Can’t remember what your bench tops look like? Cupboard doors refusing to close? Do you have the in-laws coming to stay with you over the summer holidays? If so, it might be time to plan a thorough declutter of your home and put some strategies in place to help you stay organised and minimise stress this holiday season and for 2016.
If the thought of tackling it all at once is enough to make your head hurt, start with smaller jobs – take five or ten minutes to clear out a single drawer, tidy up the kitchen bench top, or write out a list of all the jobs that need to be done to complete over a specific amount of time. Be realistic about how long you expect each job to take, and enlist all the hands in your household to help with the bigger tasks.
Go room by room
Once you’ve cracked the smaller jobs, turn your attention to clearing individual rooms. As the hub of the home, the kitchen is generally one of the most cluttered and best places to start. Clear off the benchtops, store or discard any countertop appliances you haven’t used in months, discard any chipped plates and glasses, and any pots with broken handles. Go through the canned and packet goods in your pantry and discard any that are past their use by date.
Next up, the living room. Clear paperwork, old magazines and the kids’ toys off the coffee table, and look under and behind sofas for any lost or discarded items. If your living room furniture is too large and making the space feel cramped, consider culling any unnecessary pieces, or moving them to another room altogether. Create a space for books and children’s toys with shelving, a storage ottoman or toy box.
Then move to the bedrooms. Get rid of any clothes that no longer fit or you or your kids haven’t worn for the last 12 months, and store out of season clothing in under bed storage boxes or at the top of cupboards (space-saving vacuum bags are great for this). Look at compartmentalising drawers with dividers (Howards Storage World and Ikea both sell these) to make it easier to store and locate items.
Clear countertops and drawers in the bathrooms, paying particular attention to any cosmetics and lotions that are past their use-by date.
Divide and conquer
When sorting through your things, put them into four piles – things to keep; throw away; donate to friends or charity; and put into deep storage. If you’re having trouble deciding whether or not to hold onto an item, ask yourself, 'When was the last time you actually used it?' and 'Is it something I can live without?'.
Once you’ve made the decision to discard something, remove it from the house straight away so there’s no chance of it creeping back in – pop it outside the back door, in the garage, in the wheelie bin, in the boot of the car so it's ready to donate or giveaway.
Where to donate?
- Brotherhood of St Laurence (Melbourne)- accept donations during trading hours of quality clothing, toys, furniture, white goods, household items and bric-a-brac.
- Vinnies (VIC, NSW, ACT, QLD, TAS, SA, WA and NT)- accept donations of quality clothes, books, furniture, music and bric-a-brac.
- Australian Red Cross (VIC, NSW, QLD, TAS, SA, WA and NT)- accept donations of clothing, fashion accessories, homewares, kitchenwares, books, toys and small pieces furniture.
- Salvos (VIC, NSW, ACT, QLD, TAS, SA, WA and NT)- accept donations of clothing, furniture and homewares.
Assess your existing storage
Once you know exactly what you need to store, take a good look at your storage setup – cupboards, shelves, drawers and boxes - to make sure that it’s up to the job. It’s important to allocate a dedicated storage spot for every item you intend to keep so there’s no risk of it simply becoming clutter again a few weeks’ down the track, and make sure everyone in your household knows exactly what goes where.
Store items close to where you use them, and allocate each item specific ‘real estate’ according to how often it’s used. Position everyday items between eye and knee height; ones you might use every week or two at the upper or lower levels of cupboards or shelves; and occasional items, such as those you might only need once or twice a year, in ‘deep storage’ such as the top or back or cupboards, or in the garage.
If you find your existing storage wanting, consider adding extra shelves or rails to cupboards, open floor-to-ceiling shelving, under bed storage or stackable, lidded boxes. For a longer-term solution for larger items, you might consider splashing out on extra built-in cupboards or shelves in those under-used spots such as beneath the stairs or along a corridor.
Don’t forget to create a home for all those little things that can so quickly turn to clutter – think folders for paperwork and bills; wall hooks or cupboards for the kids’ schoolbags and sports equipment; and a console with drawers in the hallway for keys and handbags.
Stay clutter free
Start by establishing a single ‘clutter free’ zone somewhere in your home – flat surfaces such as the kitchen bench top or coffee table are generally the easiest to manage. Make a rule that this area stays mess-free at all times, and dedicate a few minutes each day to keeping it clear. Then, gradually expand the number of clutter free zones around your home, perhaps adding your bedside table or the bathroom countertop next. Over time, you’ll find that more and more areas of your home will remain clear and tidy, and before you know it you’ll be on the way to an organised, clutter-free lifestyle.
Georgia Madden is a freelance interiors journalist and writer. She is a regular contributor to House & Garden magazine and a number of interiors websites. Confessions Of A Once Fashionable Mum is her debut novel.
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