Monthly Challenge: Identify What You Love

Grandma's jewelryWhen helping clients to declutter, one criteria I ask is if they love an item. If they say yes they do, I then ask them if it is placed where they can enjoy it regularly. It can be displayed on a shelf, hang prominently in your closet, or be the first thing you see when you open a cupboard door.

If an item makes you smile when you see it, reminds you of people or events you cherish, and puts you in a better mood, you don’t want to hide them. Even if it needs to be stored in a box to protect it, make sure the box is accessible so you take a peek at it from time to time.

My challenge to you this month is to go through your home and identify the things you have that you love. If you already display and enjoy it, good for you! If it is not displayed, why not? What is out that you don’t love so you can make room for something you do?

And as an added challenge, if you don’t love something, why not remove it permanently? You can give away, donate, or sell; the result it you make space to enjoy the things that you love.

I’m doing this challenge myself. The photo shows some of the costume jewelry that was my grandmother’s. While I have worn the pieces on occasion, they are stored away in boxes and I forget I have them. I want to find a way to safely store them but in a location I look at often as a reminder. And maybe I’ll even find an occasion to wear them!

Post updates in the comments to share your stories, challenges and successes.

New Year Decluttering Check In

2016 GoalsWe are nearing the end of January. My first question is, “How did that happen so fast?!?” My next question is, “if you said you were going to declutter in 2016, how is it going?”

Setting goals (or resolutions) for a new year is a common practice, and one I think is very beneficial. It helps to set an intention for how you want the current year to be different from the previous one. And while setting an intention is where you start, you have to decide on action steps and implement them to make them happen.

If your intention was to declutter and/or get organized in 2016, what steps have you taken? I’ll remind you that you need to declutter BEFORE you organize; otherwise you are going to organize everything including clutter instead of what you want and need to have in your home.

“It is only too late if you don’t start now.” Barbara Sher

If you haven’t yet taken steps toward your intention, that’s okay. Choose to begin TODAY. While I believe that tackling big areas over a day or 2 is powerful, I also encourage you to tackle something (ANYTHING!) today. Maybe it is a stack of papers on your counter. What about that drawer of clothes you keep meaning to go through. Do you have a phone list on your refrigerator? Why not type or write a new one with updated information and throw away the old one (including sticky notes).

If the weather is bad in your area this weekend, why not set aside a block of time and clean out your closet – bathroom – refrigerator – (fill in with area you need to tackle most).

Get out your calendar and decide when you are going to do some decluttering/organizing, then WRITE IT DOWN IN INK! Plan this activity in your schedule as you would any other appointment.

Need some encouragement to get going or to keep going? Contact me to schedule a phone consultation to help you lighten your load in 2016.

What Do I Do With It?

You’ve gone through your things and decided what you want to let go of. Congratulations! Now, what are you going to do with them? Not knowing where they are going means they remain in your possession, and the possibility of not letting them go.

This is a block many people face when decluttering. They aren’t sure what to do with an item, so they keep it until they decide. And a decision is not made, so the item (or items) remain as clutter.

Of course, the easiest thing to do is to simply throw every unwanted item in the trash. If you are like me, however, you hate creating unnecessary trash. Fortunately, there are other ways to remove things from your home. Here’s some ideas:

Give Away

Who do you know that could use some of your things? A friend, family member, co-worker are some people to think about. Also consider listing it online as a freebie. Craigslist, Facebook groups (search for them and be sure to follow the groups rules) or any other publication that posts free items. Maybe host a party with friends where everyone brings certain items (clothes, books, household items) they no longer want for everyone else to look through. (Read here for the benefits of giving away.)

Donate

Most charities take clothing and household items in good shape, and many will come pick up large items. Be sure to check before donating, and remember to get a receipt for the tax write-off (check with your tax preparer to see exactly what you need).

Sell

This one is the most time consuming, but if you have items of value, it can be worth it. The other challenge is that your things remain in your possession longer and may become clutter again. Be selective about what you try to sell, and put a time limit on how long your try to sell it.

Where to sell? Craigslist, Ebay, Facebook Swip-Swap groups (search Facebook for groups near you and read their rules). Consignment stores in your area offer another option. Hold a garage sale (and get neighbors or family members to go in with you for more items)

Recycle

If the items aren’t worth selling or giving away, see if you can recycle them in your community.

Trash

Some things just need to go in the trash. If allowed in your community, place items beside your trash bin on trash day to allow people to take them.

**Please note: hazardous materials have special requirements for disposal. Do NOT just put them in the trash. Know your local laws and options for safe, legal disposal.

Now you have some ideas to help you determine what to do with things you have decluttered. As you go through items in your home, put them in groups of where they will go when you finish. Get them out of your house as soon as possible, and enjoy the space you have worked hard to create!

Pass It On

Hair productsA few years ago, a friend decluttered her bathroom. When finished, she gifted me with a variety of hair gels, creams and mousses. Since we have a similar type of hair, it meant I didn’t have to buy hair products for months. As an added bonus, I got to sample brands and products new to me and learn what worked with my hair and what didn’t. My friend gave herself the gift of space in her home.

Think about this when you are decluttering. It is often easier to let go of something if you know it will go to someone who will use it. Who do you know that would enjoy and use the items you no longer need? It may be a friend or family member. It may be a co-worker. It may be a charity that collects items to give to people setting up a household.

AND….do not let the desire to find someone to pass things on to prevent you from releasing them from your life and home. This was a mistake I made. I had household items I no longer needed, but wasn’t sure what to do with them. I would keep boxes of things for weeks trying to figure out who would want them. I finally realized that if I didn’t know someone to ask while sorting, it was better to load into my car and take to a local charity drop off as soon as I had finished.

