Have you ever found yourself in a situation in which you don't even know where to start to declutter a room that is so messy that there's not even room to start organizing anything? Have you tried to apply the "a place for everything and everything on its place" philosophy but for some reason you can't get it to work because everything keeps just piling up? Here are 7 inspirational tips that might inspire you in the tedious process of decluttering a messy room, or a whole house.
- START WITH FLAT SURFACES. Either you like the minimalist style or you hate it (think about a Zen house), one thing is clear: it's the best example of a decluttered living space. We don't really have to reach that limit if we don't like it, but there's something very comforting and relaxing about a space in which everything seems to have a place and a reason to be (either that reason is practical or sentimental). As I said, you don't have to reach the limit of removing all your belongings our of the way, but you can apply that philosophy in certain areas, for example on flat surfaces: leave your desk, the coffee table, the kitchen counter, or your bedside table free of stuff that clutter it, and don't have any purpose on there. Think about a bedside table where you've been piling up the four books that you want to read in the next months, a box of painkillers you needed three weeks ago, the earrings you were wearing to a party you attended last Saturday, a pack of tissues in case you need one at night, the phone charger, a pencil from where you were taking notes two months ago, a broken bracelet that you try to decide if you want to keep or fix, and of course the bedside lamp and the alarm clock. Now, imagine the same surface with just the last two items: the bedside lamp and the alarm clock. Isn't that a cleaner image? Now, apply the same to the rest of the flat surfaces of your house. You'd be amazed at how much a living space can change when we remove items out of flat surfaces. The cleaner a surface it, the harder it will be for you to pile up things there because you'll want to keep it that way. And visually the impression is going to be way better.
- KEEP THE FLOOR CLEAN OF STUFF. Removing all the stuff that was on the top of the bedside table to place it inside boxes on the floor next to the bed is NOT a solution, because the only thing you'll manage with that is to have a room that visually will look packed and cluttered (treat the floors as you treat flat surfaces: they need to be cleared of stuff). Instead, place the books on the bookshelf, the painkiller on the meds cabinet (if you don't have any, you totally have to get one, they sell even really small ones that can fit on every bathroom wall), the earrings inside a jewelry box, the phone charger in the drawer, the pencil inside a pencil pot or in the pencil case on your office (you'll go pick it up if you need it), and decide what to do with the broken bracelet that has been catching dust in there for a long time now (if it has some kind of sentimental value or is an expensive item, go get it fixed, if it's a cheap one with no sentimental value just throw it). You'll be amazed when you discover that a lot of items you've been piling up around can be kept in the place where they belong... and that the world will keep going after it! A place for everything, and everything on its place. If you apply that rule, you'll know where everything goes.
- THINK OUT OF THE BOX. Maybe your problem is that your house is too small to be able to fit everything on shelves and cabinets and remove everything out of the way, but a lot of times we forget about all the possibilities we have only because we're used to store things a certain way. Are you placing all your spices on top of the counter of the kitchen because there's no space in the cabinets? I'm sure your kitchen's wall can store a spice rack somewhere (they come in all the sizes and shapes). Your problem are pans? You can even hang them! Browse sites like Pinterest, and you'll find one thousand storage ideas for every single one of your items. Sometimes we tend to keep things in one certain place because we've always done it that way, and then for some reason we move it and we realize how much better the new space it to keep that item. Take a look around at how you're keeping things and where you're storing stuff, wonder if you're keeping all your belongings in the most practical places or if there's somewhere else where you could place them. It might mean reorganizing your whole house, but at the end it will worth it. And you can even take that as an opportunity to clean deeply all the surfaces and drawers.
- ONE STEP AT A TIME. Now, let's be sincere and admit where the real problem is: the big issue about clutter is not about the items we use daily like kitchen pans or spice pots, the huge problem is with those items we own that we don't use often (or at all). What happens with them? The big question here has always been: keep or toss? And, if we keep, where do we keep? I'm one of those persons who strongly believes in keeping only those things that either you use, or make you happy in some kind of way. But the process is not that easy: it means going through all the stuff you OWN (all of it!) and make a decision. A huge problem here tends to be the "just in case items". In that case, something that really helps me is to ask myself if the item is cheap and if I can buy it in a 10 minutes drive car. If the answer to both is yes, and I haven't used the item in the past 3 years, then I throw it. If I ever need it again, I'll just go to the store and buy it for a cheap price.
- KEEPING AND HIDDING ARE TWO DIFFERENT THINGS. Not everything inside a box is organized, it's pointless to keep items in boxes if we don't know what is inside. When we declutter a space (for example the desk area) we tend to pile things up inside boxes, thinking that we'll deal with the mess inside the box "later", and that at least the desk will look clean now. That's a HUGE mistake, because the fact that we don't see the clutter because it's hid inside the box doesn't mean that the clutter doesn't exist. That's how we end up with a huge pile of wires that we don't know where they belong, a lot of earplugs that we don't know if they works, and bits and pieces of a something that we don't even know what they are coming from. On the previous step we adviced to take the declutter process one step at a time, so what you have to do instead of cluttering boxes, is consider each item separated and keep in boxes (labeled) the items that you really want to keep at the end. You'll know what you really have, and where you have it (otherwise, you take the risk to don't be able to find something when you're looking for it. It's a long journey to have an organized area, so start with one box today, and decide what to do with everything inside. And tomorrow move to another one. At the end of the week you'll have organized seven different boxes.
- USE HOMOGENEOUS BOXES, FILES AND BINDERS. It's very practical to have a organized space in which all the important documents are organized in files and binders, and all the small items kept in labeled boxes, but at the same time having a huge amount of different binders of boxes can give a very cluttered impression when entering a room. For example, imagine a desk area with 20 different binders on the shelves, all of them organized and labeled, but of different sizes, lengths and brands. Now, imagine the same space with the 20 binders, but 5 of them white, 5 of them grey and 10 of them blue, using the colors as a way to separate the subject of the binders. It's obvious that the second space will give a better visual impression, because even if you're using three different colors, all the binders will be the same size and brand. This can be expensive, you just need to find the stores that offer the best price, and go for it. The secret is not to buy expensive items to make it pretty, the secret is on keeping the space homogeneous, following a color scheme. The result will be impressive.
- KNOW WHAT YOU WANT. Your goal is to declutter just a room? You want to declutter the whole house? Declutter just the desk area? You'll only be able to achieve your goal if you know what you want. Set a time limit (for example three months) and objective, and take pics of the "before" to compare it with the "after". If you can, make your goal publiuc somewhere (for example in your blog), because the more people know it, the less tempted you'll feel to give up.