Organize Your Living Space: 3 Do’s and Don’ts of Decluttering

Written by: Katya on 11/08/17

Tackling the clutter in your house to reclaim your space might be a small endeavor for some, but for most people, the very idea is overwhelming. It can be hard to know where to start. Some moms get started, only to push and push in a single sprint until burnout brings them crashing down. Other moms can’t stay with it for more than a day because it doesn’t show enough tangible results in the beginning and it doesn’t seem worth it to continue.

So how does one go about this ethereal idea of getting organized at home?

Here are 3 Do’s and Don’ts for reclaiming your space with tried and true methods for decluttering.

DO: Get as many small wins in the beginning as possible.

DON’T: Insist that the biggest/worst mess be your first win.

decluttering tips

While it would be fabulous to really go at it one day and before dinner have a spotless home with your paper clutter gone and everything in its proper place. Intellectually, we all know that there is no way that would be a realistic expectation. But, emotionally, it’s often still the subject of wishful thinking. So we set out, tackling the most glaringly obvious mess of clutter thinking, “Once this is out of the way, I’ll feel loads better and feel motivated to keep going.”

That sounds good after your first cup of coffee sets in, but watch out! If you don’t get it absolutely finished, you may feel a sense of defeat that discourages you from continuing toward your goals. This may feel like procrastination, but it’s not!

If it helps you get started with confidence, don’t hesitate to do a quick walk through of your house to identify as many 15-minute projects as you can. Pick the three that would give you the biggest sense of satisfaction, and each day tackle one. By the time you’re ready to tackle that clutter hot spot, the one requiring a more significant time investment, you’ll be ready with the right mindset…

DO: Give yourself permission to pace yourself.

DON’T: Beat yourself up if it takes more time than you thought it would.

decluttering tips

Typically, the worst part about decluttering is taking the first step and getting started. Why? Because previous attempts that didn’t go as planned make it feel like it might not be worth the effort. BUT, remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. For the most productive decluttering sessions, break the larger projects up into smaller bites. Hunt for the space-saving hacks that apply to your project, try to visualize the end result of your efforts and make a strategy.

Once that is in place, keep that goal in front of you as you go through the process. Take time each day to work on purging the excess, implementing storage solutions, and finding homes for things that:

  • bring you joy on a daily basis,
  • actually get used on a regular basis, or
  • have a function that regularly contributes to the overall flow of your family’s lifestyle.

If it takes several sessions to finish the process and have your space organized the way you want it, that’s ok! Every session will be an improvement, and before you know it, everything will have a place and keeping rooms semi-tidy will be much easier.

DO: Remember that your family lives here.

DON’T: Become obsessive with an unrealistic ideal.

decluttering tips

It’s not productive to find something on Pinterest that looks amazing but has no practical advantage for your family’s needs. Remember – your home is not a magazine cover! It’s used, lived in, and serving a need – everything you do to improve it needs to be done with those factors in mind. Setting a goal for home organization of “picture perfect” will only put you back in the cycle of overwhelm and burnout.

That being said, when you set out to organize your home, it is advantageous to incorporate the abilities of your family members into your strategy. Do you have toddlers? What kind of “clean up” are they capable of doing to contribute to your cause? If a job can be done without frustrating challenges (like trying to fit all of the building blocks in a bin that’s not big enough, etc.), it’s not too hard to actually make the job fun and make it a team effort.

So include questions in your initial strategy phase like:

  • Is there enough room for the items that are used the most?
  • Is storage sufficient and access easy enough for the ones who use these items?
  • Do the bigger messes happen in high traffic areas? Can they be rerouted to happen in a different part of the house so the flow of the family is less inhibited by them?

Think about it. Everyone likes to have a spot where they don’t have to worry about being in someone else’s way. A place where they can do their own thing. Make it easy for fun to happen in out-of-the-way spaces if your child likes to have an ongoing game or building project out for several days.

The reality is, your home will never be “perfect.” You wouldn’t want it to be! The beautiful memories of creative and cuddly moments only happen when you can make tents out of the bedding, messes of paper and glue, and not have to worry about your home being in pristine condition 24/7.

In a cluttered home, such messes might succeed more in contributing to stress rather than creating special memories. But in a home that is organized, facilitating activities the family loves the most, it’s much easier to be ok with the chaos. Everything that gets pulled out has an obvious place to go!

This is the #1 decluttering tip that will help your strategy make the biggest impact. It’s not enough for the obvious junk to go away (the stuff that makes you ask, “Why do I even have this?”) You have to think intentionally about the items that you definitely use and love – and where it makes sense for them to live. Don’t just set them down on a surface – put each item in a place that makes sense!

This will likely be an ongoing process, but it will be one that gets easier and easier because, with each day of improvement, the places that make sense for things become more obvious. Don’t be afraid of switching things up from that visual goal you had, in the beginning, to find what actually works best.

Let us know what other tips can help start the organization process in the comments below!

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