How to De-Clutter

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How to De-Clutter

Did you know that there really are a  few guidelines  or rules you can follow to  help make the decision making process of de-cluttering less stressful? I think that the reason most of us put off we don’t like the pain and stress of deciding what should go…and what should stay. But most of us really need to de-clutter areas of our home, so in order to enjoy the freedom of a streamlined space, we need to get past this bottle neck.

Kitchen right

This week, I’ve been working in the kitchen, since that is the FlyLady zone I’m on. Not too long ago, I de-cluttered the four small drawers in my little kitchen. At least I ‘tried’ to de-clutter them. But, well… know what happens. I start out pretty good, pitching and throwing utensils and junk left and right (watch out kids—Mom’s in ‘the mood’!) but somewhere along the way…I get distracted. The next thing you know, I’m organizing—not de-cluttering! It happens every single time. It’s just so hard not to do that! (I told you I was a S.H.E.!!) :o) Of the four drawers, one was for silverware, one for utensils, one for hand towels and washcloths and one was the junk drawer.

New Food Storage

I had had no trouble de-cluttering the silverware drawer, utensil drawer or the linens, but the  junk drawer was a mess. Even so, I tackled it. I did such a good job de-cluttering last week, or so I thought, that I patted myself on the back for getting the junk drawer pared down. But I still had a junk drawer…and what I really wanted was a drawer for the storage bags, foil, and saran wrap. In all the four years that we have lived here that stuff has lived in a bucket under the counter on the other side of the kitchen.  I mean..what woman doesn’t have a junk drawer?!! It’s a sacred spot in every one’s home..isn’t it? So I gave up and considered the job as 'done'..or at least good enough. :o)

Silverware drawer
The silverware drawer along with our six most used utensils.

Well, every time I opened that drawer, I knew I had done it again--let myself get distracted by the time I got to that third drawer. And it was still packed.  What was in there anyway? To tell you the truth, I wasn’t sure. So I thought I’d better have another ‘go’ at it. I found the oddest stuff in that junk drawer…like the connector to a pool we owned long ago. I thought it was an accessory to my food processor.

Can you believe that 90% of what was in that drawer was actually garbage..or belonged in a tool box or the desk or the laundry room. I don’t believe there was hardly a single thing left when I was done!  I cleaned the black divider and spray painted it shiny black again. It looked almost as good as new. Then I filled it with left over utensils and kitchen miscellaneous items.  Now I had a drawer available for the food packaging supplies!

before drawer6
Utensil Drawer...Before

But even after I felt like the drawer was 'de-cluttered' (really--it was just organized),  it was filled to the brim  with kitchen accessories. That’s why FlyLady has you go through the same zones week after week. By the time you’ve gone through the whole house three or four times, the drawers are half empty. But we just can’t bear to part with our stuff the first time through!

Here is how you de-clutter ANY drawer, or cabinet,
or closet shelf, or basket.

pull out stuff from one slot
Step 1: First, pull out and make a pile of everything that belongs in another room or drawer or space. Put it away… :o)   What is left at least belongs in the room or the area. If you know you don’t want it go ahead and pitch it. But before I organize an area or de-clutter it, I try to stay focused by first removing things that simply don’t belong. This is pretty easy because we usually don’t have trouble figuring out that office supplies belong on the desk, dishes in the kitchen and clothes in the closet etc.
However, when I help people with more serious organizational issues, one of their main problems is usually that they haven’t made the most basic decision of what is this drawer, basket, cabinet, or even room’s real purpose. You can solve a lot of problems by doing that if you haven’t.  If necessary, label the shelf, drawer or cabinet..until you can remember. When I set up a new organizational system for a friend, I almost always have to tape sticky notes to the outside of the doors to help them get used to where everything belongs. This is normal.

The Essentials.. (not including what is in the silverware drawer above.)

Step 2: Next and MOST IMPORTANT, pull out every single thing that you ABSOLUTELY cannot LIVE without. These things are your ESSENTIALS. This is not hard to figure out and shouldn’t cause you any stress because you KNOW you need this stuff!  Funny, but it is a well known fact that we only USE about 20% of any set of items in a given area 80% of the time. The rest is EXCESS or rarely used.  This is known as the 20-80 Principle.
For example, 20% of the people in any given organization do 80% of the work. 20% of your work time usually brings about 80% of the real benefit. It’s an amazing principle that holds true here too.  In my kitchen drawers, I saved only the items pictured in the two photos above. They are the things any brand new homemaker would want in her drawers if she was just starting out.  So’s been pretty painless right?


