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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 love this! We just moved into a new home … so we have BOXES, BOXES, BOXES – and more BOXES everywhere! I actually opened one GIGANTIC box and found it was packed full of old records — from about a billion BOXES we “inherited” from my late father-in-law’s estate. Bless his packrat-ing soul!! I already knew that most of the records were scratched — and we don’t own a record player — so, despite my husband’s kicking and screaming – I put it outside for a Goodwill pickup. Someone got a nice Christmas box filled with nostalgia! :-) haha Thank you for these great tips! I’m going to try and implement one that used to help me SOOO much: when you’re done with it, put it back where it goes! It’s crazy how much clutter we’d get rid of if we simply dealt with things as they happen. So instead of putting the junk mail on the counter – throw it away! Instead of setting the glue gun back down on the bench – put it back in the craft drawer! So simple … right? hahaha Obviously not. But we will survive!

  2. A “few” piles????? Never. Oh my do I have PILES and PILES everywhere. I’m great at piles and surprised at how I can get out of bed in the middle of the night and go to the bathroom and back without possibly severly injuring myself. I must, I must make it a priority to get rid of stuff. I keep entirely way too much, every toy, outfit, you name it I have it probably. Don’t even start on the newspapers (the news is long gone by the time I get to some of the papers). I have said I will begin this process next week or this coming week if I don’t have pneumonia. I can do this and will be happier for it.

  3. My motivation came from cleaning out an Aunts house after she passed away, she was a hoarder big time. I don’t want to do that to my only child. I am a KEEPER! So last year I made a New Years Resolution that everyday I would do one of three things with at least 1 item, those three things were
    I did pretty good most of the year, so I picked up up again this year and hope to be even more diegent with it.
    It makes the task not quite so daunting but of course it will take alot longer.

  4. sadly my entire house needs to be de-cluttered, I am hoping that some of these little hints will help me get started, though the task is so big it is overwhelming and some days I just look around and cry, ashamed of what I have allowed my world and home to look like.

  5. Thanks for the inspiration. Right now my “projects” need decluttering. I have so many unfinished projects. I couldn’t possibly finish all of them.

  6. My spare bedrooms have all 3 become clutter magnets piled waist high. It seems overwhelming and I get exhausted thinking about it or approaching it.

  7. I have a paper problem. Paperwork on the kitchen table, the island, my office, neat piles on the floor by the couch and my bed…..
    It’s too much!

  8. It’s a toss-up between my kitchen & bedroom – this is a very practical article on how to deal with all those piles – I have so many!

  9. My garage! We moved 6 months ago and never finished unpacking the boxes – we can only park one car in the remaining space. I am terrified to even open those boxes, though! Where will I put everything?!

  10. Some good inspiration… my worst area is my basement, the whole of which has been turned into stacks of legitimate storage items and piles of things I just haven’t dealt with yet!

  11. My “public” house is usually clean and decluttered…my office and an extra bedroom are so full of junk that the doors hardly open, my closet is the same. My bathroom and one extra bathroom in our house are also so cluttered that it is very hard to find the thing I need. I get started but then get sidetracked and it just gets worse. I definitely need some guidance and encouragement. Determined to get it done this year.

  12. My “dining room” since we do not have a dining room set our “dining room” quickly became the catch all space for unpacked boxes and renovation supplies when we moved in 6 months ago. The boxes change but the room is always cluttered.

  13. My entire house – going thru divorce then husband died. Must now go thru boxes the 2nd time to make decisions – keep, discard, save for kids. Very overwhelming!

  14. I have so many areas that need work that it becomes overwhelming. I am going to press forward and continue working to get clutter under control.. I am currently working on my bedroom and closet.

  15. I’m finally ready to tackle my “for now” clutter!!! I’ve had family here for most of Christmas Break, and I’m just taking Christmas decorations down this weekend! Time to get de-cluttered!! Thank you so much for giving me the motivation!! I’m starting with my closet!!

  16. Without a doubt my bedroom because I am in between places living with my mom at the moment. Everything I own is either in my bedroom or the garage where I have everything else temporarily stored until I move to my new place. It is no fun being between places because I find I have to go scavenging through the boxes in the garage to find some of my things since they are not in their permanent place right now. It also makes me feel that much more unorganized when not living in my own place.

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