Before you can do a Spring deep cleaning of your home you should really declutter and organise your storage. Do you know how to declutter your home effectively? Do you know why you should?
Most of us have too much stuff. Live anywhere long enough and you’ll find this is true. You realise this the most when the time comes to pack up your home and move. You may need to have a big garage sale to sell all the things you don’t need to take to the next home. But why live with things you don’t need? They’re taking up space in your home and actually causing you stress.
Unnecessary items in a space frustrate your visual senses and lead to guilt that you haven’t kept the space tidy. There’s a constant feeling of having more work to do. It’s subconscious, but it causes anxiety and stress. Findings by Princeton University Neuroscience show that cluttered environments impede focus.
Creativity and problem solving become stilted. Decluttering your home will lower your stress and allow you to be present. This is especially important if you work from home, but could apply to cooking an evening meal. UCLA researchers found that people who live in tidy homes are happier and have far less anxiety.
How do you feel right after tidying and cleaning your space? I bet you feel clear-headed, creative and fresh. Spring is the time of the year when we’re compelled to clear out the cobwebs of Winter and give our homes a fresh new vibe. Before you even consider redecorating, you have to declutter for a fresh spring home.
Though I try to declutter often, life can get in the way and stuff accumulates. Especially in Winter. Do you find that your clutter bunnies multiply over Winter? In Winter we tend to hoard and store – it’s instinctive and in our DNA due to the ‘season of lack’ our ancestors experienced. Spring hits and it’s time to purge. We want our homes to be like the new season – airy, light, bright, and fresh.
Getting rid of excess stuff will give you mental and spiritual freedom. And maintaining a clutter-free state (by not buying things you don’t really need), will give you some financial freedom.
Do you have a system for when you do the spring cleaning? I tend to tackle our house by room, so let’s start with the bedrooms.
So, put on some happy music, grab your coffee or a cold drink, and prepare to face the shame of your excess.
How To Declutter Your Clothing Cupboards
Do each room separately. Supervise your kids’ rooms – even if your kids are old enough to be responsible for their own cupboards (teens may manage on their own). If they are old enough, don’t do it for them, but do facilitate the exercise if they’ve never done a big clear-out before. You want to instil good habits in them and all that. You will need to be on hand to check clothing sizes. You may need to convince some that they can no longer wear that shirt that is 2 sizes too small. Even if it was their favourite.
Step 1: Make 3 (or 4) Piles
I’m going to call my three piles ‘Bin’, ‘Give’, and ‘Mine’. You can add a fourth if you want to try to ‘Sell’ anything.
- Bin: broken, stained and worn items – chuck them straight in a black bag and dump them in the Wheelie for Bin Day.
- Give: items that are in good condition can be passed on to someone else that may need them more than you.
- Mine (Keep): the things you keep have got to feel like they are ‘yours’ and that you could never part with them.
- Sell: take good photos and post them on FB Marketplace (Sundays are a good day for activity) or local Buy/Sell groups. Don’t price things too high – you want to get rid of them as fast as possible. Ignore the responders that use the generic “Is this available?” – they’ll waste your time. A serious buyer will take the time to give you a more personal message and be eager to collect asap.
Step 2: Pull out all your apparel
Take all your underwear, clothes and shoes out and lay them out by type around the room. I want you to see how much you have. Chances are you could survive with less. This mindset will help when it comes to deciding what to part with.
Step 3: Fill the Bin
Anything that’s broken, badly stained or very worn goes straight in a black refuse bag and straight to the bin. You’ll immediately feel lighter, and it gets you off on a good start for the clear-out. An exemption for stained/ripped clothing is to keep a pair aside if you do painting/woodwork/craft work. I keep a set each for myself and my hubby. Missing a button doesn’t count as broken – don’t be wasteful on a small fix. but remember to get it fixed.
Step 4: Retire the redundant wardrobe fillers
People change. You may not be wearing things that you wore five years ago. Five years ago, I worked at a kitchen manufacturing company. I had to dress for working in an office environment and visiting clients’ homes or building sites. Now that I have my own online business and work from home, I’m dressing for my own comfort. I don’t really need to see clients, except for the occasional video call. I do get dressed every morning though – I promise I’m not rocking PJs to the morning school run – but no more slacks and pumps.
If your life circumstances have changed, your wardrobe may have changed. Maybe you’re done having babies, but still have maternity pants lurking on your shelves. Don’t keep things that are taking up hanging/shelf space. Put them all in the ‘Give’ pile and pass them on to someone who can use them. Have your sizes changed? If you’ve dropped a few sizes, you know what to do with those bigger items. If you have ‘goal size’ jeans from 10 years ago hanging out in a box – yes, I’m talking to myself here. Get rid of them. When you drop those sizes you can treat yourself to a new wardrobe. Unless there’s a really classic piece in that box, those old clothes may be out of style.
