Tips to Tackle Clutter Before Christmas

PresentsChristmas is fast approaching and with it, the promise of more stuff. More presents, more decorations, more hostess gifts, more of everything! With the weather starting to turn sour in many parts of North America, there’s no time like the present to get ahead of my clutter before the holiday season jams my 400 sq. ft. house with stuff.

Have No Space, Will Declutter

I’m probably more motivated than most to declutter. I live in a 400 sq. ft. house with about two small closets and a wall of shelving in the laundry room. I have no kitchen cupboards to speak of and a single book case. Needless to say, space is at a premium at my place.

Which means, now that I’m inside more and spending less time taking care of the yard, I’m going to tackle a few areas of my house that have been getting out of hand. It’s always slightly scary taking on organizational projects. I’m not sure about you, but I have the nasty tendency to start cleaning one area of my house, say, the closet. Half-way through that little project I move some things to the book case and think “While I’m here…” and begin to organize that.

Before I know it I’m sitting on the floor surrounded by a sea of stuff I’ve dragged out.  It’s 10 o’clock, I’ve finished off the better part of a bottle of wine and I’m starting to think about how comfy my bed is….I convince myself I’ll finish it tomorrow, and walk around that pile for a week, before I shove the entire thing under my bed.

This has been my plan of attack for about the past five years or so and it’s only recently that I’ve actually began to develop some real skills in the decluttering arena. Here are a few tips that I’ve picked up recently, that’ve helped me stay (moderately) organized.

Start Small, Stay On Task

While it may be tempting to get up one morning and say “I’m going to organize the ENTIRE garage today!”, if you aren’t an organizational pro with oodles of insatiable motivation, that could be a recipe for an even more disorganized and dysfunctional garage. Instead, pick something small, like the closet. Even better, something smaller, like the top shelves of the closet. Once you’re done that tiny project, if you’re still got the decluttering itch, feel free to pick something else out. If not, pat yourself on the back, and call it a day. It’s better to have one small, completed project every Saturday than one large, half assed one.

Start With the Old Stuff

It’s easiest for me to declutter when I tackle the boxes I haven’t opened in years. Besides it being a fun little trip down memory lane, I can start the whole project out with the mindset of “I don’t need anything in any of these boxes, because I haven’t touched them in years”. Deciding what I actually need and what I don’t can be tough sometimes, so going into a project knowing that’s not even a factor in my decision making process makes the whole thing easier.

Take a Picture It’ll Last Longer

This last tip I actually picked up from the Everyday Minimalist, and it’s helped me and some friends of mine countless times. There are some cases when I’m decluttering, that I’ll come across something that is broken, or that I’ll never actually, realistically use again. This item might be a broken necklace that I received as a gift many years ago, a childhood book that’s near to my heart, something along those lines. In those situations, I want the memory of the item, without a physical thing to take up premium space in my house.

In those situations, I’ll set the item next to a window where I have good light, and take several pictures of it from every angle. Since it’s really the idea of the item I’m attached to, those pictures will immortalize it for me enough, the physical item is no longer necessary. After that, I’m free to toss the item or donate it, without worrying that I’ll forget that it ever existed.

I’ve been using that method of getting rid of stuff for about the past year, with great results. I’ve ditched childhood toys, drawings, essays, report cards, and jewellery that my fiancé gave me nine years ago when we first met. You name it, I’ve ditched it without every worrying that I’ll forget about it. I keep a folder on my computer for the memories, and I back it up through flickr.

So take advantage of this relative lull before the crazy rush of Christmas, get your financial and actual house in order by organizing and decluttering. But don’t forget! Just because you have all of this new found space, doesn’t mean that’s a license to fill it back up with stuff!

Do you need to declutter? What’s your goal?

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