How to Say Goodbye to Mess!

 In Articles

There’s always that one time of the year where we take a deep breath, set our minds to it, and tell ourselves it’s time.

Finally time to do some cleaning up.

The truth is, cleaning up doesn’t have to involve spending one month clearing up a mountain of mess and clutter accumulated over the other 11 months. It doesn’t always have to be a daunting, confusing, endlessly tiring task… if we don’t want it to be.

It’s easy to look at pictures in magazines, look at pictures on Instagram, or even catch up on KonMari on Netflix, and marvel at the level of organisation and neatness other people can achieve. There’s not a single thing out of place, and it seems to be a lifestyle completely out of reach for the average human, unless someone shows up at your house to force you into it.

But the truth is…?

It’s not something out of reach—in fact, it’s something we can all easily achieve! Okay—maybe not easily, but with just some effort it definitely gets better as time goes on.

So how do we create and most importantly, maintain an organised home?

Part One: Decluttering

The first step to every clean-up mission is obviously, to declutter.

When we talk about decluttering, it isn’t always about suddenly becoming a minimalist, nor is it about mindlessly getting rid of half of the items in your house.

Decluttering is simply about letting go of items that serve no other purpose, other than making things look messier than they really are. It’s getting rid of items that have sat there for years, that hold neither meaning nor purpose to you or to your life.

By decluttering, we not only feel less burdened by the number of possessions we own, but we also actually have fewer items to organise, which makes the entire process of cleaning up a lot more manageable.

By decluttering, it helps us re-evaluate the things that are most important to us and to our lives.

So for such a seemingly large and daunting task, how do we go about doing it?

Step 1: Getting Started

Getting started is often the hardest part, because it requires us to change our mindset, and push ourselves into action.

Diving into a huge task like this feels like diving into the sea, drowning yourself with seemingly unneeded stress, work and trouble.

But that’s the problem: it’s only this overwhelming when we don’t do it enough.

So for starters, it always helps to start small. Focus on cleaning up by areas, be it by small areas such as one section of your cabinet or by larger ones like entire rooms, giving yourself a smaller space to work with first will be sure to help you feel less uncertain than thinking about ‘cleaning up your entire house’.

Take things slow. Don’t rush into cleaning up 3 different rooms all at once, because ultimately you’ll only be left with 3 unfinished areas that might even look messier than before. This will not only cause you extra stress, but may also push the idea of cleaning up further down your to-do-list. And we definitely don’t want that!

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It’s also important to acknowledge that this will take time. How much time really depends on how cluttered your house is, but decluttering is definitely no easy task. Don’t rush yourself and do a haphazard job, but give yourself sufficient time to go through every single item and weigh its importance in your life. Be it a week, a month, or even 6–it’s all ok! Take breaks in between and make sure you don’t let your possessions consume you, at least more than they already might have.

As time goes on, not only will this fear of starting will start to disappear, but the actual process of decluttering will also definitely take a much shorter time!

Step 2: Getting down to business

Now, you’re finally set to do some cleaning. Except… how?

While sorting through your items, it may be hard to really decide if something is worth keeping. And even if it’s not, what are you going to do with it?

Here’s a simple thought process that should help you decide whether you should keep an item, or if it’s finally time to part ways:

1. Is it useful?

The most important and obvious question to ask before throwing something out, but also one of the biggest pitfalls we fall into by giving ourselves excuses–we’ve all heard the ‘I might need it in the future!’ line. But be objective and honest with yourself and think about how likely it it that you’re really going to use it.

But if it’s something practical that you use regularly, then keep it!

If it’s something you use maybe once a year, consider if your other appliances or tools can serve the same function, so maybe you don’t actually need it. And if it’s something you don’t use at all, consider trashing it, or giving it away if it’s still in good working condition.

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2. Does it hold any sentimental value?

Not all items serve practical purposes, but it doesn’t mean that they can’t be kept! If that item holds a very special meaning or memory, then keeping it is no problem at all!

The problem is that when everything is special is its own way, nothing is really special anymore. So it’s important to evaluate just how important or special that item might really be to you, and see if it’s actually worth keeping. Usually, if you’re not dead-set on keeping the item, it’s probably ok to let it go—there may be some initial heartache, but we all get over it after some time!

3. Does it add value to your house?

By adding value, we usually see it as improving the aesthetics or visual appeal in your house, by using it as decor. But consider this the least important category, and only keep as much as you can after the items you’ve kept in the first 2 categories because this can easily turn into an excuse to keep everything. So consider carefully if it’s something you will put up in your house or room before keeping it!

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Image: Appleshine

One general tip that may aid you in your decluttering process is to prepare boxes or bags to sort your items into during the process itself, so you don’t have to end up with one pile of unwanted items at the end of it all–it’s as easy as preparing 4 boxes for items to keep, give away, sell or trash! While decluttering, make sure you go through every single item, and nothing is skipped over or ‘left for later’. Don’t be indecisive!

