Declutter your home or business

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Separating your items helps with decluttering.

Shoshanah Siegel/Signal Tribune

For the past few months, I have found myself slowly going from one decluttering project to another.

What was prompting me was the inability to find items I knew we had, and having things tumbling out of cabinets. We live in a small home, so the floors, walls and storage spaces are prime real estate.

I was determined to make my stand and get rid of what I didn’t want, and find ways and places to store the things I wanted to keep. It has given me a chance to assess if my approach is working and what may need to be modified with my system. I now have more room and can purchase items I really need.

This is not just a hot topic for me, but for many. The interest has prompted numerous TV shows on the subject. These have included Clean Sweep, Neat and Mission Organization, just to name a few. There are also many YouTube tutorials and blogs by various organizers to offer guidance. The leading question on most people’s minds is where to begin. What is the best way to attack the problem?

In this article, I will introduce you to some tried and true approaches and some new ones as well.

Decide to make decisions
Cynthia Ewer, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Organized, states that, “Clutter is evidence of many things: poor habits, lack of organization, sentimental attachment, too much stuff. But, at bottom, each item of clutter is a decision delayed..”

Schedule declutter sessions
A successful attack on clutter requires time, energy and motivation. Scheduling declutter sessions brings the goal out of “I need to get rid of stuff” to real life and actually embracing the idea. In order to really put a dent in decluttering, I would commit to two to four hours once or twice a week. After you get a handle on your task at hand, you may only need 15 minutes at a time for maintenance. Part of the process is creating new habits.

Taking action
Nicole Anzia, a professional organizer, shares her expertise. Here are a few of her practical suggestions that we have used for our decluttering projects:

• Organize first, then buy containers and bins. This weekend my husband and I put a big dent in cleaning out our garage. I was proud of myself for waiting until I knew what we were keeping and where things would be kept before racing over to Dollar Tree for bins. I really needed to know where the items would be stored and the actual space needed to do so.

• Her second suggestion is to not bite off more than you can chew. Just setting a goal to tackle a section of the garage allowed us to focus on the task at hand without exhausting ourselves.

• Nicole also stresses that whatever you plan to do with your items, do it right then or shortly afterward. Never keep bags for charity or an item to give to a friend. When we cleaned out the garage, we had paint that needed disposing. This week, we are taking them to a reclamation center, and I have already dropped five bags of items to my favorite charity.

The four-box method
This technique is the most popular method taught and used, and it is one of my favorites. As I set out to declutter an area, I have four boxes: trash, give away, keep or relocate. Each item in every room is placed into one of the four and then dispersed.

The 15-minute declutter
Around this busy time of the year, you may find yourself needing to declutter quickly. Elizabeth Larkin, a professional organizer who writes for the site About Home, mentions a method where you give yourself 15 minutes to declutter an area. More detailed info about this method can also be found in Leo Babauta’s book, Zen Mind: How to Declutter. It can be applied to any area in your home or business. Here is an example of decluttering your bedroom (sans closet– that area will be in a separate 15-minute segment).

• What you need: This method is similar to the four-box method, but because time is an issue, you will need an extra box– a catch-all bin. To make your decluttering exercise work, be sure to make a date with yourself to spend another 15 minutes in the future to properly determine the fate of the items in this bin. Place your trash and recycling bins in the doorway. Start at your night tables and toss anything that needs to be trashed or recycled into their proper bins. Grab your catch-all bin and walk around your room tossing in any items that are out of place. Start by your bed, and move outward from there. Common culprits here are work papers, mail, books and coats. Return extra linens to the linen closet or, if dirty, put them in the hamper. Next is your nightstand, dressers and any other furniture in the room.

Closet-hanger experiment
While this idea didn’t originate with Oprah Winfrey, she was the one to help give it notoriety. To identify wardrobe pieces to clear out, hang all your clothes with the hangers in the reverse direction. After you wear an item, return it to the closet with the hanger facing the correct direction. After six months, you’ll have a clear picture of which clothes you can easily discard. This experiment could also be applied to a number of clutter-prone areas in your home (where cleaners, toys, linens, tools, hobbies and craft items collect). No item is passed over. Each is considered individually. Some projects take an hour, others days or weeks. However, the technique and principles remain the same.

Japanese approach
When I shared with family at Thanksgiving about the article I was writing, my brother-in-law and niece told me about a book that they read and are using to organize their lives– The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo.

Kondo, a Japanese organizing consultant, breaks down her method in a two-pronged approach to tidying. First, put your hands on everything you own, ask yourself if it sparks joy, and if it doesn’t, thank it for its service and get rid of it. Second, once only your most joy-giving belongings remain, put every item in a place where it’s visible, accessible and easy to reach, and then put it back. Only then, Kondo says, will you have reached the nirvana of housekeeping, and never have to clean again.

Because this book was fun and emphasized a slightly different approach, I will share what I learned in my next article. In the meantime, get your feet wet. You won’t regret it. I no longer cringe when I open the cabinets in my bathroom. I smile and praise myself for a job well done. Now, onto another area.

Shoshanah Siegel provides color consulting as well as space planning, remodeling, upgrading and staging through her firm Your Color Diva. She can be contacted at (562) 427-0440 or at shoshanah.siegel@gmail.com. Samples of her work can be found at houzz.com/pro/shoshanahsiegel/your-color-diva. Shoshanah has received two badges for “Customer Satisfaction”on Houzz.

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