My biological nesting urge from my third pregnancy, combined with the coming onset of the new season, has resulted in me lately being inspired to purge our household. The goal isn’t to pare down to bare minimum, but rather to eliminate some of the visual noise from our house as we welcome another human into our home, and to free up some much-needed mental space to raise said child.
But impending Newborn or no, everyone can use a little nudge to de-clutter, so it is in that spirit that I bring you my own humble advice on how to live a little neater.
No, I’m not an expert. But I am a girl who was raised by the World’s Most Compulsive Organizer and Cleaner who also got through the first few years of parenting young kids while working full-time and interviewing pretty smart people on this topic. So here’s my hodgepodge of advice that I’ve gathered over time (and experience!) that hope helps you de-Crap your space, too.
It sounds obvious, but it’s a step a lot of well-meaning would-be organizers skip. In order to be productive, you have to have the time. Try blocking off an hour to start. If you have kids, ask your partner or someone else keep an eye on them, and sequester yourself. You can’t get serious about organizing if you can’t concentrate. And you can’t concentrate with Nick Jr. blaring in the background and two tiny people begging for mac ‘n cheese. Trust me. I’ve tried.
I know this flies in the face of the beloved KonMari Method, invented and popularized by the incredible Marie Kondo, but in my completely unprofessional-but-likewise-realistic view, it allows you to visualize the task at hand much more easily.
For example, rather than say, “I am going to declutter/purge all the clothing in my house today”—which may very well include your clothing, your partner’s, and all your kids’—it seems easier to say, “Today, I will tackle re-organizing and purging my bedroom.” And when you finish that, next weekend it’s the bathroom, the playroom, and so on.
Just my opinion, but it’s worked for me in this way.
No one is a bigger violator of this principle than me, and in particular, when it comes to throwing away—of all things—my kids’ artwork. I will find a way to stash piles and piles of cutout dinosaurs and potato-stamped paintings than any parent will ever have the need or ability to enjoy, and I will fill up dozens of storage boxes doing so.
One day I realized, while going through piles of the kids (adorable!) artwork, that I only need to save a few things to recall their sweet Picassian toddler talents.
This all leads me to the point of this tip: When decluttering, too much nostalgia is not your friend. Take a moment to appreciate your little one’s artistic abilities, for example, by looking at their work one more time; keep a piece or two from each year; and then let it go.
This is where I totally dig the KonMari method. She says to thank each item that has served you in its time. Decluttering kids’ stuff—whether it’s artwork, old clothing, old toys or whatever—gives you that one moment to recall the joy associated with said item before allowing it to leave your life.
Yes, you will feel like a weirdo, but yes, you will feel better after having done so. Moving on.
It’s not fun to purge when you end up with a messy pile in the corner of your room as you clean. So, keep a whole box of garbage bags or boxes or bins–or whatever it is that you’ll be using to transport these items to charity or the store–set up near you, so that you can toss quickly as you work.
This may seem like a great time to pick up the phone and catch up with your best friend from high school, but you’ll need to concentrate to maximize your ability to sort, thank, and purge. What’s worked for me in the past is to have either total quiet, or instrumental music in the background. Allow yourself to relax so you can be honest with yourself while you do the last step, which is…
This is the crux of my ramshackle organizing method—the mantra. Find one or two questions to ask yourself that will prompt you to be honest about your need to keep, or purge, said item.
You get the idea. If you can live without it, you should pitch it. Be brave, young warrior. I find that the reason I keep some items I don’t otherwise need is that keeping them somehow makes me feel safer.
I know it sounds strange, but surrounding ourselves with Things sometimes makes us feel more secure. When you realize that one has nothing to do with another, this allows you to feel freer to get rid of more.