Clearing Out the Clutter
Clearing Out the Clutter
Four steps to a cleaner, clearer home
Clutter is a part of most of our lives. From the “junk drawer” to the “junk room,” the majority of us have a place where we just toss things when we don’t have the time or a place to put them away. The problem is that clutter can build up, and it doesn’t just happen all at once. One day there are just a few pieces of paper scattered on the work table and the next it’s hard to figure out the original shape of your desk underneath all the stacks of paper. And once clutter reaches this level, it feels like a monumental task to take care of it.
Change Your Mindset
Changing the way you look at clutter is the first step toward a more organized home. Instead of viewing your cluttered drawer or room as one giant task, think of it more as a piece-by-piece project. If you put just one thing away, you’ll have already made a dent in the pile. Put two more things away and you can see that stack of paper or that mess of clothes is already growing smaller. Take on your task with the mindset of clearing out a bit of space and before you know it, you’ll be standing in front of a cleaner, clearer de-clutterized zone.
What to Keep, What to Toss
Perhaps the most difficult aspect of cleaning out a cluttered space is determining what you should keep and what you should toss. No matter if you live in a big home with lots of storage or a cramped, one bedroom apartment, you shouldn’t hang on to things just because there’s somewhere to put them. If you’re having a hard time figuring out whether or not you should keep that cracked desk lamp from college or the drawer full of old holiday cards from your relatives, consider using the following “To Keep or Not to Keep” checklist:
- Is it incredibly valuable (i.e.: an expensive antique, a precious family heirloom, or verifiably irreplaceable)?
- Have you used it in the past year?
- Do you have something else that performs the same task/fulfills the same need (such as having two of the same hammer or a small blender and a large blender)?
- Is it damaged or worn, and replaceable with something new should you find that you need it later?
- Explain to yourself the exact reason you’re holding on it. Is it a good enough reason to keep it?Be honest with yourself. If you get down to the last question and can’t determine if you’re reason for keeping an item is good enough, write it down and read it aloud. If you have someone close to you who you trust, ask them to read it and share if they think your reasoning is valid.The Hanger SystemI learned about this system a few years ago and have used it for many more de-cluttering tasks than just my closet. It takes some time, but it is by far one of most effective ways of clearing out hard-to-toss items. First, either purchase two new sets of clothes hangers in two different colors or two rolls of duct tape in two distinct colors. With the hangers, make sure there is one of each color for each piece of clothing in your closet. If you have too many clothes to justify that many new hangers, then just use the duct tape. Going through your closet, place everything you own on just one color of hanger or mark every hanger with the same color of duct tape around the hanger neck. As you wear each item of clothing, replace the first hanger color with the other hanger color (or the first color of duct tape with the other tape color). Give yourself a time frame. For example, after six months all of the clothes still hanging on the original hanger color (or taped with the original tape color) should be packed up and donated to a charity-oriented thrift store. This system works for tools, shoes, culinary appliances, even books. You can use rubber bands, sticker dots, even divide cabinets by “used” and “not yet used” if you have the space. The point it to discover what you are actually using and what simply takes up space.
Scan It and Shred It
Documents are another sensitive source of clutter. Even if you don’t need paper bank statements from 2009 or last year’s water bills doesn’t mean you should throw them away. Bills and statements with personal information should be disposed of carefully. Fortunately, technology is making it easier and easier to become paperless. Bill and receipt scanners are available for between $200 and $400 and come with a computer program that automatically sorts the relevant scanned information into a searchable, readable format. There are even compatible smartphone programs that allow you to take pictures of documents and bills and send the information to your computer’s filing system remotely. Once those paper bills and receipts are scanned, you can shred them and be done with the paper pile monster.
Kenneth McCall is a managing partner for storage.com. He builds the systems that help customers find the best self storage units for their needs. Through Kenneth’s and his team’s work customers can find storage units in Philadelphia and in other cities. In his spare time, Kenneth likes to ski, hike and participate in other outdoor activities.