7 ways to move through your clutter from the inside out

Woman in painWhen it comes to clutter, many people think it is just being messy. You can hear them while watching an episode of Hoarders: ” why can’t they just tidy up and throw things out?”

In many cases it is a lot more complicated than this and it has to do with the mental and emotional road blocks which the person in question is facing, resulting in the clutter being a by-product rather than the underlying problem.

A recent article on the website Houzz gave some great tips to move through some of these road blocks:

Our relationship with our home, and the things in it, is charged with emotion — it’s not so easy to let go of things when something as simple as a rusted tackle box or a worn photograph can bring memories flooding back.

Below, find eight ways to move through your own mental and emotional roadblocks to work through your clutter, from the inside out.

 1. Come to terms with whether you’re naturally organized or not. Glossy magazine spreads featuring perfectly organized spaces with nary a stray paper or lone shoe out of place may be fun to look at, but they are not right for everyone. The fact is, some folks are more inclined to be neat and orderly, while others feel more comfortable with a lot of stuff around. Instead of fighting against your nature, learn from it and work with it.

2. Face your fears. This is what stands between you and the refreshingly clean and neat home you wish you had: fear of making a bad choice, fear of tossing out something and regretting it later or fear that a family member will make you feel guilty for getting rid of something. We are all experts at coming up with excuses for keeping things we really don’t want anymore. Confront your fears, and you may find it easier to let go of possessions that have become a burden to you.

3. Tackle your top problem area. What’s the one thing in your home you find it hard to even consider decluttering? Think about starting there. For some it may be books; for others, china or clothes. Find the one thing that would make the biggest impact if you could streamline it, and start your work there. Use tip number three (face your fears) and dig in.

4. Get and stay motivated. Find your motivation by imagining what a clutter-free home would feel like. What would it allow you to do? Why do you want this? Keep your answers in mind as you start decluttering. Once you have gotten the ball rolling, stop yourself from backsliding by developing a few key habits: for every new item you purchase, get rid of a similar item, and when you see something that needs to be cleaned, put away or returned, just do it.

5. A special note for parents. Having kids in the house, as any parent will tell you, can ramp up the chaos in even the most (formerly) orderly homes. Luckily, as parents, we do have control over a great deal of the stuff that enters our homes, including toys. For starters, rethink how many toys and games your child needs — an overabundance of playthings is less appreciated, harder to clean up and more likely to get broken or wasted. To get a crazy-cluttered family home back in shape takes some work; there is no doubt about that. But the habits you form to manage the kid chaos will pay off in sanity at home, and you will be passing those good habits along to your children.

6. Get help if you need it. If you are still feeling overwhelmed or if the job seems too big to take on alone, you can get help! Call a really organized friend and bribe him or her with free food in exchange for decluttering advice or physical help. Or call in a pro. Professional organizers have seen it all, can help you sort out even the most cluttered space, and can teach you systems that will help prevent your overstuffing your home in the future.

7. Take it to the next level: Simplify your life. Once you have been working on paring down for some time and are feeling good about the progress you have made, consider taking things a step further. Downsize to a smaller, easier-to-maintain space, go paperless or challenge yourself to get rid of things you don’t use.

Read the entire article here.

Image courtesy of: scentsandmoods.wordpress.com

How to declutter your life

It's time to start...

It’s time to start…

When it comes to decluttering your home and your life, there are many excuses not to start and many road blocks that hamper you along the way. If we let the overwhelm consume us, it is a lost cause before we have even begun! But it doesn’t have to be that way. Zen Habits had a great blog recently that shared many of my favourite tips. So take a read and see if they help you in your organizing endeavours:

Declutter Your Life

There was a time, about 8 years ago, when my life was cluttered. I had too much stuff, and it kept coming in all the time. I had too much to do, and didn’t know how to simplify my schedule. I was in need of some decluttering, and I knew it.

The question became, how to go about it? How do you start when you’re facing a mountain of clutter, and another mountain of commitments, and piles of files and mail and email and other digital information?

The answer became clear, as I got started: start simply. Keep it simple as you go. Simple, each step of the way.

That said, I found complications that made things harder at every turn. I’d like to help you with some of those here, briefly, in hopes that you’ll be inspired to start decluttering.

Start Decluttering

How do you get started? As simply as possible:

  • Take just 10 minutes today to sort though a pile, or declutter a shelf or table or countertop.
  • Put everything into one pile, and start with the first thing you pick up (no putting things back in the pile).
  • Ask yourself: do you really need this? Do you use it regularly? Do you love it? If the answer to any of these is no, then recycle, donate, or give it to someone who might want it. Put it in a box for these purposes.
  • Put things back that you need/use/love, with space between things. This is their “home” and you should always put them back there.
  • Stop after 10 minutes, continue tomorrow for another 10 minutes, and so on, one small spot in your home at a time.
  • If you want to do more than 10 minutes, go ahead, but be careful not to overdo it in the beginning or you’ll think it’s difficult and not want to continue.

