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  • Writer's pictureTara Salas

Decluttering for busy people. A simplified approach.

I'm a wannabe but never-truly-will-be minimalist. It took me years to learn that every item in the house is something to manage and that I am actually happier with less.

This was not intuitive for me as I grew up in a family that saves everything. Not in a hoarder kind of way but in a way that every shelf & closet & storage room was full of things we never used.

The goal with my house and most of my DIYs is to create a functional home that feels relaxed. Chaos and clutter is not relaxing.

So to keep myself on track I'm taking January as a month to declutter and put myself on a buying freeze.

That all sounds great, right? But how am I going to do this while working four days a week and doing all the other mom things and household chores? Two words, slowly and intentionally.

Breaking a project up into bite size pieces makes it feel manageable mentally and offers clear stopping points so its realistic to tackle. I did this in the garage by focusing on one wall at a time and not doing the entire garage at once.

There are entire TV shows, websites and books dedicated to organizing. This is my take on how I can make a meaningful impact in my home without bankrupting my time or sanity.

The approach:

-pick the area (one shelf, one dresser, one drawer) whatever feels manageable

-only start an area you know you can finish in one sitting. For example, maybe you have a whole pantry to clean but don't have enough time to do the whole thing all at once, do one shelf. As you'll see below the key to really making progress is addressing each item immediately. Biting off more than you can chew will leave you tempted to make piles and it will start to feel worse than when you started. But if you can do one shelf at a time and fully declutter that one shelf you'll feel accomplished and the next day you can do another shelf.

-take out and touch every item, this is important! For each item go through these steps.

Ask for each item:

Do I WANT to keep it? Have I used it

recently? Do have more than one of these?

Is this easily replacable if I decide I need it again someday?

Is it expired or broken?

If you decide you want to keep the item then you must immediately find a spot for it. Maybe it goes back exactly where you found it or maybe it needs to go in a different spot. Put it there right away, don't start making piles "for later." I have found that keeping all of the same items together makes it easiest to know what you have and easier to put away.

Example: all the pencils, pens and markers in the house are in one drawer. If I find these items stashed in other places I either throw them away if they're not needed or put them in the marker box in the drawer. That's it, those are the only 2 options.

If you decide to part with an item its up to you to decide how. Obviously it might make sense to try to sell somethings or donate or throw away. Again, you must address the item immediately. Make a thrift store bag/box and put in your car as soon as you're done with clearing the space. Don't let it sit or you risk not coming back to take care of it. Even worse you might end up with random piles you intended to address and days later you're overwhelmed and almost worse off than when you started.

If you're selling an item really consider how much it's worth to you to spend the time and effort to sell it. That's up to you but I would recommend having a plan if the item doesn't sell.

Example: "if this doesn't sell by this date I'll donate it." I often price items on FBMP lower than I know I could get purely to have the item gone and off my mental to-do list. Using this strategy I can usually off load the item in 1-2 days.

While I'm not a die hard Marie Kondo fan I did take a few things away from her hit book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up." The first was to release items that no longer served me. This sounds weird but it removed any guilt I felt from getting rid of things that had been gifts (especially to the kids) or things I'd spent my hard earned money on. A dress I'd worn had served its purpose, it wasn't a waste, I just didn't need it anymore. If the kids played with the McDonald's happy meal toy for the duration of a car ride and trip to the park, its purpose was served and it did not need to stay in the house. Same for kids clothes. As I was saving as hand-me downs I used the criteria "would I buy this again right now?" if the answer was "no" it went to the donate pile. If the answer was "yes" it went in a bin for little brother's to wear in a few years.

Even though I've been doing this sort of approach to my house for years I become less vigilant over time and it's good to have a refresh. I'll be doing this exact method through my house all of January. In the true spirit of living with LESS I am also putting myself on a spending freeze from bringing home any new items. If I want something I'll make a list in my planner. At the end of the month I'll revisit the list and see if my feelings about the items have changed. Usually I find I no longer want several of them :)

I hope this helps you feel less overwhelmed and gives you a mindset to approach your own home on your own terms. Follow along on Instagram stories in January to see my approach in action and I'd love to hear from you on any tricks and tips you may have or areas you struggle with.

Happy organizing!


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