Monday, February 22, 2010

Simple Life: Decluttering


1. A confused or disordered state or collection; a jumble"

One of the most effective ways to keep your life simple is to purge your home of clutter.  People spend hours upon hours managing their "stuff," and for what?  Most of it is stuff we don't even need or use!  I want to spend my time and efforts on my family and my life, not on the care and keeping of the junk in my life.  This kind of flies in the face of my thrifting obsession, but not really.  I try to employ a "one bag in, one bag out" policy in those situations.

I found this great idea this morning, and although Lent has already begun, I think I may be able to catch up.  My basement and closets desperately need to be purged.  What a lovely way to ensure a clutter-free Easter!  Just in time for a nice Spring Cleaning!  I have 2 bags filled just from my linen closet!

One decluttering method that works very well for me is "puttering."  If you don't putter around your house and actually look to see what areas need help, you will just continue to add to the pile and it will grow into an insurmountable problem.  Puttering is my answer to that.  First, I either turn on some music or call a friend/sister.  This gives me something pleasurable to focus on while I putter around my home.  Then I get started.  Often the distraction is so helpful that I get off the phone or emerge from crooning along to my favorite songs to realize wow, I just cleaned this whole room and I don't remember doing it.  This may just be testimony to how 4 kids in 5 years makes you lose your mind, but I prefer to think of it as distraction working quite well, thank you.  An example of puttering could be reorganizing your bathroom cupboard, decluttering your work desk, cleaning out your fridge or organizing a closet.  I usually choose jobs that I seriously detest doing, not my usual daily cleaning tasks.

Living in a small home means we simply cannot hold on to every little thing we've ever owned or ever will own.  That includes the clothes that our kids grow out of.  For awhile I labeled and stored every item of clothing my children wore, but as our family grew, this became too much.  I switched to saving only the things that were in perfect condition, but even this became too much to hang on to.  The truth is, even if I did have a baby of the same gender as 0ne of the older children, there were no guarantees that the seasons would be correct anyway.  I began handing off clothes to friends.  So far things seem to find their way back, often mixed with outfits from other families as well, when a new baby warrants it.  I'd rather have my kids clothes used by others than stored in a basement.  It works well for us.

The best part of keeping your home clutter-free is how quickly you can clean your home, and how long it stays clean.  I can usually tell when my children have too many clothes and too many toys by how messy their rooms are.  Obviously they are children and are going to make messes, but if my daughter can throw 25 shirts on the floor in her quest for the perfect outfit, there is something wrong.

Here is a quick list of suggestions:

2 sets of sheets per bed. - this may not be necessity if you are single and tend to wash your sheets and put them right back on, but having kids can mean middle of the night messes.  Its nice to not have to do laundry in the middle of the night!

2 towels/washclothes per person in the family.

Keep your kitchen counters clear of appliances.  Keep only what you absolutely need and make sure each item has a "place" in the cabinet. (coffee makers may stay out).

File your papers/bills/bank statements weekly to cut down on surface clutter.

Employ "A place for everything and everything in its place."

Try to have "only" 1 junk drawer.

If you have a spouse who is prone to setting his/her random clutter all over your house, get a few baskets and set them around.  That way it doesn't look so awful, and you can quickly grab the basket and put the things away when you get a chance.

Recycle, yet, but don't be afraid to throw things out.  Socks with holes?  Toss.  Old toothbrushes? Toss.  Some of these may be a given, but if you are like me and really don't like throwing away something that might be useful, it can be hard to figure out what to do.

As an organizational/large family thing, I like to have certain items in gender-neutral tones to cut down on what we have to have on hand.  Mittens in multiple sizes, snow boots, hoodies, etc., I prefer ones that are red, navy or grey so everyone is willing to wear them.

This post is entirely too long.  Please feel free to post any additional tips!


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  1. Oh my! This is sooo fitting for me right now! Thanks for writing these ideas down. I always feel extra anxious about clutter and "stuff" when I am pregnant, but it always seems to be such an impossible task to declutter at this point in the pregnancy! But these are great ideas and so hopefully I will get to some things in the next few weeks using your ideas. I am in complete agreement with you on the "living simply" idea!

