15 September 2007


A simple home can be many things. It could be a flat, house, caravan, shed, a room, a retirement village or a module in a sustainable community. Whatever form your home takes, it is an important part of your life and how you feel each day. Making it as sustainable, comfortable and productive as possible will make your life easier and more simple.

One of the most liberating and symbolic things you can do on your journey to simplified living is to declutter your home. It’s liberating because you don’t have to look after all that junk anymore and it is symbolic because it’s opening up your home and your mind and rejecting a more consumerist past life. It’s amazing how energised you feel after decluttering your home. We all have “stuff” in our lives, junk that we keep because we think it’s important, we haven’t thought to throw it out or we believe we might need it someday. Get tough with yourself and your possessions; they are holding you down under the weight of a hundred Saturday shopping trips to the mall and all those birthdays and Christmases. How many times have you “needed” something, tried looking for it and given up before you found it? How many times have you looked for something that you couldn’t find, bought a new replacement, then found the old one a week later? Those days are over.

You’ll be surprised when you’ve decluttered your home just how much junk you’ve paid money for and kept over the years. Keep only those things that you really need or those that give you pleasure. If something is kept in a cupboard and you don’t see it for months or years, get rid of it. When you finish your first decluttering session, look at what you have and enjoy it.

Decluttering is a major investment in your future well-being. Don’t try to declutter your entire house in one purging frenzy. Do it properly. It’s not a race. This is a readjustment to your life and it needs to be done with care and consideration. Concentrate on one room or one area at a time. Do one room a week until you’re finished, then revisit every room and make sure you got everything.
There are hundred of ways to declutter. This is how I do it:
  1. Get four large boxes or garbage bags and mark them “Put Away”, “Give Away”, “Sell” and “Rubbish”.
  2. Start at the door of the room and work in one direction around the room.
  3. If you’re not sure about any item you pick up, ask yourself these questions:
  • Is this important to me or my family?
  • Would I be sad if I didn’t have this?
  • Have I used this in the past year?

When you pick something up never put it down anywhere except in one of the bags or boxes. Never skip an area, even if it seems overwhelming. Starting some areas is the biggest step. Keep that in mind and if it looks like too big a job, time yourself. Tell yourself that you’ll work on it for 15 minutes. Set a timer and when 15 minutes is up, stop. Often you’ll find that 15 minutes will be enough to make a big dent in your problem area, you can go back and finish it later.

Keep the things that are important to you but be ruthless and get rid of everything that you haven’t used in the past year. When the boxes/bags are full, everything in the “Put Away” box should be put away in the appropriate place in your home, what’s in the “Give Away” box can be given to charity, neighbours or friends. Take your “Sell” box to the garage and keep it with all other things you want to sell on eBay or at a big garage sale you can have at the end of your decluttering. The “Rubbish” items can be further sorted into rubbish – for the rubbish bin, or recyclables for the recycle bin or station.

As you work through your rooms resist the temptation to clean while you go. Leave things tidy but save your cleaning and organising for another day. When all your decluttering is finished and you have removed all the boxes to their appropriate places, go back to each room and assess what needs to be done next. Now that you’ve removed all the excess items you can really clean and organise your rooms into fully functional areas that work for the purpose they are intended.

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