Eight easy ways to declutter this month

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1. Start with the things you have no emotional attachment to. There’s no point agonizing over your childhood teddy bears or your grandmother’s favourite scarf that came to you when she died 20 years ago.  Get rid of the stuff that’s easy. You build competence and confidence when you have some ‘wins’ early on.

2. Hit the top shelves of your cupboards. Seriously, have you looked up there in five years? Do you even know what’s in that shoebox under the spare jackets behind the glass jars you’re keeping ‘just in case’? Get a box and a blindfold. The blindfold is for you, so you can’t see what you’re putting in the box and suddenly get all sentimental and spend the rest of the day oohing and aahing over the ‘treasures’ you haven’t needed or wanted in the last decade. Put the stuff in the box. Put the box in the garage. Next week, take it to the tip.

3. Do your closet. Most of us only have four or five outfits we wear with any regularity. The other jeans, jackets and shirts are just taking up space. Set yourself a boundary and stick to it. It could be to fill up three garbage bags. Or you might toss anything you haven’t worn in 1/3/5/10 years. Then tackle shoes. Two pairs for outside are enough. One of each type of footwear is plenty. Imelda Marcos is dead and buried.

4. Concentrate on the kitchen. Your plastics cupboard may be like mine – full of containers with no lids and lids with no containers. Get everything out. Match it up and recycle the extras. Then look in every other cupboard. If you haven’t used it in two years, do you really need it?

5. Pick through the pantry. My mother, who is an ace declutterer, still cannot live down the time we were staying in our house and decided to make the packet cake that was in her pantry. “Mum, it smells a bit weird,” said my daughter. I sniffed it. It was true. That cake was off. “Why don’t you check the use-by?” I said. “Maybe it’s a little over the date.” We couldn’t believe it when we saw it. The cake packet had been expired for seven years. Even my mother hadn’t noticed and had let it take up space in her pantry. What’s hiding at the back of yours?

6. Piles and piles of paper. How many stacks of papers have you got hanging around ‘waiting to be dealt with’? I have a few too many. It’s funny though. Every couple of months when I work up the courage to dig through and sort it all out, 90 per cent of it ends up in the bin. If yours are more than seven years old and you’ve kept up to date with your taxes, you could probably just dump the whole pile in the recycle bin and never know the difference. No sorting required. If you’ve got papers threatening to take over rooms of your house, decide to deal with two or three stacks at a time.

7. Cut clutter off at the knees. Basically, don’t let it get into your house. Do you need to go shopping? Really? And do you need to buy three? Wouldn’t one do? Every time you bring a bag of something into your house make it a priority to take a bag of something else out. The same goes for mail. Open it next to the recycling bin and get rid of everything you don’t absolutely 100 per cent want or need. (Sorry, I’m not advocating chucking your bills out…)

8. This year, borrow and use up instead of buy.  This is another way of cutting clutter off at the knees. Over the holidays I wanted to make a dress with a difficult pattern. I needed a dressmaker’s dummy but I don’t have one. A simple request on Facebook to borrow one got me access to four of them! The one I ended up using has never actually been opened by its owner. To make the dress, I first needed to draft a pattern and make a sample. Instead of purchasing calico, I used my old ugly patchwork material. It didn’t make for a beautiful pattern, but it works.

Thanks to all the readers who regularly tell me, “I’m taking a leaf out of your book and decluttering.” I appreciate your support. Happy New Year. May 2014 be simple, clean and lean for you.

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