It was 1:30 in the morning. You were vulnerable, lying on the couch with a belly full of cheese curls, chocolate chip cookies and a keg of soda. And that’s when you saw the infomercial for a new, convenient exercise machine: the Ab Rocket. That’s the thing that will finally change your life.
It did change your life, but not by giving you six-pack abs. In the eight months that it’s been sitting in the corner of your room, it has attracted a mountain of clutter around it and it’s growing steadily. Before it takes over your entire home and eats you alive like a couch potato downing cheese curls and cookies, you’d better do something about this problem of yours.
But if the very idea of tackling this overwhelming mess scares you into paralysis, don’t worry. Start by reading this article on how to declutter your space with some great advice from decluttering experts:
- Out with the old… The first thing decluttering experts recommend is changing the way you see the stuff you have been holding on to. Feng Shui maven Karen Kingston, author of Creating Sacred Space with Feng Shui, says that holding on to old things that you no longer use prevents you from making space for new things in your life. Realize that letting go of old things also means less to clean, less to trip over, less to hide from your nosy mother-in-law, less to stash if the cops ever find out about your side business. Reducing your clutter energetically invites new opportunities into your life. And no, that doesn’t include more As Seen On TV items.
- Start with baby steps. Leading minimalist blogger Leo Babauta knows that facing the whole task—the landslides of papers, clothing, books, kitchen utensils and miscellaneous trinkets—can feel seriously overwhelming to the point of immobility. So he recommends taking a mere five minutes each day to start on one of his 18 quick decluttering tips. Set a timer and pick something on the list to start with, like clearing off one counter. To heck with the closet that’s bursting at the hinges, or the bathroom whose floor you can no longer see, or the garage that hasn’t housed a car since the ‘70s. Just focus on one, tiny little task for now.
- The Cardboard Box Test. Oprah’s decluttering guy, Peter Walsh, suggested this idea for the kitchen, but we can’t see why it wouldn’t work in the bathroom, bedroom or hall closet as well. First, grab a cardboard box. Now dump all your kitchen utensils into the box, like the can opener, blender, and toaster. The lasagna-encrusted spatula you can leave in the sink for now. Over the course of the next month, every time you use one of these utensils, put it back in its designated place. After the month is over, donate whatever you haven’t used…like the Potato Express, Slushy Magic, and Spinning Candy Dispenser. And stop watching TV at one in the morning.
- Establish Three “Outbox” boxes: Garbage, Recycle, Donate. The folks at Apartment Therapy recommend setting up this area in an out-of-the way place in your home. Once a box is full, take it to its designated location (the garbage bin, recycling station, or local Goodwill store). Putting the “Outbox” area in a remote spot helps you emotionally detach from the stuff in it. The phrase “out of sight, out of mind” may be disheartening in a relationship context, but in this scenario it means there will be less temptation to hang on to stuff you don’t really need. Come to think of it, this phrase works well for all your exes, too. Especially the one who gave you the Potato Express for your birthday.
- So-called Paperless Society. While you’ve been waiting for the paperless society touted by techies for years, your countertops, dining room table, desk and floor have become clogged with the carcasses of dead trees. Unless you’re a bona fide novelist working on the sequel to War and Games, follow this four-step system suggested by HGTV:
- First, sort all of that stuff into categories like school, financial, medical, personal, receipts, etc. Then ask yourself, “Why am I keeping all this crap?” Do you really need it? The answer is probably yes to some stuff (like tax forms or that “prescription” for “medical” marijuana). But consider opting for online bill payments and cancelling your subscriptions to Injured Mimes Quarterly and DENSA & Proud of It!.
- Next, sort the stuff into two piles: keep or recycle/shred. Note: shredding all those love letters from your ex is very therapeutic–especially the ones he wrote to your best friend.
- Then classify the papers you’re keeping (bank statements, business receipts, restraining orders–you know, the usual), put them into file folders, and label them.
- Stay on top of it. As in remain diligent, not as in lie on. When new mail or papers invade your home, act immediately. Recycle the junk and establish an inbox on your home desk for bills to pay or correspondence to return.
- Use furniture that doubles as storage. There are so many cool pieces of furniture that double as storage containers, like benches and ottomans, or multi-use hanging shoe racks. Or consider a TV embedded into the mirror to keep your counter space free.
- Rent a nearby self-storage unit if necessary. This is especially helpful for seasonal items you really do use and want to keep—like Christmas decorations, portable but bulky air conditioners, kayaks, snowboards, camping gear, and your clown outfit (for Halloween, of course…).
- Troll Pinterest for more decluttering and organizational ideas. There are a gazillion creative ideas to store those items that you simply must keep, like drawer dividers, using a shower curtain rod to hang your spray bottles, and clever ways to put extra binder clips to work for you.
And one last thing—whatever you do, never go on a late-night infomercial shopping spree on a stomach full of soda and cheese curls again.