If you’re feeling the need to make order out of chaos, then follow these top tips from the experts on how to declutter your home and life.
Why declutter? If you surround yourself with more things than you need or can manage, you may start to feel like your life is out of control. And the obvious solution is to declutter – it not only creates order, but also gives you a sense of control and fulfillment. So, don’t delay, declutter today, using these tips.
Before you start
- Make a list of all the areas that frustrate you the most and start organising there, says Tracey Foulkes of Get Organised.
- Try to make your organising fun – play music, challenge yourself to beat the clock or ask someone to help.
- Start with an end picture in mind. Do you want a minimalist-style environment or would you like to see your belongings displayed on open shelves? When you know what you’re working towards, you’ll know when you’ve reached your goal.
- Organise your home to suit your life: set up areas that are used purely for work or for play, advises Ciska Thurman of My Life Organised.
Plan of action
When confronted with disorder, it’s best to tackle the mess by being methodical. Work from one side of the room to the other, from top to bottom. “First deal with the things you can see, then get stuck into cupboards and drawers,” says Judith Penny of All Sorted.
- Have a set of boxes ready, labelled “Give Away”, “Throw Away”, “Put Away” and “Store”.
- Touch each item and make an immediate decision: Do you want it? Do you love it? Do you have a better one? What’s the worst that can happen if you don’t keep it?
- Get rid of anything you haven’t worn in a year. If you’re struggling to let go of something, “flag” the hanger. If you still haven’t worn the item after six weeks, then be strong and get rid of it, says Isabelle de Grandpre of Neat Freak.
- Order your groceries by dividing them into categories and lining them up next to each other: group pastas, cans or cereals, for example. Not only will you know where to find everything, but you will also see when something is running low.
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Keeping it tidy
Move all the boxes out
Put the “Give Away” and “Throw Away” boxes into your car to take to the charity shop, dump or recycling centre. Next, take the “Put Away” box and put items wherever they belong. Take the “Store” box, label it and pack it out of the way.
Set up a system
Foulkes recommends that you set up a maintenance system to ensure the clutter never creeps back: maybe you could commit to doing a quick whip around the lounge before going to bed; or put a container in the room where clutter tends to build up and empty it when it’s full. The idea is to keep doing a little bit as you go along so it’s never an overwhelming task again.
Give everything a home
Heidi Meyer of Cloud 9 organised says everything must have a home. “When leaving a room, pick up things that don’t belong and put them away. Don’t put things anywhere “just for now” – they will stay there and the clutter will grow.
- Keep linen sorted by folding the sheets and one pillowcase into the remaining pillowcase. This makes it easy to recognise the set and everything is together when you need it.
- Keep cupboards tidy with clever storage devices. Anything from special dividers to old shoe boxes can be used to divide the space in your cupboards.
- Label things, so you know where they belong.
Use clear containers or baskets on top of cupboards for extra storage and get under-the-bed organisers, says Jeanne Viljoen of Beorganised. “There is often wasted space in deep or corner cupboards. Use a Lazy Susan to make these spaces more accessible.” You can also suspend a rack from the kitchen ceiling as an alternative and attractive way of hanging pots and pans. The inside of cupboard doors can provide plenty of additional storage if you attach organisers to store items such as foil, wax paper and cling wrap.
Handy tips to declutter and organise
- Keep your counter tops clear by dropping keys, sunglasses and post into a basket or bowl near your door.
- Use a letter spike or mail stand for your post. Read, file or throw away post as soon as it comes in.
- Mount a black/white/notice board where tasks, to-do lists and information can be written and read by the family. In so doing, you’ll eliminate small pieces of paper and have a visual reminder of what needs to be done.
- Store remotes, cords, video cameras, cellphones and camera chargers in their own drawers or funky storage boxes and label them accordingly.
- Buy in bulk. You’ll save a lot in time and effort.
- Use technology to organise your life. Whether it’s your cellphone diary, your laptop or your iPod, learn and use their functions.
– Nikki Jackson of i organise
Here are some more tips to help you declutter.
Get rid of old toys
“I declutter by going through my children’s old toys after each birthday or Christmas and weeding out everything that hasn’t been played with for a while. This has to be done secretly and in the dead of night because they will never agree to throw away anything. When I’ve got a nice, big pile of outgrown toys, I donate them all to charity. It’s a lot easier to throw out things when you know they are going to be loved and played with by other children.” – Fiona Snyckers, writer and mother of three
Plan meals ahead of time
“I shop with a week’s meals in mind. I write out the week’s menu on a whiteboard in the kitchen when I unpack the groceries. That way there’s not too much head-scratching when it’s dinner time. I cook two meals in one night sometimes, and make enough for lunches.” – Louis Greenberg, writer, freelance editor and father of two
Keep clutter in one place
“The best thing I bought is a pigeonhole cupboard. I put everything into it while it waits to go to its real home: toys I pick up off the floor, post I can only get to later, clothes on their way to the cupboard. That way the floor and other surfaces are always clear. The clutter is only in one place and I can tidy it all from there.” – Geci Karuri-Sebina, executive manager of South African Cities network and mother of two
If you need help, contact a professional to help you declutter.