The beginning of the year brings about a lot of enthusiasm for new habits we swore we’d take up- most of us promise to lose weight, learn a new skill or perhaps quit smoking. Many people strive to simplify their lives and start at home.
There are a lucky few that are naturally neat, and don’t feel the need to accumulate possessions; there are the rest who seem to collect clutter in all areas of life, whether it is a favorite item of clothing (that has remarkably shrunk over the years) or a memories of now grown-up children. There are papers, pencils, books, records, photographs and all sorts that seem to creep into corners and spread from counter to cupboard.
Many people are beginning to see the physical and mental benefits of living a more minimalistic life. Spaces feel cleaner, and this brings a sense of calmness and clarity. Less clutter makes keeping a fresher home much more simple- and in many cases people feel less tied to material objects and much more appreciative of the items they use, and those that bring them joy.
Sometimes just beginning to tackle a cluttered home can feel overwhelming, so here are eight straightforward suggestions:
Have unbreakable rules: Defining spaces is important, especially when other people are sharing your house (families, roommates)- it is important for you all to decide and make very clear where are ‘clutter free zones’. For us, these are kitchen counters and the dining table. It is everyone’s responsibility to keep his or her items out of the ‘clutter free zone’ and eventually you can expand to as much of the home as you like.
Find out where you stand: Spend a little time assessing what needs to be done, and as with most goals, start small. The more manageable your tasks are, the more likely you will finish them. At our home we like to break home jobs into 5 minute tasks- instead of ‘tidy kitchen cupboards’ it might be ‘go through spices’. Even a little planning can go a long way, and you’ll realize that your job isn’t as big as you think!
One item at a time: In your spare moments, think about removing one item from your home. This could be a book that no one reads, a figurine that no one likes, or an old sweater. Challenge yourself to giving away one item, rather than purging an entire area. You will think so carefully that it becomes nearly impossible to regret the decision.
Imagine you didn’t own the item: Sometimes the past value of an item prevents us from seeing whether or not it is useful to us today- for example, an unused gadget. If the item is of some worth, then perhaps looking online for its equivalent and asking ‘would I pay for this much for this item today?’ Don’t be afraid to get creative how you approach your clutter- this can also help free you of unimportant sentimental ties to objects.
Give everything a home: Deciding where your stuff should be seems like an obvious rule for keeping an organized home environment; but truthfully, how often have you found yourselves with an ‘everyday junk drawer’? Undefined containers with papers and batteries will start to eat up important space in the home, and by simply saying ‘batteries and light-bulbs go in this drawer’ (make a label if you feel like being professional!) you’ll find you have much more space and that you know exactly where everyday items are.
Use the four-box rule: When tackling your big areas, sometimes it can be hard to get through. Many people swear by the 4 box system- keep, donate, trash and relocate. Do you use the item regularly or could someone else use it? Is it broken, irreparable and better off in the bin or recycled? Does it need to be where it is, or could you find a new place in the home for it? (For indecisive people, a ‘maybe’ box could prove useful- look at the items in a week’s time and you should have your answer).
Get spiritual about your space: Japanese author Marie Kondo believes that the objects surrounding us have energy that affect us in different ways, and that by only keeping objects that we love and that bring us joy we can give ourselves the life we want. Look at some of your possessions, and decide if they serve you or spark joy in you. This is, of course, time consuming; it is a useful way to tackle items that have sentimental value. Creating nostalgia boxes, or picture folders might be a way of preserving memories for people- but in many cases holding on to the item itself may be doing more harm than good.
Seasonal organizing: When deciding on storing items, it is useful to make ‘seasonal boxes’- despite the lack of seasons here in the UAE. There may be items that only need to come out for a few weeks of the year (like winter clothing or snorkels). For things that don’t get a lot of use, but are occasionally needed- think to yourself ‘is it really necessary that this item stays in my day-to-day space?’
Most of all learn to love your new clutter-free zones. Take time to appreciate how fresh your environment now feels, and make sure this feeling sticks in your mind as long as it can!