Christmas 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!
Thank you for this — I have been overwhelmed by clutter for months. I have items from childhood I have not wanted to give up, but I think taking pictures of them and saving the memory will help immensely.
Thanks again for this post
DC@Young Adult Money says
Great tips. Decluttering is something that I have been working on now that we moved. We have a decent amount of storage space in the basement, but we don't just want to chuck everything down there and "deal with it later." With Christmas coming up decluttering is a great idea so you don't have to deal with it over the Holidays!
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John S @ Frugal Rules says
Good post. Boy, do we ever need to declutter. When you have three kids your crap just grows exponentially! My main goal before Christmas gets here is taking care of our garage. It's a mess and I've learned it's best to just take one section at a time. It makes it more feasible to get it all taken care of if I can accomplish it in chunks.
I like these tips a lot. I definitely have some cleaning up to do in my life.
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I feel like I've just got the house back to a manageable level of toy crazy and the holidays are here again. This toy craze/declutter toys cycle has to end. I think I need to be more stringent about what can come through the front door.
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I'm a neat freak, so I am always de-cluttering and/or organizing. But my husband? Not so much 🙂
These are definitley good tips, especially tackling one project a step at a time.
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Lance @ Money Life and More says
That picture idea is pretty neat. I will have to share it with my girlfriend and see if it ends up making my house any cleaner.
Veronica Hill says
I've never thought about taking a photo of your items to see which ones you're really attached to. We typically have a standard test all old junk has to pass: 1. Did we use it in the last month 2. How many times will this be useful in the next month. The only exception is for big stuff or kitchen appliances – some don't get used that often! lol.
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We could use a de-clutter. That's one of the things I miss about my 400 sqft apartment – it was so small I couldn't accumulate much. Now we have 1100 sqft and sometimes I feel like we have way too much *stuff*, even though we probably still have less than the average family.
I needed this post! Sooo much clutter in my tiny home. I will definitely be using these tips!
Pauline @ Reach Financial Independence says
I like the picture tip, never thought about that before. And you should take pics of everything that is staying too, for insurance purposes.
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These are great tips!
Our goal is to get rid of some of our kid's toys before Christmas!
I've spent a lot of time this year going through the different rooms in my house decluttering, so fortunately none of the major rooms are in dire straights right now. The big one I need to work on is my basement. I'm down to a handful of boxes that haven't been unpacked (3 years!), and a sprawling expanse of renovation supplies. I'm in the process of putting up shelves so I can actually organize it all and get it off the ground.
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Budget & the Beach says
Well I could always use a once-over in my apartment, although I'm pretty good about not having a lot of stuff. It's hard though because like you said it always turns into an exhausting project. But I think it's always worth it!
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I'm horrible when it comes to de-cluttering. The biggest motivating factor for me is knowing that I have people coming over and they might go thru my stuff.
I've totally used the picture tip….it's amazing! It seems like such a small thing, but it makes the whole emotionally detaching process so, so much easier.
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jefferson@ SDR says
we have done a ton of decluttering over the last year, and i love it.. i love having the extra room and it always feels great to give things away that we are no longer using..
I just had a big clean up/donate/fix session last weekend! I usually do this in Jan or the spring, but got started and couldn't quit.
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Jason Clayton says
I've been meaning to de-clutter for years now. With 2 kids and a crazy life, it seems that junk just piles up!! I love your tip on starting small, because without this most people will just give up (including me)
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We have been going room by room getting rid of stuff we haven't used this year. We've also been selling most of it online and making some extra cash with it. The problem is not so much me haha.. it's Mrs.CBB since she has so much stuff from school, and work that I had to tell her she just doesn't need it. She's happy she got rid of it as she says it feels a load has been taken off her shoulders. Amazing how that works!!!
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Jayne Blasser says
I’ve recently purchased a 500 sq ft tiny house. I really have to measure the value of every piece I take there. Your column helped me immensely. I had to add storage, too. There were no shelves in the bottom cabinets and cubbies for storage. The closets are also not as useful as they can and will be changed. Plus I have garb for my pirate life. It is a challenge to get it all in.
I had to add storage, too. There were no shelves in the bottom cabinets and cubbies for storage. The closets are also not as useful as they can and will be changed. I love your tip on starting small because without this most people will just give up. I really have to measure the value of every piece I take there. Your column helped me immensely.