Keep Going

Once you’ve gotten the ball rolling, here’s how to keep going:

  • Keep decluttering in small bits. Pick an area to focus on each week.
  • Don’t worry about perfection. Just get it simpler. You can always declutter it more later.
  • Put your box of donation/recycling/giving away in your trunk, to get rid of next time you’re out. Email friends/family to ask if they want things — often you can find a good home for perfectly good things you don’t really use (that workout equipment).
  • If you’re on the fence, use a Maybe Box (put things that you think youmight need in a box, mark it with today’s date, put a reminder on your calendar 6 months from now to check on the Maybe Box. If you haven’t used it in 6 months, you probably don’t need it and can get rid of it.
  • Get help. Sometimes you just can’t bear to part with yourself, but if you can get an outside person to make the decision (friend or family member), they are usually much more dispassionate and ruthless.
  • Enjoy the space. Once you’ve decluttered an area, really focus on how much you love the simplified space. Once you’re hooked on this simplicity, you’re more likely to keep going.

Read the entire article from Zen Habits here.

Image courtesy of http://www.getorganized-stayorganized.com/

Double Duty Furniture Cuts Clutter

Is it an ottoman? Is it a storage chest? No it's both!

Is it an ottoman? Is it a storage chest? No it’s both!

Furniture. It plays an integral role in making your home a cozy, comfortable place where you want to spend time.  Whether you are in a tiny New York City apartment or have just chosen to simplify your life and downsize,  multipurpose furniture plays even a bigger role to combine form and function – especially when it is stylish.

Finding piece that serve more than one purpose saves money. A sofa bed solves three problems – seating during the day and a place to sleep at night and it cuts your costs in half! A sofa bed in a child’s room can transform it into a guest room when needed.

Multipurpose furniture comes in all shapes and sizes. Ottomans with storage compartments offer seating, a place to rest your feet and somewhere to hide the kid’s toys, books, blankets etc. Small stools can work as side tables and seats. Beds can have storage drawers built in underneath.

But before looking for multi-function furniture, define how your family plan to use the space. Do you need storage, function or both? A piece doesn’t have to be used for its intended purpose; use your creativity. I have an antique french dresser as my home office storage and filing system and it looks gorgeous – the mirror even makes the space look bigger. I also use an antique bottle crate I found at a flea market to hold all my smaller bits and pieces in the kitchen. It looks great and is functional storage to boot!

But the main tip – it doesn’t matter what storage you have; at the end of the day make sure every item in your home goes back to the place you have allocated. It is the only way you will keep clutter at bay.

Image courtesy of  http://www.rangkep.com/

Top Tips to Downsize your Wardrobe

All your shirts in a row...

All your shirts in a row…

Downsizing your wardrobe can be one of the most dreaded tasks – you can try and put if off for as long as you can, but reality hits you every morning when you can’t find anything to wear. But it needn’t be!

A recent blog post by Small Notebook highlighted some handy tips for tackling this task:

…I get the general idea that if you haven’t worn a garment within a certain amount of time, you most likely never will, and it’s just taking up space. What’s more important to me is not how long it’s been since I’ve worn it, but why I haven’t worn it.

So if something has remained on the hanger, I start questioning it: Is it the right color? Is it too long or too short? Does it make me look frumpy? Is it worn out? Or do I just have too many clothes?

Understanding why I’m not wearing something helps me make better choices on future shopping trips, and I think that’s smarter than simply tossing clothes just to replace them with more later.

Tips on keeping clothes in other sizes:

• Keep only the clothes that you’ll be happy to see again. Keep the best stuff, not everything.

• Don’t save any clothes that are worn out. The maternity pants that you wore every day during those last weeks because they were the only pair that still fit (and therefore have drops of chocolate ice cream stains on them, not that I’m speaking from experience or anything) can be thrown away.

• You want to keep them in a box in your storage space, not in useful closet space with your current size.

• Go through them every year or so to see if you can size down your collection. Even classic styles can change every five or seven years. (Think how different denim looks now from a few years ago.)

• If you think it’s not likely you will wear them again, don’t save them, but don’t be afraid to set clothes aside in case you can wear them in the future. That’s kind of the whole point of storage space: using it for good, not for clutter.

To read the entire article click here. 

