Saturday, May 22, 2010

Should it stay or should it go now....?

OK, so you're looking around your house at all the things that got in sometime, somehow, and for some halfway decent reason.  How do you decide what needs to be kindly shown the door?  And my goodness, where do you start?  Everyone has their own methods - and here's mine so far.

It can be very tempting to tackle the obvious: all those ugly piles of clutter.  But I don't start there.  My visible clutter is often full of things I use on a regular basis.  So I could work hard one day every week decluttering and only accomplish pile shrinkage.  That sounds a little biological, and it's even less attractive than it sounds.

You hide your junk

Dig deep first.  Drawers and cupboards are gold mines for things I can release.

If I
  • don’t use it 
  • don't care about it 
that's great news!  It can go.  I have enough things that I do use or care about.

How do I know I won't use it?

To me, this means: - don't use now, don't foresee any use, and don't try to make one up.  If a use doesn't immediately spring to mind, then most likely, I will never need it.  99.9% of statistics are invented on the spot, but successful unclutterers unanimously report only isolated cases of declutter regret. I would prefer to declutter 100 things from my house even if I later found a use for 1 thing and had to buy it.  Because the charity shop would be stacked with all my "just-in-case" clutter and my house would look great.  Priceless.
  • Just in case, if you are releasing something of noticeable monetary value, consider how you might recoup some of that value.  But I don't bother selling any item that won't get me at least $15 - my time and trouble is worth more.  Your arbitrary time value may vary.
I DO care about these things...
This can be very hard; some things I do care about, and some I will keep.  But remember:  "don't care about it" is different from "don't care for it."  I don't have to dislike it;  I might quite like something, but be honest - would I miss it if it weren't in the cupboard the next time around?  Wait, there's more!  "Don't care about it" is also different from "don't care about the person who gave it to me."  A gift is not your friend or your family. I know it is not always that simple: gifts deserve an entire post to themselves.

I then watch the space magically appear in my cupboards, shelves, and drawers.  Really!  Here are pictures of actual empty shelves in my house:

I admit this is not our main bathroom.  But that glass shelf up by the mirror used to be full of clutter.  All tidied or tossed now, and it holds only the toothbrush charger.

This shelf used to hold my icky marble jars and a stack of platters (one now donated, the rest tidied into the lounge cabinet with our good dinner set and why didn't I do that a long time ago?)

Lots of storage is not always good!

Here is a work in progress:

A bit of history:  We have 50? 100? of those groovy cubes in various stylish pastel colours, formed into a groovy pyramidal cube stack shelf.  That wasn't as useful as we thought, so instead we have them in various places where they have been useful.  Cool.  When I got a hankering for some extra junk shelves in the kitchen, I commanded my handy dandy DH to slap some of these pretty cubes up there.  For telephone books and stuff.

OK, I'm still convinced they could have been secured invisibly just by their backs or something.  Antigravity generator, maybe?  But nooooo, DH mumbles something pointless about wall studs and weight bearing and the next thing I know, my beautiful dream is surrounded by naked wood braces and visible screws.  And I'm too vertically challenged to use the top row, much less the top top.  I know how Alex got those dinosaurs up on the top top, but I don't want anyone calling child services on us.

My point (and I do have one) is that I have these shelves in my sights.  Look how empty they are.  All I have to do is hide DH's belt bag and they could be (like the dinosaurs) history.  Wish me luck!


So, I've cleared shelf and cupboard space.  Now is the it's time to look at those clutter piles.  Once the rubbish is sorted out, maybe there is a home for the rest, beautifully tidied away somewhere.

I then watch the space magically appear on my flat surfaces.  Aaahhhhhhhh!

So why is this process so complicated and difficult?  Many reasons.  But it really is, otherwise, everybody would have already accomplished it without talking about it.  It's not just you and me.

What are your projects and processes?

Some other great posts on this topic: A Thing A Day and Mind Over Clutter.  And don't miss 101 things to reduce.


  1. Very good work. My question before I launch into such an endeavour is how do you prevent junk reappearing? Do you have a "something in, something out" policy?

  2. Mostly, I have a don't spend money because it hurts policy :-) I've always been a bit like that.

    You can also apply "do I love it? do I need it?" to everything that comes in the house. And I have a post developing on gifts as well, because we all need help there.

    Some junk will reappear and you can't help it...because today's important paper is next month's junk.

    But it's funny and true - clutter attracts clutter. If you can clear a surface, you are much less likely to put something down on it.

    You may need to analyse WHY your clutter piles are where they are. Your surroundings reflect your actions. So you get in the door with stuff and then...

  3. Well done you! That is huge work ... it is so satisfying. LoopyNZ it is constant constant constant work to stop junk reappearing. A couple of things that work for me

    - eliminate storage spaces - so we have recently sold a couple of cube storage units and are currently selling our wall unit in the dining room. This gives us very few places for stuff to accumulate.

    - have a '30 day' list of things you want to buy. So I keep a spiral notebook with purchases I want to make, and have to wait till the next month to buy them. Amazing how much it stops you buying. Plus, I buy virtually nothing new, so I have to hunt out stuff (google the story of stuff for motivation)

    - keep a donation box in the laundry to add to as I see things I can give to the op shop - and pop it up when its full

    - encourage people to give clutter-free presents and give the same - organic chocolates and wine, flowers etc are great. With the kids I have a 'regifting box' and I sneak things in there after parties and Christmas before they even notice.

    Good luck!

  4. Gypsy, cool! I've started to think these famous cubes are becoming clutter as I have so many empty ones.

    One thing I must avoid is getting lazy about storage - as shelves become empty I'm less efficient about stacking.

  5. As you continue down the journey you will find you have less and less to store anyway! And you will love the clean spaces so will want it all stacked away neatly. I bet those cubes are really clutter too!!!!