For many of us, an immaculate, perfectly organized home simply isn’t a top priority when weighed against other demands on our time.
Between careers, family responsibilities, kids’ activities and other interests and hobbies, we can all too easily slip into the clutch of household clutter. At the same time, a plethora of unneeded stuff can wear on you in unexpected ways.
“Clutter can play a significant role in how we feel about our homes, our workplaces and ourselves,” writes psychologist Sherrie Bourg Carter in Psychology Today.
“Messy homes and work spaces leave us feeling anxious, helpless, and overwhelmed. Yet rarely is clutter recognized as a significant source of stress in our lives.”
Fortunately, savvy homeowners can take steps to minimize the chaos by completing small, manageable organizational tasks every day in between their other activities. Consider how these suggestions might get you started with your decluttering goals — and perhaps rid you of some of the angst of being in perpetual disarray.
- Give up on matching random plastic food storage containers with long-lost lids; just throw away the orphans, buy a cheap new set, and start from scratch.
- In between cooking steps, and without burning dinner, organize one drawer or cabinet at a time by emptying it and sorting for donation any utensils unused over the past year. Clean and dry the storage area before returning the usable tools.
- Do the same with your pantry shelves, tossing expired or unlikely food and wiping up any spillage before replacing still-viable options.
- Sort one refrigerator shelf at a time by emptying contents, scrubbing surfaces, and discarding outdated items.
- Empty your medicine cabinet and drawers, wash them, separate expired medications for proper disposal, and be ruthless when tossing unused toiletries and cosmetics.
- Don’t forget to clean under the sink. That tends to be a place to easily accumulate junk, like those lotion or shampoo bottles with just a bit in the bottom. Give yourself permission to toss those in the recycle bin!
- Match-less socks? Toss ‘em. Ditto de-elasticized undies, pill-y pajamas, worn-out T-shirts, runny hose, and other junk you’re irrationally saving.
- Go through your closet and donate or consign anything you haven’t worn in the past year. That includes anything that renews your buyer’s remorse every time you look at it.
- Rid your closet of those copious and slippery wire hangers; consider buying the inexpensive felt ones that secure clothes better.
- Be ruthless about recycling junk or unwanted mail before you even set in on the counter. Add useful coupons directly to your wallet or purse, maintain a “pending” file for info you may need in the near future, and file important documents immediately.
Throughout the House
- Donate those unwanted gifts you’ve been keeping for years out of obligation. Gift-giving is by nature an inexact science, and someone else may find those items real treasures.
- Get in the habit of putting items back in their designated spaces as soon as you’re done using them.
- Keep the sorting manageable by only decluttering one space per day or only sorting and donating one bagful a day.
Getting rid of your extra possessions won’t necessarily be easy at first, since it can be hard to overcome the vague feeling you may be needing those items someday. But in most cases, you can later replace anything that you regret eliminating, and the extra physical and psychological space that comes with decluttering can be well worth the effort!