The downsizing dilemma: when your furniture won’t fit out the door…

Will it fit? Or will it won't...

Will it fit? Or will it won’t…

Here is an interesting article from News.com.au that makes you think twice next time you wish to buy furniture:

OOOPS. Your favourite piece of furniture won’t fit through the door. What now?

You’ve moved into your dream home, apartment, terrace or townhouse. The trouble is, your beautiful couch (or desk, bookcase or bedhead) won’t fit up the stairs. What to do? It’s conundrum more common than you might think, Access Removals proprietor (and “head muscle”) Chris Papaspyru says.

Once it was pianos and billiard tables that caused headaches at moving time; now it’s everyday items such as dining tables, bedheads and even barbecues.

Changes to occupational health and safety laws means awkward and bulky furniture can no longer be hoisted over the side of a balcony by mates with a rope and a prayer.

Moving today can be a strategic operation requiring a crane and even street closures. And it’s not just the rich who need to call in the professionals.

Removal companies say shifting large items is a growing problem, whether it’s empty nesters downsizing to units or those trying to squeeze modern furniture into tiny terrace homes. Then there are those who order new furniture only to find it won’t fit.

Adding to the dilemma is that many new blocks have narrow stairwells and small lifts.


Wridgways marketing director Jane Riley says Sydney’s high-density, multi-storey living and hilly landscape accounts for a third of the firm’s most challenging jobs.

Complex moves can take days to plan and include an inspection and access check.

“Thirty years ago a lounge suite would be a three-seater and two arm chairs but these days it could be modular or recliners,” she says. We ask many questions to ascertain the best way to move these items.”

Read the full article here.

Is my desire to recycle an excuse to keep stuff?

How and what should I donate?

This is such a common problem – you want to declutter but you don’t want to just put items in the bin, especially if they are still good or if they have cost you lots of money. Unclutterer.com hit the nail on the head so read on for some interesting ideas:

Deciding exactly how to purge your clutter can be a difficult process. Do you trash it, recycle it at a recycling center, recycle it by repurposing it into something more useful, sell it, or donate the item to charity or to someone you know who wants it? And, like you suggested in your question, recycling, repurposing, donating, and selling items can be an excuse to hold onto clutter if you’re never actually following through and recycling, repurposing, donating, or selling the items.

I try to use the following guidelines when purging items:

  • Trash the trash. If something is trash, it should be trashed. You can compost the environmentally friendly items, but if a product needs to go to the dump, by all means take it to the dump. And, if something is a hazardous material, be sure to take it to your county’s hazardous waste facility. Trash is clutter and you shouldn’t hold onto it a minute longer than necessary.
  • Recycle what can be recycled, but do it now. People who live in city’s with curbside recycling pick up have it the easiest — put your recycling on the curb and be done with your aluminum, glass, paper, and plastic products. If you don’t have curbside pickup in your area (or have larger items, like steel beams) you’ll need to drive to the closest recycling center to make deposits. I recommend incorporating this errand into your weekly schedule so the recycling never builds up beyond seven days. For other recyclable items that aren’t accepted at most recycling centers — eye glasses, electronics, clothing for rags — only recycle these items IF you’ll recycle them in the next seven days. If a week passes and the items are still lingering, trash them. Schedule the recycling action items on your calendar (research to find where you can recycle the item, boxing and shipping of the item or dropping it off), as well as the deadline for trashing the item if you fail to recycle it.
  • Only sell, repurpose, or give an item to a friend if you do it now.You can sell, repurpose, or give an item to a friend, but only do this if you’re actually going to follow through on the action. Similar to recycling, schedule the action items on your calendar and a deadline (I give myself two weeks) for when it will be out of your house. If it has been two weeks and you still haven’t rid your home of the objects, trash them.
  • Only give good items to charity. As Peter Walsh so aptly stated in his book It’s All Too Much:

    Goodwill receives a billion pounds of clothing every year. Ultimately, they use less than half of the clothes they get. Clothing is cheap, and the cost of sorting, cleaning, storing, and transporting the clothes is higher than their value. If you wouldn’t give an article to a family member, it’s probably not good enough for charity. Sure, it’s great to get the tax deduction and it makes you feel like you didn’t waste money buying the clothes, but if you’re truly charitable, be sensitive to the needs of the organization. Charities aren’t dumping grounds for your trash.

    Read the entire article and all the other reader’s interesting comments here: http://unclutterer.com/2012/09/07/ask-unclutterer-is-my-desire-to-recycle-an-excuse-to-keep-stuff/

Why I don’t make New Year’s resolutions!

I'll get you my pretty...

