THIS IS THE YEAR
I have decided that 2023 is the year that I declutter my house once and for all. I sorted my Mum’s house after she died and it took me months as she had saved everything, including bills back to 1976 and so I don’t want my children to have to deal with that. My home has always been a bit cluttered, but since Mr S moved in with all his building and baking stuff, the house has been bursting at the seams. Clutter causes stress. I can’t count on my fingers how many times I have opened a cupboard and things have fallen out. I have this aversion to taking things to the dump but my house was feeling like a dump. I started decluttering properly last year and have done more this year, and at the moment I am getting so much pleasure from opening my clothes drawers and cupboards. They open easily again and I can easily find what I need. When sorting them out last month I also found some lovely things that I had forgotten that I had. Decluttering can save you money as I was going to buy myself a white shirt this year and found two nice ones hidden away in the back of the cupboard.
Every year I declutter odd cupboards and think that I am doing a good job but, although things are a bit better organised, we still have so much stuff that we do not need. Part of me doesn’t want to get rid of things that we have got two of in case we stop living together, and the other part of me can not bare to part with things that I don’t particularly like but they are worth money or were expensive. I started off this year with a bang and have taken about 12 bags to the charity stop, thrown about 4 bags of things away and sold a couple of things but then I noticed that I had slowed down and the clutter was creeping back in (especially on my bedroom chair) and so I thought I had better get my mojo back and make a strategy for decluttering. This is what I am going to do.
TACKLE SMALL AREAS FIRST
A cluttered house can seem overwhelming. I tend to procrastinate if I am overwhelmed and so I am starting by tackling small areas at a time. Each room I have split into about 8 areas. Each week I intending to tackle 2 areas of a room. That means that each month I will have tackled and decluttered a whole room. As I declutter I will also spring clean it. By doing small areas I will not become bored and give up and I will not become too tired. Making decisions about what you will keep and what you will get rid of can be quite stressful and emotional if some things have sentimental value. I have items that belonged to my Mum that I don’t need or want, but I have not got to the stage that I can let them go yet as she only died 18 months ago. I therefore have a blanket box that I put these things in and every 3 months I will go through it again and a few more items will go to the charity shop. I am doing it at my own pace. It is important not to put too much pressure on yourself to let things go.
HAVING ENOUGH STORAGE
When I moved into my house there was very little storage. For years there were things hanging around as there was nowhere to store them. I had a whole spare room that was a dumping ground. If things are stored away, this reduces the feeling of clutter and can make the task less overwhelming. Adequate storage is needed for things to look tidy. We have now built cupboards in alcoves, stored plastic boxes under the bed, bought furniture with lots of storage including a blanket box, built shelves, used hooks on the back of doors and hooks inside cupboard doors to hang things. Items are also stored on top of the wardrobe in nice boxes. Storage does not have to be expensive. Items can be recycled to use as storage. I use a basket as a vegetable rack which is useful, but also looks nice. I use recycled plastic boxes in the fridge to keep all the cheese together or to stand sauce bottles in. As I declutter, I realise I do not have to buy any more storage items as I have enough when the things that I don’t need have gone.
EVERYTHING MUST HAVE A HOME
I have found that giving everything a home helps me. It has made it a lot easier to be tidy. It might sit at the bottom of the stairs for the day but then it goes back upstairs and into it’s place. Mr S knows not to go upstairs now with empty hands. Every day I do a 10 minute tidy so that things that need putting away do not build up into a big job. The house feels tidier that way and it does not feel a chore as it has become a habit that I do automatically.
ONLY BUY INTENTIONALLY FROM NOW ON
There is no point in decluttering my home if I am just going to fill any space made with new items. I am therefore only going to buy things that I really need or want. There will be no unplanned spending. If I want and buy a new jumper I will then get rid of an old one. Sometimes I will put things into my basket that I would like but then take them out before I get to the till. I have got a lot better at not buying things as my mindset has changed.
ORGANISATION WITHIN CUPBOARDS
Some of my cupboards are really deep and so I lose things at the back of them. I have now bought some transparent boxes to put inside the cupboards with similar things inside each one. I have a couple with my craft items in. I have some with sports stuff in. Some with camping things in etc. In the chest freezer I have decluttered it by using big different coloured shopping bags inside and each category of food has a different coloured bag. All the meat and fish are in one, vegetables in another, baked items in another and fruit in another. That way nothing gets lost at the bottom of the freezer and I can just take a bag out and look for something. I also keep an inventory for my stock cupboard and my freezer so that I am not buying more of what I do not need.
ASK “WHY AM I KEEPING THINGS?”
For the first 5 years of my retirement I kept jumpers and coats that I did not really like because I thought that I might not be able to afford any more clothes. I didn’t wear them because they didn’t suit me and I didn’t feel good in them. I also used to keep things of value because it felt like a waste of money giving it away, but nobody would probably want to buy it. I am getting better this year at telling myself that the money was spent a long time ago, I am not using it and so it is just taking up valuable space that I need. I now ask myself if something brings me joy or I if I will need it. If the answer is negative then those things are going to charity or to be sold. I am only going to keep the best of anything. Any chipped, snagged, or things with a hole in are gone, even if it is my favourite, comfy jumper. I am not going to let fear make decisions for me any more. There is no reason that I cannot keep surviving on a low income. I have done it so far for 8 years.
GET RID OF DECLUTTERED BAGS QUICKLY
I have found in the past that when I have put lots of things to go to the charity shop in a bag, if I leave them around for a while, I will have second thoughts and take a few things out. I now try to take the bags to the shop on the same day. If I can not take them that same day I put them in the boot of my car so that I am not tempted and they are out of sight, out of mind.
I AM NOT PUTTING PRESSURE ON MYSELF
As I mentioned before, decluttering can feel emotional. I therefore do not want to put pressure on myself. If I cannot face it one week and am not in the right mindset, I will not do it properly anyway. I can always catch up another time and I am setting my own dead lines and can change them if I want to. I usually put some ‘feel good’ music on when I am decluttering and sing away to it. This makes decluttering less stressful for me.
How do you motivate yourself to declutter and which strategies do you use?