Friday, 9 March 2012

Clutter: Making a mess of our living space!

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Photo by eflon
I'll admit it. I have too much stuff.

I've got stuff from when I was a kid. Stuff I bought 2 years ago that I haven't used. Mountains of music, art, and writing on the floors, walls, and in cabinets. I've got clothes from when I was 15 that I wear a few times a year, old gifts I ought to get rid of, articles I intend to read AND we still haven't finished cleaning out our old family home. Not good.

Clutter: It takes up space, can tie you down, and even burden your finances, emotions, and health. Just the thought of it makes me frustrated, but still, it reigns supreme in my apartment, as it did in my old room, and our old house. Why? It might be the feeling that one day I'll use something or an emotional connection to the object. It's also, likely, partly laziness. 

Whatever the cause, before the spring of old-house cleaning comes around, I want to deal with my apartment. How? Tips? Tricks? Thoughts? Read on.



The first part of dealing with that particular problem is to learn how to keep that extra stuff out of the house.
  1. Know that free stuff is not always good. You know those programs you get at the concert, newspapers in the metro, or samples handed out on the street, maybe you don't need to bring them home. Just cause its free, doesn't make it a bargain. You'll pay for it, when you spend that extra time looking for something important through the useless things. 
  2. Deal with what you don't need as soon as possible. Weed your subscriptions and recycle the papers when you're done. Same goes for junk mail. If you don't want it, recycle it right away, or better yet, label your mailbox a no-junk-mail zone. 
  3. I've got a few more tips from my Boxing-Day post: Recommendation: Don't Get So Much Stuff.



What about the stuff that's been kicking around for years? Seeing as that's my real problem, I've got to... 
Photo by jma.work
  1. Think of the benefits. Your unused stuff can benefit someone (and potentially get you a tax deduction), you could sell it, you can use that space for dancing, you won't have to waste time finding the things you need. Anything that helps you stay motivated is good because the process can be difficult. I'm keeping in mind the ease of travel, an easier move-in, and the peace of not seeing stacks of papers. 
  2. Ask yourself the same questions as when you avoid buying. What will happen if I don't have this? How often do I use it? Is there something else that I can use? Can I borrow this if I give it away?
  3. Have What to keep guidelines. As Emily at The Organized Life suggests, decide in advance how long you will keep certain items and how many of a certain item you will have at any one time. Sounds like a good idea. There are some you can set yourself- like how long you'll keep a shirt you're not wearing before passing it along and some that are set by the item. For example, legal documents should be kept varying times according to what they are. Articles like this can help you decide how long to file these things. If something goes over the time or amount limit, you can get it out of the house. 
  4. Know how much you need between washes. You really only enough clothes for 1-2 cycles of laundry, same can go for dishes, towels, etc. Think about how often you wash these items and how much you can use an item before it should be washed. For example, do you wear jeans more than once? That means you need less pants than if you didn't. Variety is nice, but knowing the bare minimum you need can help you figure out what to chuck, this tip and other good ones courtesy of The Everyday Minimalist.
  5. Know where to give your stuff.  If you know there is a place where you can give your unwanted, but still useful goods-AND someone will appreciate it, it will be a lot easier to get rid of it. To get you started, here's a list of FQDI donation boxes in the Greater Montreal Area. 
  6. Remember it. There's an Interesting article in The NY Times about the emotional connection to items. Some things remind us of events or people, no matter how inconvenient it is to keep the item. However, the item is not the memory itself. One useful suggestion is to take a picture of the thing and be rid of it. Also, don't feel bad to break a set; it's okay to grab one teacup and give away the rest. You'll still have the trigger for the memory and gain extra space.

As for actually doing it, like actually doing the work, getting rid of and organizing things:
  1. Do a bit at a time. Choose an area and commit to a reasonable amount of time. I might do one bedroom drawer or 15 minutes every work-day and and hour or two on the weekend. Whatever's convenient.
  2. Pick a spot. Go into a room and identify 10 things you'll never use, put them in a box and get rid of them. Life Organizers has some other tips for quick cleans here.
  3. Organize what you find. If you go through a big pile of papers, you'll save time if, right away, you can break them up into categories such as taxes, to shred, recycling, etc., and clearly know what each pile is, versus a pile of recycling, and one to go through AGAIN.
  4. Once you know what you want to keep, have a place for everything. Put things away when you're done with them and regularly put away those things you forgot about.
It's gonna be a journey, but a worthwhile one. Remember to ask for help if you share the space or if you just need it and to pace yourself when setting the goal of clean
Photo by storebukkebruse

How do you keep your space clutter-free? I'd love more suggestions. And- if you like what you read, don't forget to share, subscribe, or follow me on Twitter
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Live well, Charlotte

2 comments:

  1. Love it, Charl. I'm a clutter bug too, as you well know. Recently, because I have a move coming up in May and a baby on the way in August, I've been purging like never before. I think of all the baby crap I'll be needing, and it leaves me with no choice but to make room. I suggest it to anyone, and those who aren't having a baby get a bonus: All the space they make is theirs to keep, not to be invaded by playpens and exersaucers. It can be left open for dancing, like you said, or it can be partially filled with a new piece of furniture, or a new pet! Thinking in terms of moving helps to get rid of things, too. I still have a couple boxes I haven't unpacked from my last move, and they are going straight into the charity bin. This time I'm vowing not to move anything that I can so obviously live without. Finally, books and magazines have always been items that I'm super prone to holding on to. Luckily, I've learned that almost any charity organization is happy to have them. I just gave a huge box of novels to a pregnancy crisis centre. Even young girls who are pregnant and in a bad position need something to read! Nova has been another good dumping ground for old books. And as for magazines and newspapers, photocopy the one or two articles you've been saving them for, then recycle them. Trust me, if I can do these things, then ANYONE can!

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    1. Wow Katie, Congrats again on the new addition to the family and good luck with the move. That's a great idea for the magazines and newspapers, and even to scan them, if you have access to a scanner. I'm also a book pack-rat and it's true that there are a lot of people who can use them, probably hospitals and waiting rooms could also use the old magazines. I believe in you Katie, you can do it. Congrats again! Hugs, Charl

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