If you know someone to give it to, great! Call them and set a day and time to drop them off. Mark on your calendar the day you will leave items at a charity collection location. If possible store items you are donating in your vehicle so they are out of your living space.

CAUTION: Be sure to check items for an expiration date and throw away anything past that date. Some personal care items may not have an expiration date, but for health and safety reasons the trash is a safer place for them. Do some research and use your best judgment and remember….if in doubt, throw it out!

If someone offers you some of their decluttered items, choose wisely what you take. Carefully consider if this is something you would use. It is fine to take some things to try them out, but if they don’t work, pass them on or trash them. Don’t let them become clutter in your space!

Decluttering For Others

Air diffusersAfter I moved in with my boyfriend, I helped him declutter several spaces in the house. The pantry was relieved of boxed and canned goods, some of which had expired 3 years before. The hall closet was cleared of expired medicines, and organized to make it easier to find things.

Eight months later, the hall closet needed another going over. I wanted to check for medicines that had expired since the previous clean out, and I wanted to further declutter and organize things better.

One thing, however, challenged me. Air diffusers. For some reason I had trouble releasing them, even though we use a different brand around the house. I was stumped as to why I had so much trouble with these. We don’t use them, I hadn’t even looked for one of them to use, they would require a different brand refill if we wanted to use them AND if I threw them out, they would be easy and inexpensive to replace.

So what was my block?

They weren’t mine.

I hadn’t made the choice to purchase them, and I wasn’t sure if my boyfriend wanted to use them again.

This is important to remember. It is hard to declutter another person’s things because you don’t know how they feel. Even if they say “get rid of all my old t-shirts” there may be one in there that they want to keep.

This is why I work WITH my clients, and don’t just go in and throw things out. The criteria they may have for choosing what to keep and what to release is not mine. I can guide and encourage, and point out reasons why it would be good to let something go, but ultimately they have to decide if an item, even an unused item, is important for them to keep.

This is also why I rarely help someone declutter their spouse/partner’s belongings. The person the items belong to need to be involved in the process if they are able and willing. This may mean that half of a closet is decluttered and organized while the other half isn’t, but it is better than getting rid of items someone else treasured. (And chances are, once the other person sees how the other half looks, they want the same results for their things!)

Declutter. Decluttter everything that belongs to you, and encourage others to join your efforts. And allow them the opportunity to declutter for themselves.

 

“Where Do I Begin?” 6 Tips to Get Started Decluttering

One of the biggest challenges to decluttering is knowing where to begin. If you are facing a whole-house declutter, it can be overwhelming. The advice to “just pick something and start” is not bad, and it is certainly better than nothing.

However, if you just jump in anywhere and start, you may find yourself coming back to the same area again. Or you may find you are decluttering separate areas, but because you can have the same item in multiple locations throughout your home, you may still have clutter.

Add to that the numerous excuses we can all give to postpone getting started on any task we do not want to do. I know my apartment was never as clean as when I had an exam or paper due. Clutter and dust didn’t bother me until I needed to focus on studying, and I felt I “had” to take care of it first or I couldn’t concentrate.

No matter what excuses you tell yourself, you can get yourself going by following these 6 tips:

  1. Do not begin with anything sentimental. These are the hardest items to choose to release, and you need to save them for later, after your declutter “muscles” are better developed.
  2. Do not begin with any area that has an overwhelming amount of items in it. If your closet is packed, your book shelves are groaning with books or your desk overflowing with papers that may be too much to start with. Pick a smaller area.
  3. Your kitchen or bathroom may be a good place to start, depending on your preferences. If you like to cook, the kitchen won’t work. But go bigger than one drawer in your dresser or desk. Tackle the entire dresser or desk!
  4. Don’t wait until everything is “perfect” to begin. Yes, you’ll need trash bags and boxes to sort out the trash and get rid of items, but don’t think you have to have the perfect storage solution in place for the remaining items. Work with what you have to get started. You WILL find excuses not to begin, so pick a day and a time, write it on your calendar and begin.
  5. If you have a partner, do not begin with areas that are used by both of you, especially if they are resistant to decluttering. Pick an area that is yours.
  6. Add in things that make you happy: music that energizes you, a favorite beverage to sip on, a small snack to keep you going. Make the experience more pleasant so you don’t dread getting started.

The thought of decluttering can be overwhelming, especially if you need to go through your entire house. Don’t let that thought stop you. Use the tips that help you decide where to start and then just BEGIN.

Keep What Makes You Happy

Marbles 1My boyfriend recently received a box from his mom. Among the things inside were toys he had as a child. It was like Christmas in the middle of summer as he pulled the items out and shared his memories with me.

What he spent the most time looking at and talking about was a plastic bag filled with marbles. Marbles in all colors and different sizes. Marbles he had won and traded for. Marbles he had played with, collected and saved. The joy on his face and in his voice brought me much happiness as well.

Later, he took each marble from the bag and carefully cleaned them. There was no question that these needed to be displayed where we could see them regularly, a visual reminder of the happy memories. We didn’t have anything that would display them properly, so I purchased the jar you see in the photo. Placed on a shelf near a window, they always make me smile when I look at them.

What makes you happy to see? What brings a smile to your face when you look at it? These are things to consider keeping, and more importantly, to display, where you can see them, and smile, regularly.

Release what no longer lights you up, to make space for that which does.

What do you have on display that brightens your day? What is waiting in the back of a cabinet or closet that you could bring out into the light?

*Note: some items you choose to keep may be harmed by being out in light and air. Please use caution in choosing which items you display and where you display them.