  2. Some folks would call my husband and I annal about a messy house. We're not. For one, we've seen annal. It happens to run in Jeremy's side of the family and we're definitely not like that, and two, we allow messes, as long as they get cleaned up within a reasonable time. We too, live in a small house and can't have big messes for long periods of time or else there will be no where to walk. We like to keep our countertops clear of papers and mail, and the receipts and statements that we go through weekly, are placed in a basket beside the computer, just as you said. Baskets keep clutter contained!

    Another tip that we like to do is to rotate our toys. If we find that the kids are not playing with certain toys because they've gotten bored of them, then we put them away for awhile until they've gotten bored of the other toys they were playing with. Then we'll rotate those out and bring in the old ones and all of a sudden, they are like new toys to them! That's where their short-term memory comes in handy! :)

    I like tupperware containers. We don't have a lot of floor space or closet space, and tupperware is easy to slide under furniture AND keep things in their place, such as the kids art, pictures that never made it into photo albums, our linens are in tupperware under our bed, Jaron's keepsake box, Christmas decor, camping gear, etc.

    And as far as the kids clothes, we are ALL about hand-me-downs. Yes, I do have some clothes that are their own, but most of the clothes come from either sisters or ladies at church. It's nice because you don't have to hold on to everything and find a place for it. The clothes just get passed down to the next baby in the church who needs it or it goes back to the original owner. Now, I will say, that it is nice to have clothes that we OWN for the sake of future children of either gender, but like you said Lydia, you just never really know if it will match up to the same seasons. I guess it's a risk worth taking to keep some things and then Lord willing, if there is a need for clothes that you don' t have when you need them, you will have others who will loan them, or it's time to go thrift shopping!

    Hope this isn't too long and boring, but those are my tidy tips! Hope they are helpful to someone! :)

  3. Posts are too long when the blogger droans on and on about themselves. This kind of post is never long enough, in my opinion. A great read!

  4. Another use for old socks is to use them as cleaning rags. Same tip works for old tshirts or holey/raggedy linens.

    LOVED your "puttering" idea. I tend to plan & nitpick until I've overwhelmed myself. Yours is a much better method!

    Also - if you have books that you want to get rid of, it's fairly painless to sell them online. Declutter AND possibly earn some extra cash! has instant quotes, free shipping, quick turnaround & excellent customer service.

  5. Lydia, love the ideas! Me and the kids declutter twice a year, spring and Christmas, then donate the clothes. I have also started tubs for the kids when they move out. I know mine are a bit older, but I have been saving things for them. I bought new towels for the house and saved the other ones for them. Also, if you are a reader and want to swap out your old books, your local library will usually take them. They give you a tax receipt and then sell the books for the library, its a win for both parties. Keep up the wonderful post!

  6. Great post Lyd! Twice a year my girlfriends and I do a clothing swap. About 10-12 of us get together in the spring and fall. We bring clothes that we are in good shape but we are just tired of. We have some snacks and browse the different "departments" (dresses, pants, jewelry, even make-up). Your favorite clothes find a nice new home and everyone gets something new for their closet. You could probably expand the swap to include kids clothes. The clothes that don't find a new home go to charity.

  7. Moving across the US and then overseas cured me of my pack rat habits -- but I still have too much stuff! I keep my eye out on freecycle and give anything I've got that helps the want ads (a photography student scored a ton of awesome 70s camera gear from me) and next time we move (we rent, so nothing is permanent), I'll go through my sewing cloth and yarn and clothes and freecycle them. Last time I moved, I invited 2 friends over and had a big giveaway with my stuff.

    I've also gotten really good at not buying clothes -- I never buy new clothes (unless I need underwear or socks) and I always donate a bag of my clothes to charity if I buy any charity shop clothes (which I haven't in a year!). And I don't think I will ever need to buy shoes again (I have one pair of dress shoes, a couple vintage pairs, and some doc martens I got at a warehouse sale for $15 that seem to last forever and never wear out, despite wearing them constantly). The only clothes I've bought this year were for Bert (and all second-hand).

    I also really should sell some of my vintage clothes and musical instruments.


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