Let’s consider the size of things first: decluttering and organising projects come in all kinds of sizes: single items (e.g. all clothes), projects (e.g. one room), bigger projects (a whole flat), and all of them need a different approach. Some things are very similar though, and once you get a grip on the basics, the size of the project only really affects the time it takes to get it done.
Let’s look at a single person’s bedroom, for example. Those tend to be a bit of a mixed bag containing a bed, wardrobe(s), chest of drawers, maybe a seat of sorts, clothes, shoes, travel items (luggage, maybe), and oftentimes a certain number of storage items (boxes of photos or picture frames, arts and crafts things, cardboard rolls, presents, decorations, … you get my drift, I’m sure. Not pointing any fingers.
The bedroom is often used for storage because ‘I only sleep here and there is a lot of space anyway’. The worst excuse I have ever heard! How can you relax in a bedroom that is full of stuff that doesn’t belong? Since overwhelm is mostly the result of too much stuff in the wrong place, let’s find space for things to end up in. This is often tricky because there simply is no space left. Which means you have to create space first.
Now that you are in the right mindset, let’s look at strategies:
Look at stuff that does not belong. Anything that does not belong in this particular space needs to go. I realise, of course, that there may not be any space elsewhere. However, it makes sense to temporarily move those things out of the space you work on. Some of those things may have similar items elsewhere, so take them there. If they don’t (e.g. travel cases), tuck them away outside the room and keep going.
Deal with small things first. Once the small stuff has found a home and all similar things have been transported to a single space (e.g. all the batteries go into one bag in one drawer, all the clothes pegs go into one place next to the laundry rack, etc.), you will likely find that you end up with a drawer or two that are either completely empty or at least offer some space for new stuff.
You may also find that some floor space has been liberated that can be used to shift things into for the time being. The best spot to deal with a lot of things in a bedroom is the bed itself: lots of flat space to put things down for a while.
Select one area of storage or one type of items and only look at those for now. In a bedroom, typical items might be just socks or shoes or jackets. Take them out one by one, look at them and decide on what to keep and what not to keep. Place the keepers on the bed, and the rest into bags or boxes destined for charity, or – in some cases – the trashcan.
If you choose to do this by storage area (a wardrobe or chest of drawers), you may end up with items that do not belong in that room. Make sure to relocate those to the right place as you go along. This process may seem tedious, but it will ensure that your space only contains what belongs here.
Repeat this process with other items or storage units. Once you have done the rounds, take stock of what’s on the bed and decide on the best place to put these things. You may have accumulated more t-shirts than you started out with as there were more in several places, so you will need to find a place where they all can go together. Tip: don’t forget that some items may be hiding in your laundry baskets, so leave space for a little more!
Set an order of things. Sometimes one thing needs to be taken care of before you can even attempt another. Example: you have a bagful of tins for your food storage sitting in a corner of the kitchen but there is no more space to store them:
The lesson here is that whenever you find that a certain preparation is needed, think it through before you start and begin with the one step that clears the path for all the others.
You will find that most of those tricks can be tweaked and adapted to all parts of your home, all kinds of projects, all sizes and all types of items. Just think it through before you start, and when necessary take a step back to regroup and plan some more.
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Hi, my name is Tilo Flache. My current mission: help my clients declutter mind and space.
This blog contains pointers for your journey towards a happier living experience.