Spring Cleaning should really be called Spring Decluttering. It’s the time of year where we are most motivated to go through everything on our homes with the sole purpose of having less stuff.
So often though, instead of getting rid of things that are no longer useful, you buy more organising boxes and just move the contents of old boxes into different boxes and make room for more things to go into boxes.
You and your family are going to declutter once and for all and more importantly maintain your uncluttered, more minimalist home.
Before we get to the DeclutterFest, we need to address the “hows and whys” that got us to this point of too much stuff in the first place.
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Emotional Baggage: Your Relationship With Stuff
We live in an era of abundance. Our standards of success are based on how much money you have and the stuff you spend it on. Many even resort to credit cards to keep up appearances.
The problem, besides spending money on things you don’t actually need, is the toll it will have on you mentally in your day to day life.
More stuff means more maintenance, which can be in the form of money to repair things like cars and appliances. It is also time maintenance- time spent cleaning stuff or moving stuff so you can clean underneath the stuff.
If you pare down your belongings to what fits your home, you can create a sense of calm. Spend less time cleaning and save money as well.
You and I know however, that getting rid of things comes with some emotional baggage that you may not address. Once things enter your home you tend to develop different associations with the things.
If you were able to buy something at a great price, you may have reservations getting rid of it after using it only twice because you got such a good deal.
The same is true if you spent a lot of money on an item. You may not want to get rid of it because of how expensive it was. So, you keep it in the back of the closet until enough time has passed that the sting of the cost doesn’t hurt anymore.
Then there’s gifts and inherited items.
Birthday’s, Mother’s Day, Christmas or Hanukkah all lead to a bunch of stuff entering your home that all needs a space. You may feel guilty for not liking an item but keep it in case the gift giver comes over.
Often we keep things we don’t like or use from family members that passed away because throwing away the item is like throwing them away. (Please realise your loved ones are not things and they would never want their things to become a burden to you).
If it’s something you do like, then that is what you should be using to decorate your home. For me it’s a lovely tea set that belonged to my grandparents. Once Penny is a little older and less destructive, I will start using it as well.
If you can come to terms with the reasons why you are keeping an item, deciding if you should keep it or let it go becomes easier.
Remind yourself that there’re only two types of things you should keep in your home. Things you love and things that are useful.
Keeping items for “just in case,” “maybe somedays,” or any of the reasons above just keeps you from really decluttering your home.
Why does a Messy House Bother Me? Consequences for Not Decluttering
Making a change and really decluttering can be so rewarding just from the calm that it brings to your home.
There are plenty of reasons that can cause you to not be as thorough as you should as mentioned above, but there are also several consequences if you don’t declutter.
Lost Time and Energy
How often do you think to yourself, if I had more time I could…? All the precious time and energy we spend in a day or week looking for items collectively could be enough time to read that story with your kids, get some exercise, take a class, phone a friend, etc.
If everything has a place, you don’t have to stress about finding the items and when a million things are already swirling in your head, not having to find things or help someone find things will be so good for your mental well-being.
Stressful Living Space
I noticed this with my kitchen.
I have a galley kitchen with one fabulous, long worktop, but I never had any space. It was always filled with food, mail, appliances, and junk that would just sit there. When it came time to clean I had to preclean by moving everything off, clean, and then move everything back.
My kitchen never felt clean. It stressed Lee out to the point where he had to say so. He would get so fed up that he would go on this crazy cleaning spree and put things away in places that made me crazy.
So I took decluttering seriously in my kitchen. I donated so many things and duplicate items, that I was able to put away everything on my worktop.
I suddenly had space and am happier making meals. Cleaning is a breeze as I just give the worktop a wipe. And most importantly, Lee and I both feel more relaxed when we are home.
Not clearing out the clutter can affect your pocketbook.
In 2018 we spent £750 million pounds on self-storage and what’s worse is the amount of space we let has almost doubled in the last decade.
If we continue to keep things that don’t add value to our lives we risk spending hard earned money storing the excess.
Even it you don’t require a storage space, chances are you buy boxes and containers for organising all of your things. You put those containers in a shed or loft and go through them the next time you spring clean in which time you accumulated more things and need to buy more containers.
If you don’t declutter you also risk wasting money buying duplicate items because you can’t find what you are looking for, but still need it.
If your items aren’t stored properly then you risk damaging your items that you may or may not take the time and money to fix or again have to replace.
Hopefully you are now convinced as to why decluttering is so good for your and your family’s well-being and budget.
Now that we are mentally prepared for the task ahead, here are the tips to get you going.
7 Tips for Decluttering Your Home
Decluttering won’t happen overnight as your clutter took some time to accumulate, so don’t beat yourself up if you can’t do it all in one weekend.
You May Also Be Interested In: 3 Ways to Avoid Decluttering Burnout.
1. How Do I Start Decluttering? First, Decide on the Method of Decluttering and Set Goals
Are you going to declutter by category Marie Kondo-style? Starting with all the clothes, then books and papers, etc.
Are you going to go room by room? Will you start with the easiest room so you feel success quickly and use it as motivation? Or will you tackle the hardest room while you are feeling fresh and motivated to start?
