January is not only the start of the New Year, it is also Get Organised Month! And why not, it makes perfect sense to enter the New Year with constructive and practical New Year’s Resolutions, and one of those should be to get more organised and declutter your surroundings.
Human beings are natural hoarders. It’s in our most primitive natures to gather and store, but this may sometimes become an overwhelming tendency that should always be viewed critically and objectively and addressed on a regular basis.
There’s also the added benefit that decluttering and organising has on the psyche and general mental health. Like the old saying goes: clear the room, clear the head.
Here are some of the golden rules and helpful tips on how to declutter your home and keep it clutter-free!
Have two of something? If you have and the extra item is not necessary then get rid of it. Keep the better of the two and donate the other. If you have replaced an item with a better version, then get rid of the old one.
Have I used it in the last year? No? Get rid of it! If you haven’t used something for the past 12 months, chances are you won’t use it at all. Here’s a handy little “life hack” to help you with this in terms of clothing: At the start of each year, take all your hanging clothes from your closet and re-hang them with the clothes hanger hook backwards (open hook-part facing towards you). With each item you wear, hang it up the right way round (closed part facing you). At the end of the year get rid of all clothes with the hook still hanging backwards. Clever and easy huh?
Do I feel sentimental, guilty, or nostalgic about it? Time to be brutal and honest – or brutally honest. Digitise old photo albums, keep heirlooms based only on their aesthetic, monetary, or historical value. Upcycle ugly, old-fashioned jewellery by having it made into something new. Let go of items that link to the past if the associated memory is not a good or happy one. If you bought something at great cost but you’ve never used it, then get rid of it by trying to resell it or donate it, but don’t let the guilty memory of that splurge haunt you forever.
Lose the “but what if I need it one day” attitude. Again, be brutal about this; if you haven’t used it yet, chances are you never will. Also consider the item’s cost – if it’s easy and cheap to replace then you don’t need to keep storing it for a “what if” situation but you can rather re-purchase it when the need arises.
Lose the “I’ll do it later” attitude. Countertops, chairs, and other vertical spaces should be kept clear and used for the function for which they are intended. Many of us has that chair in our homes where clothes, bags, and sundry items get piled on once you get home from work. The same with “temporarily” piling items on your countertops like junk mail, magazines, or newspapers. Spend the few minutes when you get home and put everything away, or in their place, or throw it away immediately. Don’t delay and say you’ll do it tomorrow, because tomorrow will become a month later and before you know it you will have little piles of junk and stuff all over the place. And if a month later you still haven’t read that magazine or newspaper, then guess what? – it’s old news!
Get creative with storage. There are so many awesome and clever options for storage these days, many of which you can make yourself or buy quite cheaply. Vertical shelving, dedicated boxes, under-bed storage, hidden storage inside block coffee tables or ottomans – these are all good options to consider for helping you store excess items in a clear, organised way. Remember: a pile of items is not a true place for the things that you value.
The Purpose-driven item. Does an item have a truly useful everyday function and/or would you buy this item again if you didn’t already have it? Ask these questions and be honest about it – then toss it out or donate it. A good example of these kinds of items are those fashion-fad, single-use kitchen appliance items. If you’ve only used your George Foreman grill or Omelette maker once or twice and then never again, get rid of it. And unfortunately you won’t really get your money back if you try and sell it again – these are usually high turnover items with little return value.
Get rid of broken items! You have been planning and threatening for a long time now to fix that item, but have never gotten around to it. Chances are you never will. If it was that important to you, you would have fixed it as soon as possible. But if, after a few months, it’s still lying in a box somewhere waiting for you to buy the spare parts or accessories to fix it, then get rid of it.
If it’s not organised or displayed properly, it’s not a collection! If you buy things as part of a hobby (or intended hobby) but you never get around to doing it, or you make it but then need to disassemble it because you have no place to keep it, then consider getting rid of it. A proper hobby or collection by a dedicated person will have a specially dedicated space where it can be stored or displayed. Remember those collectable books you could buy that allowed you to build XYZ? If those books are still lying in a box somewhere with an unassembled T-Rex skeleton or pieces of dollhouse furniture, then you’re never going to get around to building your dinosaur or the dollhouse – get rid of it!
Stop collecting junk! Just how many empty plastic bottles, or glass jars, or pieces of ribbon, or string, etc. etc. do you need? Do you run a craft shop? Do you do a lot of crafts in your spare time? No? Get rid of it! This is very important; items like plastic, glass, tins, paper, etc. can be recycled! Take a good look around your neighbourhood and I’m sure you’ll find a place with recycling bins. And if do this, you are also helping the environment, so don’t keep storing these items or just throw them away, recycle them! (Here’s a tip: Check your nearest Public Library for recycling bins, they usually have them in the parking lot!)
Investigate the underlying issue… These days we see a lot of reality shows where they showcase hoarders – people who cover their homes in junk so badly that they can hardly even move through the place! And it’s a fact that we find these shows irresistibly fascinating and horrifying at the same time. Why? Because deep down we know that it doesn’t take much to become a hoarder ourselves. Just let those little piles keep growing and soon you’ll be using all the countertops, the tables, the bookcases, the chairs, the floor… aaaand, you’re there! People who are true hoarders became that way because of deep-seated underlying psychological reasons, not necessarily laziness or lack of cleanliness.
So if you start finding it difficult to let go of things in your home, or you cannot distinguish the difference between junk and items of value anymore, and especially when the thought of discarding items causes you emotional distress, then it’s time to seek professional help. Not just with addressing whatever issues you may have, but also to help you declutter and clean up.
We’re not being flippant about this. People have died as a result of hoarding, they have been physically injured by their hoarded environment, they have been evicted and left homeless, and they have been the cause of large scale property damage, especially because their hoarding is usually a huge fire hazard. So be ever vigilant and address all those little piles of things immediately! And if you find you can’t, then spend the money and hire professionals to do it for you.
Lastly, evaluate your spending. You know you work hard and need to relax and enjoy a little luxury when you finally get home. But in today’s consumer-driven society the media and advertisements are helping to turn us into irresponsible spenders. We get egged on to buy this or that item, because then you will feel that instant gratification, because you work hard and you deserve it, because you only live once and have to enjoy life while you can and this item will help… etc., etc. And this over-consumerism mind-set contributes to hoarding in a huge way! How many of you are sitting with more than one gaming console, and all its different add-ons and attachments, not to mention the huge stack of games! Do you have an organised, dedicated storage space for all your gaming gear? Or does it just lie around the television in a tangle cables and stacks of game discs? And then finally asks the golden question: when last did you actually use any of it?
It certainly is food for thought – very serious thought that you should consider on a regular, or at least annual, basis. And if you don’t have a good answer, then you should know what to do. Think of it this way; there’s a good possibility that you can make some extra money from selling all your excess items – as long as you don’t overprice or overvalue it, or you can simply reap the feel-good benefits of donating it to a worthy cause, or sending it for recycling.
But one thing is for sure – clear the room, clear the head – it works like a charm every time!