan of attack.

These are some of the first steps I have used to clean out clutter and get my house to a place where I can enjoy it more.  It's a work in progress so I'll be updating you as I try various methods.

About a year ago I found Marla Cilley aka "The FlyLady."  It seems that her book "Sink Reflections" came to me at the perfect time in my life when I was mature enough for it to make a difference.  I have read several books on cleaning and organizing but this one has really stuck with me.  I'm not using all her methods yet but the daily routines have been a godsend and have changed the way I feel about my home.  You will hear me mention "FlyLady" from time to time on this blog and now you know who I am talking about.

The first three steps I used to reduce clutter:

1.  Set-up daily routines:

This step made the biggest impact for me.  My small routines are done every day and they don't take much time.  I am not afraid of last minute visitors anymore and am happy to invite someone in to my home without worrying it is too cluttered or messy.  What made such a difference?  I started following the FlyLady method of basic daily routines.  My basic routines are that my kitchen sink is always cleaned out, there are never dirty dishes in it unless I'm soaking something after dinner.  I put items away as I'm making dinner and clean up as soon as dinner is over.  Dishes go into the dishwasher or are washed and put away.

Before bed I make sure I wipe down the counters and the sink so it is nice and clean the next morning.  I also quickly wipe my downstairs bathroom sink and toilet and give a very fast "swish" (as FlyLady calls it) to the toilet with soap and a toilet brush.  This whole process usually takes about 10 minutes and I wake up to a clean kitchen every morning.  The door we use enters into the kitchen so it is the first room that visitors see as well.

The next morning when I wake up, I make the bed.  May sound basic but this was not a constant habit of mine.  If it was a really hectic day, I might just run off and not make it.  It's sad to have to get into an unmade bed after a long stressful day.  This little step will give you a small victory.  After I get ready in the upstairs bathroom, I follow the same steps I used in the downstairs bathroom; I quickly clean the sink and toilet and put away any items I've used.

The dreaded Mail!  One of the toughest areas for me is paper clutter.  Not only do I have a ton of personal and business mail but I get mail for my elderly parent and handicapped brother.  This had been piling up on my lovely dining room table for years.   I'd clean it up every so often and quickly it would pile back up again.  I was very overwhelmed by paper.  Now, I deal with it the day it comes in the door and it only takes a few minutes.  The majority goes into the recycle bin and the rest gets delivered to my or my husband's office.  I shred any credit card offers right away.  Magazines are kept together and I go through them once a month to make sure they aren't piling up.  I could write a whole post just about dealing with paper clutter but the biggest first step I made was dealing with the dreaded mail as soon as it enters the house.  Do not be tempted to put it in a pile on the table and deal with later.  It will attract more mail and paper clutter.  Before you know it, the giant paper pile will be back.  I was surprised at how well this simple rule works.

House cleaning:  I'm still working on my routines and getting clutter out of the house so for right now, I clean on Fridays.  I usually take less than two hours and move very quickly dusting and vacuuming. 

With this simple system, the downstairs of my home is always ready for visitors.  I'm still setting up routines and de-cluttering upstairs. Even though it is usually in good shape, it is not always visitor ready at this point.   I can get it ready very quickly for an overnight visitor.  I just hope they don't look in the closets!  Those are still a work in progress... 

2.  When you clear out some clutter get it out of the house IMMEDIATELY

Trust me here.  After all your effort to clean out some garbage and clutter, do not leave it in the house.  Don't even think for a minute it is safe to leave it in the garage either!  Trust me - I've done that and found bags of clothes a year later that were meant for Goodwill sitting in my garage cluttering up that space.  Like "Flylady" advises; put it in your car right away.  Just bag or box it up and put it in the car.  On your next trip out drop it at the Salvation Army, Goodwill or where ever you decide to donate it.  If it is trash, just throw it away and make sure it goes out in the next trash pickup or put it in the car and take it to your local dump.  Do not second guess anything you have put in those boxes or bags.  Just let them go and move on.  That clutter was not giving you anything in return for the space it was taking up in your home and mind.  Be glad it is gone and consider that what you see as junk may be a treasure for someone else.

3.  Make sure to keep those newly cleaned areas clutter free

This is the most important daily routine.  Once you get an area clutter free (like the dining room table mail problem I talked about above), you have to keep it that way.  Every day take a few moments and do a sweep of those areas that continue to plague you will clutter.  FlyLady calls them "Hot Spots."  If you find items that do not belong there collect them up and quickly put them where they belong.  It may seem like a pain at first, but after you do it awhile it becomes almost automatic and you love to look at your pretty, clutter free home.  Another method is to put something beautiful in those once cluttered areas to remind yourself about how great it is to be clutter free.  It is much nicer looking at a beautiful bouquet of flowers on my dining room table than a unruly pile of magazines and mail.

This is my clutter-free dining room!
Clutter is a fun wrecker. It screws up your weekends, takes away valuable time and money and keeps you from inviting friends and family into your home.  I hope you'll try these steps for yourself and see if they make a difference.  Check back for the next steps to reduce clutter and love your home again...
Always remember to Keep Calm and Love Yourself :-) 
Just take it one day at a time.

Have a wonderful day!



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