This column first appeared in the Albany Times Union on Sunday, May 18th. Click here to see it on the TU website.
Spring is in the air and, for many of us, that means renewed energy to tackle the clutter in our homes. I’m Jes Marcy, a Professional Organizer and Space Consultant, and with this column, I’m looking forward to answering your questions about creating spaces you love.
Clutter is a hot topic because it is endemic in our homes; clearing clutter is the first step to creating a home that feels peaceful. But just knowing where and how to start decluttering can be overwhelming.
We are often inclined to start decluttering by location, for example, the hallway closet or your son’s bedroom. Decluttering is more effective if you work in categories: all of your shoes at once, or all of your dishes at the same time. Set yourself up for success by starting with a group of items that will be emotionally easy for you to sort through and, if possible, a collection of items that currently takes up a large space in your home.
Starting with an emotionally easy category means you are more likely to get through all the items in the group. Easy decisions when you start decluttering prepare you for more difficult decisions later on. Likewise, starting with a physically large collection frees up a lot of space in your home. You will find this helpful as you continue to work through your collections. Linens or clothing are common examples of collections that could qualify as emotionally easy and physically large, but be sure to choose whatever is right for you.
Once you have determined the best starting point, it is time to declutter that collection.
· Set aside a specific time to get this project completed in one go. If the collection is too large to finish in a few hours consider breaking it down into smaller sub-categories. Instead of doing all your linens, do blankets first, then towels, then sheets. Clothing could be broken down into shirts, pants, workout clothing, etc.
· Create an environment that feels good to be working in. Put on your favorite music, make sure there is plenty of light, and have a glass of water nearby.
· Have your decluttering supplies on hand: bags for trash and donation, and cleaning supplies so you can clean as you go.
· Begin by collecting all the items you will be decluttering. It is essential to look at what you have in a new setting so be sure to remove the items from shelves or bins.
· Go through each item and decide if you want to keep it, donate it, or throw it out.
Occasionally there is an item in an otherwise easy category that has a higher emotional value. It could be a family heirloom quilt stored with your blankets or the t-shirt you were wearing on a first date with your husband. These items are memorabilia, and memorabilia is always decluttered last. Any item that feels difficult to make a decision about should be put aside. That decision can happen at a later date.
When the sorting is complete, organize the items you are keeping by returning them to their home and taking care to store them in a manner that allows you to easily see what you have at a glance. Remove the donations and garbage from your house immediately. Commit to delivering items to a donation center or drop-off location within 24 hours.
Decluttering is a process that can seem so daunting it is easier to continually put it off. Start with an easy collection of items and you have taken the first step to turning your house into a home.