Everyone may have a nice empty (therefore, some claim organized) home when they first move in. That's the one thing most of us have in common. Unfortunately, if you're like me, it starts getting cluttered and crowded when the second box is brought in from the moving van!
No matter how hard I tried when I was first married and moved into our house, I could not keep it that way!
Things would collect up on kitchen counters, coffee tables, dressers, tables, whatever! I could clean my house in the morning, and then when the mail came, it would begin getting cluttered again! My house wasn't dirty. It was crowded, unorganized and thoroughly cluttered! Big difference!
Finally, after three kids, one husband, 2 house dogs, 2 cats, 1 bird, 1 gerbil (rat!), and 10 years of marriage I decided once and for all to unclutter and stay organized!
But I really had no idea to go about it. My Mom was a packrat. My Grandmother was a packrat, so it was only natural for me to be a packrat! I swore for years that one day I would get into a size 6 pants again, and if I threw them away, or gave them away, I would be sorry when I got to a size 6 and had to go around naked!
Well, after some serious consideration, and thorough frustration on the unfairness of it all, I sat down with my piece of paper, and wrote The Laws
- If it has been packed away for more than one year because it is 'something you'll one day shrink down to' then it goes in the Goody Box. The Goody Box is for things that are still good and can beworn or used by someone else (Maybe your size 6 neighbor!) If I ever get down to a size 6, I'm pretty sure my husband won't let me walk around out in public without any clothes on!
- All those boxes labeled 'Baby Clothes' do not need to be saved to give to your child when they're grown up and living on their own. Keep a few (that means 3 or less) of your favorite outfits. The rest must go. I gave away more than 90 pounds of baby clothes when I finally decided to de-clutter! This was one of my hardest things on the way to becoming clutter free. I liked looking at all the tiny outfits I'd saved, but I still saved my children's Going Home From The Hospital outfits, and favorite sleepers. I also saved anything that was specially made by a loved one. These are not 'Baby Clothes'. These are cherished mementos.
- If I'm going through paper and folders in the closet, if the folder has 3 clean pieces of paper in it, there is no law saying I have to keep the entire 300 page notebook. Tear the sheets out and put near the phone to jot down messages. Throw the rest away. Or better yet, if you heat with a woodstove, save them in a box.....nah, better throw them away. A partially empty box is too much temptation for a former packrat.
- Tackle one room at a time. Start in one corner of the room, and slowly make your way toward the door. If you are a long time pack rat like me, expect this part to take you a while to get through each room. We moved into a new house three years ago, and I brought our my 'possessions' with us to our new house. I couldn't wait to move in because the house was twice as big as our other one. Three walk in closets with shelves along the top, two huge hall closets, and wall to wall cupboards in the kitchen. Plus we now had a separate utility room, that would surely hold at least six months of collecting 'things'. It took me a total of 3 months to create total havoc, and make it dangerous to open any closets or doors. My children felt like they were in a war zone. Whenever a closet door was opened, they would dive to the side to miss any falling objects.
- Be objective. Don't keep everything out of sentimental value. Sure that old sandal was the one you wore when you met your husband or wife. But the other one has been missing for ten years, and....well, if you still have your spouse, do you really need to keep that one shoe?
- Be realistic. Some things are just plain wore out. I know the shirt with 5 holes has nice air conditioning, but can you really wear it out in public without getting a tongue lashing when you get home? (This is aimed mainly at the men. My husband has several such 'favorite' shirts. I set a rule that on the 4th hole it goes in the trash. He also is only allowed to wear them around the house.) The best way to go about getting rid of these shirts is to wait until trash pickup day, and get rid of one each week. He will, of course eventually figure it out, but by then at least he can't go into the garbage and get it back out. I learned after the second time that you must wait until garbage pick up day to throw them away.
- Do a regular de-clutter tour of your house at least once a week. Go through, and see what things fall into the above category, and get rid of them each week. Then once a month, do a thorough de-clutter. This includes closets, boxes, and spare bedrooms (the most likely area for 'extras'.)