If you’re not sure whether you’ve completed everything, asking for a new perspective can also help–inviting friends or family over and asking for their opinions may allow you to see your home in a new light, and spot some corners that you might have glossed over earlier on.

And the most important thing: online articles, videos and guides (including this!) may be helpful, but there are no fixed rules when it comes to decluttering–different people value different things in their lives, and it wouldn’t make sense for us to follow strictly with what others do. When it comes to decluttering, what matters most is for us to re-evaluate the things that we keep closest to our hearts. Once we stop holding onto unwanted items, we can move on from the past.

Step 3: Wrapping up

Congrats! You’ve finally finished the most painful part of the process, but what’s next?

This last step, though small, is still really important: after putting all the discarded items together, it’s best to get rid of them asap instead of leaving them lying around.

Leaving heaps of unwanted items may not only cause you to start having second thoughts about letting them go, but may also give you even more stress because of how disorganised it looks. (I mean, who wants to be surrounded by heaps of trash at home?)

Getting rid of them ASAP is also a great way to quickly help you decide on what to do with the items. So stop putting it off and get moving!

And voila–you can revel in that feeling of accomplishment now that you’ve completed your decluttering mission! (But get ready to do this all again in another 3 months–though it definitely gets easier with time!)

Part Two: Organising

However, decluttering is only the first step to getting that clean, neat house you’ve always dreamt of having.

Sure, decluttering may help things look less messy all around, but organisation plays a huge role in making sure it stays that way. It can also be a great way for you to figure out how to best arrange your items such that you not only maintain a neat home, but also maximise the space you have for your items!

With so many types of furniture and storage tools available now, it might be hard to decide on one that you like most. Here is a brief guide to the most common ones, and how they can best be used to help you get things together.

1. Storage boxes/baskets

Storage boxes and baskets are the most versatile tools to use — they can be shifted easily and used to serve a variety of functions.

For items that get used regularly but have nowhere to return to, such as magazines, newspapers or even blankets, they can be great to not only make you look organised, but to keep you organised too! Just assign a storage purpose for each box and you’re done!

Boxes for cables and cords are also great for preventing wires from getting all tangled up and left lying around, instantly making your space look much tidier. Stackable boxes in shelves such as kitchen cabinets can also help to create additional space and making things accessible.

Not just that, they also help greatly in freeing up floor space and taming clutter, making the floor much easier to clean since things are easy to move around!

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Image: Flickr / Personal Creations

2. Dividers

However, as great as boxes are, sometimes they just don’t make the cut–especially if you’re one to toss everything into a box, leaving it overflowing with no sense of organisation. This is even worse, as you’re only continuously creating more clutter that you’re not aware of.

Dividers can help to solve this problem as they make sure everything is clearly visible and easy to reach, without having to mess up the entire arrangement. By placing them in boxes, shelves and drawers, they’re also a great way to keep track of what you have, and keep things separated to prevent them from toppling over one another.

3. Portable storage units

Portable storage units such as trolleys work great, especially in small living areas where storage space almost always seems insufficient.

They can help divide your room into zones, making it a multifunctional space where your items can be stored and moved around easily when not in use. This also increases the common/shared space available at home!

Image: IKEA Japan
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4. Organisational shelves

Shelves are definitely, by far, the most common furniture we use to keep our homes organised. However, even within shelves, there are different types that can serve slightly different purposes!

Shelves with doors can make your space look neater, and if opaque, can hide your items to make your home feel more spacious.

Using built-in shelves can also maximise the vertical space in your rooms, instead of taking up more floor space. Peg walls, wire mesh panels and corkboards have also become really popular choices to create a stylish space to store and display tools. They double up as decoration really well too; the possibilities are endless!

5. Display shelves and units

If you’re big on figurines, ornaments, and any other type of collectibles, displaying them nicely is important to prevent them from looking like ordinary clutter that’s meant to be cleaned up.

Display shelves are a great way to show off your collections while maintaining the neatness of your room! This can really increase the visual interest of your room, and bring in a touch of style and personality that represents your interests!

If you don’t fancy a lone shelf for all your decor, integrating them with elements like books can also creating great looks! Books can be arranged by height or colour as well, making the entire shelving look more cohesive and less cluttered.

If you need some inspiration, a quick search for ‘shelfie’ on Pinterest should help!

Image: Flickr / Pro Flowers

While it’s impossible for our homes to stay organised 24/7, there are many steps we can take to change our lifestyles and habits to create a home that can be kept as neat as possible with minimal effort.

From being picky with what we bring into our homes to cleaning up regularly every few months, and to choosing the most suitable ways to store, organise and display our items, we will definitely be saying bye to mess and clutter in no time.

Now, your house can be the envy of others!

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