So here we are… almost a year of lockdown because of COVID-19. Who would’ve thought that sequestering would last this long? To pass the time, Ashlyn, a self-proclaimed pack rat living in West Gate, binged-watched all the shows and movies that she could stand. She even took out time to get to know those strangers in her home called “family.” Come to find out, they were not so bad after all. What to do next? Why not use the hunker-down time to declutter her home?
Do you need to declutter?
Well, look around your home. Do you feel you’re being crowded out by clutter? Before 2020, Ashlyn was embarrassed if someone took a peek into her closet. In fact, she even hesitated to invite others into her home at all because of the sheer number of things she had lying around. Do you have a hard time trying to find a specific item because it’s buried under a pile of stuff? Can you relate to Ashlyn, our dear victim of clutter?
If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, then decluttering during lockdown is a wise choice. Now that you’re at home and faced with all your stuff, you have an opportunity to take action and feel better about your home. Feel better about yourself. Where to begin? “Just thinking about it makes me tired before I begin,” laments Ashlyn.
Admittedly, decluttering an entire home is a monumental job, even overwhelming to contemplate. The best way to get through it is to tackle it in stages. Instead of thinking about the entire house, focus on one room at a time. If the one-room-at-a-time method is still too much mentally, break one room down into zones. For example, the kitchen can be broken down into sections; cabinets, drawers, refrigerator, etc.
Next, get four containers (boxes, bins, baskets) and a place to put trash. Label your containers accordingly:
- Donate: This is for items in good condition; items that you can imagine another person wanting or needing.
- Fix: This for items that need further tinkering or repair, such as a pair of shoes you love but needs to be cleaned.
- Put Away: This container is for items that have gradually crept out of their assigned storage space. Now you know that sweatshirt does not belong in the kitchen. These things will need to go back in their designated spots.
- Recycle: This bin is for items such as paper, plastic, or glass.
No need to label the trash container. You know what it is for. It’s for things that should be disposed of immediately.
Now decide how much of the house you want to declutter at a time. Some brave souls just block out several days and dedicate that time to decluttering the entire house. Others may organize one room per day. Yet still others, one zone per day. Do what’s best for you and your schedule. Ashlyn opted for the one-room-per-day method until the entire home was clutter free. Would you like to know what she did? I’ll tell you.
Room by room
- Bathroom: Start with your medicine cabinet. Take everything out and discard outdated medications, makeup, skincare products, etc. Put everything you’re keeping immediately back into the cabinet. Next, the cabinet drawers. Remove everything, do a quick evaluation of what you’re keeping and what you’re tossing. Put the items you’re going to keep back into their drawers. Now, do the same routine with your shower/tub. Now move on to underneath the sink, pull everything out and declutter the items there. Lastly, everything that did not have a home can be sorted into the four staged containers.
- Bedroom: First, make the bed. It’s hard to feel any progress decluttering a bedroom while an unmade bed shamelessly taunts you. Then start with your nightstands and remove anything on them that doesn’t belong and put it in the respective bins. This may include books, broken eyeglasses, pens and paper, and mail. Throw out or recycle anything you no longer use, such as empty tissue boxes, dried out pens, or chargers that no longer work. Do the same thing with any other furniture in your room. Resist the urge to shove things back into drawers; instead, put them in your Put Away Toss or recycle anything you haven’t used in over one year. Return items to their proper places. Fold or hang any clothing. That leads us to the closet. Ugh!
- Closet: First, organize your clothing by type. Start with shoes, then boots, then dresses, then denim, etc. Why? It’s much easier to decide whether to toss or keep a pair of jeans if you’re looking at your entire collection at once. Once you’ve gone through each type of clothing, then:
1. Put away anything that was in the wrong spot. For example, if you had a pair of socks in your closet, put them in your dresser.
2. Put dirty laundry into the hamper, take it to the laundry room or dry cleaners.
3. Toss anything that needs to be repaired into the Fix Those items should go to the tailor as soon as possible.
4. All items in the Donated bin should go to a donation center or a consignment store.
- Kitchen: Declutter your kitchen by focusing on one category of item at a time (i.e., cutting boards, glassware, utensils, or bakeware) or one zone at a time. First, completely empty each space, assess each item, and put everything back where it belongs. Start with the pantry and upper cabinets. Then move on to the lower cabinets, drawers, and the space under the kitchen sink. You can follow the same process with the refrigerator. Check for outdated items and throw them away. Next, concentrate on your countertops. Move as many items as possible off of the countertops and into storage spaces. Keep only what you use every single day on the countertops. Finally, take everything in the Put Away bin and return them to its rightful storage space elsewhere in the house.
- Living Room: Start with bookcases, console, and side tables. Then declutter your coffee table and entertainment center. Empty them out, evaluate each of the items and then return them to their proper storage spaces. Put books away, sort and take action on your mail, return remote controls to their proper places, fold blankets, etc. Move on to the electronics. Remove everything that isn’t connected to your television or home theater system. Are you using it? Does it even work? Store items like chargers, gadgets, and gaming equipment in a place where you can easily access them. Grab your Put Away bin and return everything that belongs in another room to its proper storage space.
Perhaps you have more rooms in your home than what’s listed. You get the idea. Apply these same principles to each room or zone of your home, including the dreaded garage.
Now pat yourself on the back. There’s a place for everything, and everything is in its place. But wait a minute. You still have two containers (donate and recycle) and possibly a mountain of trash bags. You can take the time to sort and donate all the items yourself, perhaps even selling some items online. Be sure to follow the recycling laws in your area for paper, plastics, glass, etc.
Or why not do what Ashlyn did? She contacted Horton Hauls Junk out of Toledo, Ohio. They came and removed all the stuff for her. All she had to do was point (at a socially responsible distance, of course) and a professional team promptly removed it all. The company donated many items to their various partners and recycled the recyclables. Everything else was disposed of responsibly. The best part about it, the courteous workers cleaned up after they finished.
Be like Ashlyn and don’t let clutter control your life. Use your pandemic-enforced time at home wisely. You’ll feel better about your home. You’ll feel better about yourself.
“Clearing clutter… brings about ease and inspires a sense of peace, calm, and tranquility.” ― Laurie Buchanan, PhD
There’s a small shimmer of light at the end of the lockdown tunnel. So, when it is safe to do so, invite those friends over without feeling shame.