Did anyone see the “selling your clutter online” story on A Current Affair tonight? It’s so bizarre: just today hubby and I were clearing out the garage (yes, even professional organisers have declutter sessions!) and I came across my bike covered in about an inch of dust. I haven’t ridden it in about three years since moving from Canberra (too many hills around my house and too much bother to put the bike rack on the car).

So why do I still have it?

I could sell it on eBay or Gumtree and make money for Kerri’s China Moon Bear Rescue Challenge! But no, for some reason getting rid of my bike is not an option so I have made a New Year’s resolution – I am going to ride it! Starting this weekend hubby and I are going to ride to our local shops at Bulimba for coffee each Sat. Yay! And no excuses.

OK maybe not this Saturday, I have a Feng Shui client… So starting next Saturday!

Oops no wait I have a roller blading lesson next Saturday (I have to learn how to stop).

How about the Saturday after that then (darn, no heading down to Sydney that weekend).

OK sooo…anyone want to buy a bike?

From four bedrooms to one: tips to downsize when you retire.

Just like a Babushka doll...

I am so chuffed to have been asked to contribute to a story that ran today on BrisbaneTimes.com.au about downsizing for retirees. Written by Mary Costello, the article outlines how retirees can best tackle the life changing process of downsizing:

Advice for Mature Downsizers

My brother rang recently to ask whether I wanted my secondary school essays that he’d found boxed in the roof space of the family home. I told him to leave them just where they were.

It might have been a lifetime ago, but I know that when I was in Upper 6th I wrote a fabulous essay on George Orwell and the English language – and would read again. Surely a few kilos of paper plus some old shoes, handbags and now retro fashion items couldn’t be taking up too much room.

I suppose it would have been a different story if my brother, or my parents before him, had decided to move house. You just can’t take other people’s personal heirlooms with you.

Kerri Rodley of Queensland-based Domestic Downsizing advises says mature householders who are planning to downsize to get their kids to clear out their own rubbish/treasures.

Move My Home spoke to Kerri the day after she’d helped a still-active client in her eighties downsize from a 4-bedroom home to a 2-bedroom retirement unit.

“She was moving from huge to tiny, and she wanted to take all her family heirlooms and the things she loved, liked her giant dining table,” Kerri said.

“Unfortunately it won’t fit. I had to say, “How can you live and move around in the new space? You’re getting older and you must be able to get around quite easily without things getting in your way. You must be realistic about your new lifestyle.”

It hit home and we sat down and did a plan about how she would walk around the house. It made her rethink her whole strategy, otherwise we’d have taken everything to the new place and not have had anywhere to put it.

“Next week we’ll go to the unit and put sticky-tape on the floor where the furniture will be, rather than bring the furniture and having to move it all around again. I find that works quite well.”

In Kerri’s experience people often fail to consider the practicality of having a large flat-screen TV in a small space.

“That was a big thing for this lady, who watches a lot of TV,” she said. “You must sit well back from it. You need a giant space between the chair and the TV, downsizers don’t often have that space.”

And it’s not just the furniture that must be considered when it comes to sorting belongings.

“Things that are hidden must also be thought about,” Kerri said. “My client loves to cook, and had a fantastic big kitchen in her old home. But the kitchen in the unit is tiny, and all her cooking things, even her cook books, wouldn’t fit in the new space.”

Displaying cherished antiques, artwork and family photos can also pose problems in a smaller home, Kerri said.

“The walls in this lady’s old house were all plastered, but in her new unit there’s a lot of exposed brick and you can’t easily place things on the walls. I’ve said we’ll make a feature wall from her favourite photos and paintings.”

“Then she can keep some others in a box and change them in six months time. It’ll be like a moving art wall. It’s a concept that worked well for her.

“This client was quite a realist. She has some fantastic antique cabinets andChinafrom her mother. I suggested that she pass them on to her children now. Then she can tell the stories about the different items and explain the meanings behind them”

“She thought that was a good idea. This a whole new phase of life, but you can’t just cut off the past – you must incorporate it and blend past and future.”

Kerri Rodley’s Top Tips for Mature Downsizers:

  • Go through everything in your home and ask yourself – is this part of my new life? Do I really love it? Will it be useful in the new home? Do I really need it any more?
  • Be ruthless – you won’t have time in your new active lifestyle to be decluttering, cleaning, and dealing with the past – you will be enjoying the present and planning for the future.
  • Don’t try to do the decluttering, sorting and moving all at once – this will be very stressful, and the whole idea of downsizing is to reduce stress. Take it one room at a time, and have the decluttering and sorting done way before you start collecting moving boxes!

Read the rest of the story here: http://www.domesticdownsizing.com.au/media.htm