Step 3: Now, out of this pile, pull out any duplicates. OK, now we are talking about a little bit of stress…This is where fear kicks in. Why do we have so many of the same item? Because we are afraid we will lose something and have to go buy another one. I can barely get ONE child to peel potatoes..much less TWO?!?  Other culprits would be…can openers, knives, appliances, scissors, staplers, coats, shoes, tools, cameras, purses, hair dryers, pans and bowls—you name it and you probably have too many of it!  I counted eight pair of scissors the last time I checked the desk drawer. That’s just plain silly! If you only have a couple of pairs, you will be much less likely to lose them. :o) The more you have of any one item, the more likely it is that it will be left out. Clothes are the worst culprit. How many pairs of jeans, shirts, shoes etc. does one person need? How many towels..or sets of sheets?


Step 4: Now comes the hardest part. Let’s get rid of useless items, gadgets, and things that you rarely use.  Getting rid of duplicates isn’t too bad, because at least we get to keep one. :O) But getting rid of something that we don’t need or don’t use very much is harder. There are all kinds of reasons we keep stuff. It’s usually because of sentiment (so-and-so gave it to me), frugality, (I might need it or could use it or re-fashion it-or grow into it…later.) or because it’s valuable and we hate to lose something that cost a lot of money, especially if it makes us feel that we made a mistake in purchasing it in the first place. Ouch! If you love your gadget and enjoy using it—fine, but if you aren’t using it—admit it—and dump it!
What to do if you feel you can’t give up your stuff? Well, if it’s sentimental..take a photo and put it in an album…then throw the item away (including kids’ artwork and projects!). If it’s a gift, box it up and put it in the attic and throw it away later. If you find it a year from now..then dump it!  Same goes for things you haven’t used in a long time. Get rid of it. We can usually borrow rarely needed items. Why keep them? If it’s a frugality issue, sometimes the best thing is simply to have a little talk with the Lord and decide to trust Him that he will provide for you tomorrow..and the next day…and the next. We don’t want to keep so much stuff out of fear that we kill our joy of living now. There will ALWAYS be enough stuff. If you must, you could always repurchase the item at a thrift store..or again borrow it from a friend. :O)

Sometimes, we keep things because we are going to ‘give them to someone else’ or sell it on Ebay. If you haven’t sold it on ebay aren’t going to!  And why give your stuff to someone else? Do you know that most of the time, when we pass on our extra things to others…they aren’t our best things..just extras. If you can live without the item, then probably they don’t need it either. I feel that is often the case with garage sales and often at thrift stores too. So donate this stuff—today!  If you are buried in excess, now is NOT the time to RE-CYCLE, GARAGE SALE, OR SAVE THINGS FOR FRIENDS! Do that later, when your home is under control.

Step 5: Make it EASY to De-Clutter. I have a special hamper that I bought from Wal-mart that is designed  for laundry in our teeny tiny laundry room. I keep heavy duty black bags in the room just for this purpose. We line this hamper with a bag, and pitch things in it all the time. Then when it’s full, we pitch it in the back of the car to be dropped off on our next errand.

Now you can enjoy the pleasure of  neat and orderly drawers, closets, cabinets, shelves…and have a beautiful home.  Remember…LESS STUFF means LESS MESS!! As the Sidetracked Home Executives say, “Dare to Dump It!”
my signature


Trudy said...

Donna, thank you so much for stopping by my blog and for your kind words. You are such an encouragement. I appreciate you not giving up on me. I am hoping to get back into some kind of posting groove. Many unexpected things have come up over the last couple of months that have taken up great amounts of my time.

This was an excellent post and very helpful. Thank you for your ministry to we women.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for today's post. After reading it I tackled my junk drawer. I tossed a lot of junk, found new homes for the pencils, pens, crayons and screws and now have a nice empty drawer to work with. Now I'm off to find somethings to organize that space better. :)

Love your blog.

meg said...

