I just spent an hour noodling around on a well known home décor shopping site and filled a shopping cart full of gadgets that are ‘guaranteed’ to help me keep my home and office organized and clutter-free. Except they won’t work. There are two sides to clutter: On the one hand, there is the fact that we often don’t put things in the right place — often because we don’t have a ‘right place’ for it — but there is also the fact that we simply have too much stuff.
This becomes patently clear when you are packing up a house to move, you move and then you never, ever open those boxes. Too. Much. Stuff.
So the first rule of clutter is: “If you’re spending too much time organizing stuff, just get rid of it.”
But let’s assume for now that all your clutter is necessary stuff, things you can’t throw out no matter how badly you might want to at times. Pesky necessities like backpacks, lunch boxes, mittens, hats and flip flops. There are certain ‘clutter culprits’: things that seem to pile up all by themselves.
© pile of clutter image via Shutterstock
Here are three clutter culprits and what you can do about them:
Clutter, Thy Name is Toys
Well, Shakespeare never had to deal with the mountains of toys that kids today seem to have. Go into the average home containing one or more tiny hoarders and you will find stuffies and LEGO and costumes (oh my!). Some kids are efficient and keep their toys arranged in colour coded boxes, neatly stacked in their rooms… Who are we kidding? No kids do that. But they can learn. That’s the beauty of the little sponges: they can be taught that everything has a place and that place is not the middle of the dining table, coffee table or living room sofa.
© toy box image via Shutterstock
It’s worth taking an hour once a month and going through the toys with your kids to decide what they no longer play with and what could be done with them. Donate them? Have a garage sale? If beyond repair or recycling, maybe it’s just time for some of them to go in the garbage can.
They won’t let go of anything? It’s time for some stealth action when they are away at school or at a friend’s house. I always put the toys in a box in the furnace room – a place no child goes willingly – for a month or two to see if they notice the items are missing and are upset about it. If they are, you can help them ‘look’ and miraculously find the toy that is suddenly so near and dear to their hearts.
If your kids are little, print a picture of whatever needs to go in which boxes and tape it to the front, so they learn the right place to put everything. Better yet, use see through boxes. And remember, the fun stuff like screen time needs to be dependent on having a tidy room and removing toys from the common areas at the end of a day of play… Or else!
Clothing Doesn’t Reproduce in the Closet. Or Does it?
Reach into your closet, right to the back and pull out something out. Go on. Right now. I’ll wait. I will guarantee you that you haven’t worn that item in months, if not longer. Am I right? Clutter expert Peter Walsh estimates that we wear only 20% of the clothes in our closets 80% of the time. That means that the rest is just taking up space.
© pile of clothes image via Shutterstock
I know what you’re thinking: Harem pants might come back in fashion or you might need that reindeer sweater come Christmas time for the office ‘ugly sweater’ contest. Trust me. They won’t and you don’t. Holding on to too small outfits in the hopes they will motivate you to lose weight or those ‘awesome bargain’ shoes that are just a smidge (read: WAY) too small? They’re never coming out of the closet.
So how to decide what stays and what goes? Figure out what you’re actually wearing most of the time by putting a clothespin on the hanger after you’ve worn the item, before you return it to the closet. After a few months, you will see ALL the times that don’t have pins. Those are the things to get rid of.
And if you have growing kids, make sure you go through their clothes with the same regularity as you do their toys: they WILL outgrow their stuff and there’s no point keeping that around unless there is a younger sibling who can inherit!
Do you have boxes and boxes of decorations in your house? Halloween? Christmas? Easter? Valentine’s Day? The giant plastic santa and sleigh? The strings and strings of lights? Ghouls and goblins galore? Admit it. You love the holidays. You want your home to be decorated to the hilt and every year you find new and adorable must have decorations, but you never seem to get rid of the old, tired broken ones. Right?
© box of holiday decorations image via Shutterstock
It’s time. Decide on a couple of holidays per year that you want to decorate for and stick to your plan.
- Get some waterproof storage bins and label them – make sure you don’t mix up your holidays! With these tough containers, you can find more locations to store the decor – the attic, the garage, the basement.
- Go through the decorations and get rid of anything broken or sad. Sure, it’s okay to keep the macaroni and sparkle decoration that Sally made when she was 6 but you might want to whittle it down to one decoration per year, per kid.
- Keep your new purchases to a minimum: we do one decoration per year for the tree, something that reflects ‘the time’ in our lives.
What are the ‘clutter culprits’ in your life?