Got a big white wedding dress hanging out in the corner of your cupboard (hopefully in a garment bag)? Why? Are you going to use it again? I sold mine to a grateful bride on a budget before we moved from Joburg to Strand. Nothing like moving to a different province/country to force a grand declutter. Let someone else enjoy that dress. You already have the photos for the memories. Unless you’re super sure your daughter, (if you have one) will want to and would have a similar dress size.
Step 5: Fashion show time
Now that you’ve narrowed your clothing down to a more manageable pile, try things on. Check if items fit your body and your style. The ones that make feel awesome and you know without a doubt are keepers, go in ‘Mine’. Put the stragglers in ‘Give’ or ‘Sell’.
- If you haven’t worn that skirt for a year, you’re never going to wear it.
- Similarly, if you haven’t worn a certain jersey this Winter, you won’t wear it next year either.
- It’s okay to change your mind about an item you used to love.
- On the fence about an item? YouTuber Caroline A. Winkler says to ask yourself how hard you would work to save it if it got covered in red wine.
- If your kid’s outgrown clothes are still in good condition, another kid will appreciate them. Kids grow so fast and hardly wear their clothes out. Don’t have any younger children or relatives to pass them on to? Donate them to a local charity.
How To Declutter Paper Paraphernalia
This time we’re doing ‘TRASH’ and ‘FILE’ piles.
Our home seems to accumulate a lot of paper clutter. It may be the thousands of our son’s drawings. Most of the paper clutter ends up in the study or around my alcove desk in the lounge. Clearing up clutter is especially important in your work area. You can’t focus if you’re subconsciously worrying over the stuff surrounding you.
We try our best to put papers in designated places that I’ve created. I have files for all the medical, car, insurance, home, pets, and personal documents. I have a folder for school things – it’s helpful to have it all in one place. Make a ‘FILE’ pile.
My son loves to draw – pictures end up all over the place. I can turn my head right now and see one from yesterday sitting on the kitchen table. I’ve been putting them all in the bottom drawer of the desk in his room, so that needs to be dealt with.
We live in the beautiful Boland area of Cape Town – I have a small box of leaflets for when visitors come from out of town. But I’m throwing those out, because … Google. And after living here 6 years, we have a better idea of where to take visitors now.
Grab a recycle bag and put all the unimportant papers in the ‘TRASH’. As you come across things that need filing, pop them into their respective piles for later.
Get all of the ‘File’ items into their relevant files asap (whether lever-arch or Google Drive).
Which desk would you rather work at?
How To Declutter Your Kitchen
After doing all the personal clothing and paper clearing, the kitchen decluttering may seem a lot easier. It’s easier to clean the insides of the cabinetry if everything is pulled out, so this is a good time to do both. Get a ‘donate/sell’ box going.
- First, defrost the freezer. While the ice is melting, throw out anything with freezer burn or that is past use.
- Remove everything from the pantry and check ‘best-before’ dates.
- Check your plasticware collection – does everything have a matching lid? Remove the stragglers that don’t.
- Get rid of any broken or chipped crockery that you’ve been hanging on to.
- Thin out the mug herd
- Get stuff off the counters – find homes for as much as possible inside the cabinetry.
- You’re never going to use that fondue set hanging out in the back of the annoying corner unit.
- Remove all the multi-coloured plastic character plates if your kid is well-past toddler age – get them outta here.
- Anything you need to have out on the counter should be corralled into a basket or onto a tray so that visually, it looks like one item.
Do you really use those recipe books? Do they serve an aesthetic purpose? Don’t keep them if they’re not pretty and you never use them. I already gave mine away last year – I use Pinterest for recipes now so the books were just taking up space. I never used the ones I had anyway, sorry Jamie Oliver. The only recipe ‘book’ I have is a file with family recipes in it that gets tucked in on top of the microwave.
How To Declutter Toys
Got kids? We only have one and the toy mess still gets to us. He’s just had his 8th birthday and received some more, and Christmas is fast approaching. I’ve already told him we need to do a toy clear-out before Christmas.
I’ve already set aside a box of Duplo, his older baby-friendly toys, and books for toddlers for his new cousin. We still need to do a ruthless sweep of his room. It’s quite small and the toy clutter tends to get out of hand. He does tend to be distracted by other toys when he’s started playing with something.
Researchers at the University of Toledo (Ohio, US) have found that children with fewer toys enjoy more quality playtime with what they have. Kids that have too many toys tend to flit from one thing to another and get easily distracted by other things. The options become overwhelming. I’m no psychologist, but this makes so much sense. I’ve observed how my son jumps from one type of toy to something completely different and doesn’t settle on playing with the one thing – he ends up getting bored and wanting to watch tv.