Will you start with just one drawer or cupboard at a time?
Once you have a plan for decluttering it’s a lot easier to stay the course as you can see the progress by finishing a category or finishing a room.
Have some goals for what you want each room to look like. This may mean making a vision board with picture examples of rooms and organising styles. This can be a fun task to do as a family and see how everyone envisions each room-particularly their own.
Discuss how it will make each of you feel to give your home this type of makeover. Will you feel calmer? Happier? Less Stressed?
Having the visual gives you a concrete example to aim for and is a reminder for why you all are doing this in the first place.
2. Get Your Family Involved
This is not a one-person task. If you live in the house, then it’s your job to help maintain it.
Everyone in your home has stuff to call their own and should take responsibility as to whether they want to keep said stuff.
Olivia is 3 and she has no problem telling me which clothes she likes and the ones she doesn’t. If I wasn’t saving things for Penny, she would have no problem deciding what to get rid of.
Toys are a different story and I do have to sort through those myself but older kids are capable of choosing what toys to keep and what to donate.
By instilling the value of less in your children, the easier it will be to maintain a decluttered home as they get older.
3. How to Declutter Your Clothes and Wardrobe: Turn it Backwards
If you have someone more reluctant to get rid of their things, (like Lee) leave them alone and lead by example. Take this as the moment you remove the pressure of remembering where his things are. Chances are when he sees the rest of the house (and has to be responsible for his own things), he will be more motivated to follow suit.
Something to help them along (eventually) is to turn their hangers backwards. When an item is worn it gets washed and rehung properly. After a few months, you can then see which items were worn by looking at the hangers. I did this for Lee six months ago and this way he will be able to see what he really does wear when he decides to have a clear out.
If your clothing is in drawers, use some cardboard to make a dividing strip the width of the drawer. As items get worn replace them in front of the divider. After a few months, anything behind the divider will indicate what hasn’t been worn. This is easier if items are folded vertically, Marie Kondo-style.
This can be done with books on a shelf as well. Turn the spine towards the back of the shelf. After a set amount time has passed they haven’t been pulled out and put back properly, then it’s time to let them go and let someone have the chance to read the books. If there are books you just can’t part with but don’t plan on reading any time soon (the next year or more) consider making them a paper cover and use them as decorations in your home.
4. How do I Keep My Motivation When Decluttering? Make it Fun!
Make an upbeat playlist with everyone’s favourite songs and play it. Singing along helps make mundane tasks go faster even if you take a timeout to dance a bit, too.
If your kids are a bit older than mine, you can make it a game. Set a timer and see who can go through their things the fastest. The winner can choose a game for family game night or a film for family movie night later that day. The timer also pushes you to make decisions for what to keep and what to get rid of as you won’t have as much time to debate with yourself.
As the saying goes, many hands make light work and it also makes a tedious task more entertaining.
At Christmas time my mom hosts our Christmas Meal for about 30 people. No one wants to clean that mess alone, and yet cleaning up the kitchen is one of the most fun and memorable parts of the evening. Why?
We get a dance playlist and we sing, dance, and laugh the entire time. It takes maybe 30 minutes to get all that washing up, drying, and putting away done.
5. What do you do with your stuff during and after decluttering? Make 4 Piles!
This will make it easier to organise and easy to see progress.
All the things you love or have a useful purpose.
Give your kids the opportunity to keep the earnings from their items that sell.
Depending on the item you can sell on Ebay and Gumtree. I have the most success on Facebook Market Place by selling in local groups in my area.
If you are selling higher end clothes or shoes, you can try Vinted.co.uk. You can sell cheaper clothes, too but the chances of getting a buyer are lower and you have to store the items while you wait to make a pound.
If you have a lot of baby and toddler items and toys, consider a Mum2Mum market. Mums sell good quality toys, clothes, and baby gear to mums who are looking for those things.
Choose a charity you would like to donate to and donate things that are clean and in good condition.
A charity is not a tip, so don’t donate anything in a condition you wouldn’t buy yourself.
Another way to get rid of things quickly is to give them away at an online sales site or a site like ilovefreegle.org or freecycle.org that way you can be sure your item is going to someone that wants and can use your item.
Not the bin pile, the tip pile. Items that are broken beyond repair can go to the tip and be separated by category to be recycled.
If you throw things in the bin then they will go to a landfill.
Don’t create waste when you don’t have to.
Check if your tip has a drop of for books, DVDs and CDs which are items that aren’t always picked up by charities if you decide to wait for the bags in the post.
If you have worn or stained clothes and linens you can’t repurpose or shoes beyond repair you can drop them off at H&M or Schuh for them to be recycled.
Whatever can’t be recycled can then go into the general waste bin at the tip.
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6. How Should I Organise My Stuff? Put Like Items together.
As you begin sorting try to put all the same type of items in one place. Instead of having crayons in one place, drawing paper in another and scissors over in a drawer, markers over at the desk, find a designated space for “art supplies.” Putting like items together makes them easier to find and easier to put away.
Keeping everyone’s books on one bookcase as opposed to the kids books are over there, your books are over here, etc.
