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De-Cluttering for the New Year

 Got stuff? Stuff all piled everywhere and driving you crazy? Step-by-step decluttering for the New Year at karenehman.com

Got Stuff?

And by “stuff” I mean piles.

Piles of paper, piles of kids’ items, piles of assorted kitchen clutter, and at this time of year, piles of new Christmas gifts and decorations waiting to be stored away.

Do you know what all of those piles are? They are the result of two little words that you have ingrained into your homemaking vocabulary. Two words that you must rid yourselves of if you want to bust up those piles. Those awful two words ladies are….

“For now”

You know, “I’ll set this junk mail here for now.

“I’ll place these toys and trinkets over there for now.

“I don’t know what to do with all of this ______(you fill in the blank) so I’ll lay it here for now.”

Girlfriends, our “for nows” are ruining us! And do you realize that every pile is just a stack of unmade decisions?

Thus the piles of “for now”.

And our kiddos and husbands only add to our problem. You see most of us get frustrated with ourselves and fuss and fume at the dear members of our families, wanting them to stop creating clutter and get with the program!

The problem, dear sisters, is we have no program in place to get with.

I hope this post can be your program.

For some of us the problem isn’t where to put the stuff. It is that we have too much stuff. So, first let’s learn to do a little dejunking, ridding ourselves of the unnecessary clutter. With what is left, we’ll find a place other than the dreaded culprit piles of “for now” where they currently lodge.

Make a vow that for the rest of this month, you will devote a chunk of time each day to de-cluttering. The result? Less piles and more smiles. Here’s how:

Dejunking Basics

First, you’ll need five boxes. (Or, if you are tackling a really big room or area, bins or laundry baskets.) They will hold items that you come across that belong somewhere other than where they are at the moment.

Label the first box Put Back. Inside of it place another small lidded container such as a shoe box or plastic tote. This box will be used to collect the items that are out of place in your home. The smaller container will hold items such as pens, pencils, barrettes, and coins so they don’t get lost in the bigger box.

The second box will be labeled Take Back. This will corral all of those items in you home that don’t belong to you and need to be returned somewhere. You know, library books, rented DVD’s, a shoe from your son’s friend who spent the night last week, a pan from the sweet lady fom church who made your family brownies two months ago, etc..

The third box will be used for garbage. Label it Toss or Trash. Line it with a garbage bag so that when it becomes full, you can tie it up and transport it to the trash can. If you are a family that recycles, you can also have a box or bin for that purpose too.

Next, you’ll want to have a box for those items that are still in good shape, but no longer needed or wanted at your home. Label this one Charity or Garage Sale. You can even place price stickers on your things at this point if you will be holding a sale. If you will donate your belongings to a charity or homeless shelter, as a box fills up, seal it and put it in your vehicle to be ready to drop off next time you are near a donation center.

The last box in the bunch will be labeled Nostalgia. More on this in a minute.

Before starting, please determine that you will be ruthless. Promise yourself that if you have not used it, needed it (but couldn’t find it), worn it, or enjoyed looking at it in the past year—then you’re going to LET IT FLY!

Haul your boxes into your problem room. Position the boxes in the middle of the floor. Beginning in one corner of the room, pick up an article, and ponder the following:

Is this item out of place? Place it in the Put Back box.

Does this item need to be returned to someone or somewhere? Into the Take Back box it goes.

Is this item in such dire shape that it is no longer usable? Then place it in the Toss box. If it is made of metal, glass, paper, or plastic, it goes in the recycle bin if you are going to add this step too.

Is this item in fine shape but no longer needed by anyone in our family? Into the Charity or Garage Sale box it goes.

•Now here is the final question: Is this item no longer needed by anyone in our family, but one of my children (or my husband) is so attached to it that if I pitch it now, they’ll be emotionally damaged for life and, yes, someday they will be on national TV spilling their guts on some talk show about my cruel actions? Then into the Nostalgia box it goes. All of your kiddos can have a few nostalgia boxes with favorite “keeper” items. I like to attach a note to the item such as “You wouldn’t fall asleep without this stuffed turtle by your side” or “You carried this little lunch pail on the first day of school.”

Once your question and answer exercise is finished, look down in your hand? Is the item still there? It must be:

A. Something you actually want or need and ….

B. It must be located in the proper room of the house.

Continue making a sweep around the entire room, following the same procedure with each item you encounter. Check every drawer, shelf and closet. Make certain you are taking inventory of everything you own. Again, be ruthless! Every so often empty out the boxes—put back the out of place items, throw out the trash bags, transfer the storage and nostalgia items to a box that can be placed in permanent storage, and keep on truckin’! What seems like an overwhelming task will soon gain momentum.