Our son’s got a lot of Legos and he plays with them the most. It’s the most versatile toy, especially for an only child. When I take his Lego collection out and let him play with it in the Dining Room, away from his other toys, he will play with it for hours… days in fact.
I’m so tempted to get rid of everything else. I’ve already decided on a few things that can go. For one thing, the ‘plush’ toy collection seems to breed and multiply on its own. We’re hoping to do a bedroom makeover for him sometime soon, with new built-in cupboards and storage shelves. But first, some toys have got to go.
You may need to sit down and have a serious conversation with your child about giving his/her old toys away and how they would be blessing a less fortunate child. We do actually do this at least once a year, so it’s not a new concept for our boy, but this time we’re really going to do a toy take-down.
How To Declutter Your Shed or Garage
We don’t have a garage – we have a large shed (Wendy House). It houses gardening things and tools. But also a lot of stuff for future renovations, and a lot of random stuff. It’s overdue for a proper clear-out. There are definitely some things in there that can go to other homes…
We need to take everything out of the shed, clean it, and then pack in only the absolute essentials. There are a few items we may be able to sell. These things are taking up all the walking space in the shed, making it hard to find stuff. My husband can never find the tools he’s looking for when he has to do a quick fix. The tools definitely need reorganising. But he also needs to learn to put things in the proper places when he’s done with them *calling you out now, Mr Looyen*…
I also know how out of hand a double garage can get. My dear late dad was notorious for this. I must say he did know where everything was, though no one else did. But if he had had proper storage systems, it would have been a great workspace for him. I’m sure the mess contributed to a reluctance to start projects. I believe the clutter hindered him from getting some things done. Hindsight, huh?
Sheds and garages need proper storage systems for all the items we store in them. Investing in a proper system (whether you buy or DIY), is paramount to a well-organised storage area. So, the idea is to get everything out, get rid of useless clutter, install a storage system of some kind, and only pack back in that which is deemed worthy.
How To Declutter Open Shelving
If you have open shelving in your kitchen, living areas or bedrooms, you should reassess what you’re displaying on them.
Remove anything that doesn’t gel with the aesthetics or is just filling space. Only display the pretty mugs, not the boring randoms you use when the pretty ones are in the dishwasher.
Received/inherited a bunch of bric-a-brac dust collectors? Don’t feel guilty about getting rid of them. They’ve got to go. Prioritise your mental health over sentimentality. Too many small things make for a cluttered look.
If you’re planning to remove all your kitchen wall cabinets and replace them with shelves… don’t. You’ll regret it. Minimal open shelving is best for kitchen storage.
You need to use all 7 elements of design to really do open shelves well, but the basics are:
- You need a balance of larger items grouped with only a few smaller items.
- Repeat elements for a more cohesive look – the easiest is to repeat a certain colour or texture.
- Group items in little vignettes of three.
Create Designated Storage
Avoid having to do this again next year by setting up storage solutions for your belongings. Make sure to use those storage solutions day-to-day. Put things away in their ‘home’ after you use them, not down on a counter to put away later.
Are your household members prone to not putting things away immediately? Create a ‘Tidy Box’ in a utility area or spare room. Drop stray items in your ‘tidy box’ and then empty that box once a week and put the things where they live. If someone is looking for their things during the week, they know where to look.
Keep The Clutter Bunnies Out Of Your Home
You don’t want to be asking yourself “Why is there so much stuff in my house? I did this last year…” Try to set your home up for a constant clutter-free state. make it as easy as possible for the inhabitants of the home.
“It’s about making the system adhere to the habits that people already have” – Caroline A. Winkler
Try to practise the following:
- Put storage systems in place. Make sure everything has a place to live, instead of floating between spaces.
- Create dropzones in the most convenient spots (for keys, wallets, etc.)
- Make storage easy to access – everyday items get priority placement
- Do daily tidy sprints through the house – a quick 5-minute run. Put those things in the tidy box if you can’t put them in their correct place right away.
- Don’t walk around your house empty-handed. If you’re walking from the kitchen to the bathroom and you’ve left your handbag on the counter, pick it up and drop it off in your room on your way.
- Get rid of stuff you’re not using. Do a monthly purge so it’s not an overwhelming annual event.
- Buy less stuff. Before you make new purchases, ask yourself if it’s going to be used as much as you think. Or will it end up gathering dust in a corner?
A proper Spring Clean and Declutter may take some time. Don’t try to do it all in one day. Make a list to keep you on track, and promise yourself a reward for when you’re done… but not more stuff. Go out to dinner so you don’t dirty the kitchen you’ve just cleaned.
How do you like to tackle your own Spring Cleaning adventure? Share your tips in the comment section below!