If you organise like things together you may do so in a way that allows you to get rid of furniture and storage containers as well.
Once I reduced some items in my home and then began arranging them better, I was able to donate a large wooden chest and a cabinet that was in my alcove. The space they freed up made my bedroom and front room feel so spacious.
7. Store Everything in a Pretty and Accessible Way
I think Marie Kondo nailed this one with storing items vertically and making things look as attractive as possible.
There is nothing like opening a drawer and seeing it look pretty and organised. Everything becomes easier to see and easier to find and most importantly-easy to get.
Storing items vertically makes things in the kitchen and your wardrobe easier to access as you don’t have to move anything to get what you want, you just pluck it out.
Just take a look at my kitchen cabinet before I went vertical. Getting anything was such a pain before and now I don’t even think, I just grab what I need and keep going.
6 Tips for Maintaining Your Clutter-Free Home
Once you get your home to a state of happiness where everything is clean and put away you then have the task of maintaining it for the long haul.
This is so important though because maintaining is so much easier than starting over.
1. Set Expectations as a Family
Everyone should be on the same page. You all worked hard to make sure everything has a place and it should be everyone’s job to keep it that way.
Everyone lives at home and it is everyone’s job at maintaining it, not just mum’s. Whether you tie allowance to this or not is up to you, but at some point the kids grow up and move out and they won’t be paid to maintain their own home.
If you make keeping the house tidy part of their routine, like brushing their teeth before bed, it will be easier for them to maintain a tidy home of their own into adulthood.
It also doesn’t matter who works and who doesn’t, all the adults in the house need to pull their weight and put away their own things.
2. Do chores as a Family
Washing the dishes, or folding laundry isn’t as tedious when there is someone to help you.
I am lucky that Lee doesn’t mind washing dishes but hates drying and putting them away. I don’t mind the drying and putting away so getting the kitchen cleaned up for us becomes less of a chore and more like quality time (gasp!).
Olivia is 3 and Penny is 21 months and this is not too young to have them help around the house, in fact, the younger you start letting your kids help (when they think it’s fun) the more likely they will continue when they are older.
Both girls know to put their cereal bowls in the sink in the morning as well as other cups and plates throughout the day. They also help with laundry, putting the wash into the tumble dryer or helping me hang clothes to dry.
Olivia loves to help fold laundry and has developed her own technique of rolling everything. It’s a funny way to store my kitchen towels but in the end I don’t care because she enjoys it and redoing her work would mean more work for me and undermines her. And nothing will kill someone’s drive to help out than by telling them they’re doing it wrong.
3. The One Touch Rule
Make it a rule to only touch an item once. That means if you have a coat, you hang it up where it should go right away. Don’t hang it on a chair and then move it to the stairs and then take it up and hang it in the wardrobe. The constant shuffling of things wastes time and mental energy.
This goes for things like daily mail, used dinner boxes and water bottles from the day, school papers, etc. Get items to the right place and dealt with straight away so you only have to think about it once.
4. Everything Should Always Have a Home.
If you find that you are using your cleared worktops and tables for storage, chances are the items on it don’t have a space of their own; backpacks, keys, mail, etc.
Everything should always have it’s own spot and if not, you need to create one.
If a birthday rolls around and gifts are received it may mean you have to clear out old stuff to make room for new. Things like kids toys should be sorted out often so they always fit in their respective spaces.
Keeping things to a minimum is also good for your kids’ brain power because the less choices they have, the easier it is for them to choose what to play with.
You May Also Enjoy Reading: 7 Benefits of Embracing Minimalism as a Family
5. Always Leave a Room Cleaner Than You Found It.
Whether you put a couple of toys away, fluff a few pillows or carry clean laundry upstairs, by straightening up a little bit here and there, you will maintain a clean home.
If someone in the family uses a cup or dish, it should be in the sink (possibly washed) before moving on to the next activity. No one should go up or down stairs without carrying something to put away and then following through.
It will take a few weeks to ingrain all of this as habit, but it will be worth it in the end so don’t give up!
6. Practice Gratitude
Making note of all the things you have and are grateful for can also change the way you look at stuff. You are less likely to “need” new things because you realise all the things you do have. You realise all the things you really need and use regularly. And most importantly you will see that every new item that comes into your home will need a space of its own and will need care and maintenance.
Are you ready to accept more into your home after you’ve decluttered it?
According to a Harvard University study, kids are not affected by the practice of gratitude until they are emotionally mature, but this doesn’t mean it can’t become a habit that suddenly has meaning when they get to that point.
This does not have to be a long drawn out activity. Just jot down a couple things a day in a journal or share some things at mealtimes.
Once the Decluttering is Done
Once the decluttering process is done, Spring Cleaning (and even just regular cleaning) becomes a breeze because there is less stuff to wash and move around your home.
You will find your home is more relaxing and there will be a sense of calm you feel that you may not have had before. With everyone in your house doing their part, you will gain time as a family to do more fun, spontaneous things because the housework is done.
Did you have a lot of difficult decisions or was it an easy process? Do you discover any emotional baggage with any items? Let me know how your DeclutterFest goes in the comments below.