Ah, my friend, you forgot the real Number One: Make sure hubby is not around when you try to de-clutter because he will thwart your every effort and cause the clutter to grow ever more! Or is that just my house?

Ky said...

Is that your kitchen Donna? I LOVE it! I love those draws and those cupboards. I would love to have a kitchen that looks like yours.

Thank you so very much for your very kind words about my photos. You always say the nicest things and make me feel special. You have such a gift in making others feel good about themselves.

Now, about my photos. I don't mind if you use them. I can't believe you think they are so special. I don't do anything special. Just point and shoot. I don't even photoshop them. Oh, and btw, that wasn't my hubby playing with the kids at the beach, that was my cousin visiting from Brisbane. He's a big kid himself and just played with them so much while he stayed with us. I really miss him now that he has gone home. Best toy my kids ever had!
I will pop over to Marias blog and have a squiz. I'm all for good photos. I really love to look at photos! I could do it all day long.
Anyway, I'm off to get ready for church. Have a lovely day Donna!
Love Ky xx

Caroline said...

Oh, I have got to do this. We need to get our garage under control so we can set up our weight set out there and lift weights. And there's a bunch of stuff to sell / give away...

Hope you are resting and not working too hard on blog posts.

Donna said...

Blogger Donna said...

Caroline, You all are so sweet to worry about me. Actually, posting is so easy for me now that I've learned just to photograph life as I do it. Then I've always got folders of photos saved (sort of stocked up) for the 'opportune' moment. I'm way ahead. A friend suggested that I do a to get organized to make blogging easy. Ha! That really would be too much I guess. :o)

When it's evening, and the hubby and kids are playing computer or watching a movie that I've already seen...I'll write a post 'just for fun.'

I'm so glad everyone is enjoying the junk drawer post. Funny..I never plan these things--they just seem to 'happen'.

Actually, Mickey..hubby doesn't save too much except out in the barn. :o) I'm the more likely culprit..but thank goodness..I also go crazy with too much stuff, so I have to clear out now and then.


Donna said...

Hi Ky,

I can't wait to post a little virtual vacation..Aussie style. We USA bloggers are suffering from the winter blues if you ask me.

Yes that's my kitchen. :o) If I didn't have a family of five and lots of wouldn't seem quite so small to me I'm sure. At least twice this month and and last I've had a group of eight teenage boys over. It gets tight then. :o) I picked the couch with large teenagers in mind. :O)

No post tomorrow..because Tim's boss and co-worker will be here and I'll be doing major cooking every single a little waitressing..Ha!!

Just picture me trotting back and forth between the house and the office with cups of coffee.. and spreading out 'fancy' sandwich lunches...and up early making extra special breakfasts, because that's what I'll be doing all next week starting tomorrow. It will be fun though. :o)

Lots of good food..and good conversation every evening.
Love all you guys!!


PS. Just little bits of sniffles left. This was a 'quick' flu. PTL!

Hills N Valleys said...

What an excellent post! Can you come over to my house? I'll pay ya! haha. Actually this month (started in DEC) I have been decluttering...I have given away bags and bags of stuff and I think the stuff is multiplying! I'm a bit over half done...and then I need to jump back on the flylady cart! :)

Donna said...

That's so great Over Yonder! I'm impressed and totally proud of you :o). BTW, I have such an exciting little idea that got me started de-cluttering in a new way when I had just about completely bogged down with the process. I think it will totally revolutionize the process for me. I'm not sure if I can keep it to myself until Monday. It may not work for everyone, but it sure is working for me!

Don't you just love getting rid of stuff?! It's so freeing!

Donna said...

Yea 4littleladybugs!! Great job! It's so fun! Isn't it?

And Trudy, you are a dear friend. You know I'm always going to want to be there for you. I guess I'm just going to have to call. Tim and I were just talking about you guys. When his boss is gone and I'm back from my mom's house, we want your whole family to come over for dinner. Let's set a date!We want you to spend a Saturday with us..OK? I'm going to my mom's on Sunday and the following Saturday would be perfect. :o)

Love you,

Maria Killam said...

I really am impressed with your photos Donna. Love the Amaryllis in the background of your kitchen shots. Your blog is what every homemaker needs!

“There's nothing half so pleasant as coming home again.” ~ Margaret Sangster

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