Crank up some music you enjoy or download an audio book to help the time pass more quickly. And if you are like me, you’ll discover that this concept works best when following the buddy system. Junk busting is easier with a friend who is, unlike you, not emotionally attached to your stuff. They will help you decide objectively what you will keep and what you will pitch, give away, or sell. When you come to the Tupperware deviled egg holder your Aunt Tillie gave you ten years ago that you never use, your friend will grant you the courage to get rid of it, offering their full assurance that Aunt Tillie will not suffer irreparable harm because of your decision.

Now, with what is left, you need to think logically. Just having things arranged all ‘neat’ does not necessarily mean they are arranged in a user-friendly and organized manner. You want to place items back according to their frequency of use.

No sense having a bunch of kitchen gadgets you never use in a drawer right by the stove and the measuring cups you do use way across the room.

Taking time to dejunk and then re-think your work patterns will lead to an organized and functional home. You can do it! I have faith in you!

Happy organizing!

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  1. I’ve been working on the main rooms of the house while I was on Christmas break, I do pretty good with those rooms…. but my kids rooms (ages 7 & 4) dear me, I don’t even know where or how to start. My 7 year old is attached to every toy he has (I know really he isn’t but he has a break down when we throw out broken toys!) I’ve gotten tubs, totes, shelves and the result is the same clutter too much stuff! Next would be our garage, I guess this is the place that everything land that doesn’t really have a place to go, this would be our “for now” place.

  2. Thanks for the inspiration. Honestly every room in my house needs a going through ????. I have to wait for the kids to get back to school to start, which is sooner than I think, but I am ready!

  3. My master bedroom and closet are a hot mess…everything that we don’t have room for in the rest of the house always ends up in here! It’s crazy!

  4. Great ideas. Working on doing this. I would say that I need to do our den. It is my office, crafting area, reading area, kids homework area, etc. It is the room that I work on last & usually don’t have the energy for. I would also like to add that my husband’s office/man cave could use a serious cleaning out. We are both working on getting rid of what we don’t need or use but it gets hard with schedules. Let’s see if we can do it in 2014! I have high hopes. Happy New Year.

  5. I need to tackle our bedroom sadly. It has gotten away from me and become our dumping ground. Thanks for the chance to win.

  6. Right now, my living room needs decluttering the most. I was able to tackle both my bedroom and my daughter’s room on New Year’s Day, which was a big relief to get done. Although probably it’s more closets and cabinets throughout the house that need decluttering rather than one particular room. But the living room just has stuff tossed here and there and desperately needs liberated! Thanks for the giveaway.

  7. Oh wow that is so me the whole “for now” thing. My whole house is that way as I have lived in this house 24 years now. Plus 3 years ago after 2 back surgeries I have become disable and I am home more so I look at this mess all the time. Going to try this method even though I know it will take me awhile. Thanks

  8. Thanks a ton for the ideas! I SO want to declutter and I appreciate the organized approach tips. It helps settle me down after getting all nervous about the clutter. Choosing a room is hard…every room could benefit from decluttering, but the worst place is my garage.

  9. Thank you for your great posts and ideas. I came across your name and website in Lisa TerKeurst’s’ book “Craving God”. The room that I need to de-clutter is my scrapbook room/office. It is the room that I do not worry about because I can shut the door and move on but it is also the room that is for me so I should really make it a priority.


  10. My room and my car! I have actually started already, I had a very similar method and thinking :) Almost there! But my problem is being consistent!

  11. Oh my Karen I have the worse habit with the “For Now” statement! Then when I get a big pile of stuff I will move the whole pile somewhere else “FOR NOW” My husband is just as bad so that means we are just a hair from being horters! So I have one bedroom and a 12 x 24 building with stuff “for now” Thanks for allowing me to share!

  12. Too much clutter to pick just one room… but my dining room table collects all my ‘for now’ items. Thanks for the tips.

  13. Well, I am a pastor’s wife and we moved from time to time. We last moved 2 1/2 years ago to a new church and parsonage. Now I still can’t get my husband, and our son and daughter ( who have both completed their graduate studies this past summer) to help go through all the boxes that are in the church’s picnic shelter and in the
    large attic room in the parsonage. I am ready to ” go it alone” if that what it takes….and I think I can be merciless in getting rid of the clutter. Here’s to Decluttering our home in 2014! Drum roll please……..Yay!

  14. We have a “bonus” room over our garage which provides a perfect place for extra storage. This should be a great thing, but instead it provides a really convenient place to put the “just for now” things, the things that don’t have a home but should, or the things that we shouldn’t be keeping in the first place. Our “bonus room” ends up being a “bonus mess!”

  15. We have a worship room / office that desperately needs some work. Granted we only moved in a few months ago, but it needs some serious help.
    Well, and our garage.
    And, I suppose, our master bedroom.
    Ok. It all needs help.

  16. The whole house needs to be done. My target area for today is the master bedroom. My goal for the year 2014, is to go through each room in the house and declutter it. I keep too many items. I will save the sentimental boxes for last, as they are the most difficult to get rid of. Hopefully, I will be on a roll by then and it will not be so hard! Good luck to everyone.

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