We all hoard stuff. Yes, even you.

We all hoard to a certain degree. That’s “hoard” with a lower-case h. I’m not talking about Hoarding Disorder (another post, another day!).

I have a friend who has a well-organised, substantial hoard of travel toiletries. I have more staples than I’ll use in the next 5 years. And I have amassed quite a collection of iPhone cables.

We do our hoarding either passively or actively. If we actively hoard, we are aware of the volume of stuff we have, and we continue to acquire them and choose to not discard any (shoes, notebooks, pets, furniture, craft supplies and books come to mind).

When we passively hoard, we accumulate relatively mindlessly (as part of everyday life) and don’t have the corresponding habit of discarding established. And so we gather a little collection without realising. My friend recently went through her junk drawers and found several boxes of staples and no stapler. I think they’d also accumulated several rolls of tape. She was surprised – she had no idea they had that many.

First Aid, anyone?

First Aid, anyone?

That’s passive hoarding and you’ll see it manifesting in things like pens, tape, broken things you intend to fix, cassette tapes and VHS tapes, cords and cables, placemats, old paperwork, coffee mugs, plasticware, water bottles, stubbie-holders, vases and platters.

You don’t realise until you go to declutter just how much you’ve accidentally kept!

If you’re passively hoarding stuff, it’s a good idea to establish the habit of regularly going through those areas and having a quick cull to keep the volume at bay. Another good habit is to have a quick review whenever you bring a new item into the house and see if anything needs to go to make room for it or to maintain the current volume.

What do you find that you passively hoard?

Five habits of clutter-free people

Here are five things that clutter-free people make a habit of:

1. They acquire mindfully; only buying something if they know they need it and have identified a specific use for it. They happily pay full price because they know it’s of value to them (unless they find it’s conveniently on sale when they go to buy it) and avoid sales and being enticed by discounts. They only acquire something if they know where they’re going to put it, and that it fits there easily.

2. They have hobbies that either don’t require a lot of stuff, they set boundaries around how much of the hobby stuff they can have, or they limit their hobbies to a small number (like one or two). Or all of the above! They are satisfied without trying to do everything all at once.

3. They are okay with letting things go. They put themselves first and don’t keep things out of guilt or obligation. They don’t take everyone else’s problems on as their own. They have their emotional needs met by a small selection of sentimental possessions only, rather than keeping them all.

4. They don’t have a fear of missing out. They know that they’re always missing out on something, so why fight it? They are comfortable in the knowledge that they can’t have and do everything, and that if they tried, it wouldn’t result in happiness.

5. They base their self-worth around things other than their belongings. They know that even without all their stuff, they’ll still be okay.  Their happiness does not depend on having things. They trust that if culling something means one day forgetting something, that they’ll still be okay. They trust that even if they one day regret culling something, they’ll still be okay.

Perhaps you can see ways you might be able to create some clutter-free habits, too?

Tipping points

I’m going to preface this article by saying I don’t like to tell people how much stuff is the right amount of stuff; I think everyone should be able to have whatever volume of belongings they are happy and healthy with. This article isn’t to specify a “right” or “wrong” but it may perhaps give some people a guide to go by when decluttering or maintaining their home’s “stuff levels”.

My house isn’t overly minimalist. It’s not overly tidy all the time, either. But it does have one thing going for it – we have only as much stuff as we can comfortably store. That means that when I do want it tidy to my satisfaction, it doesn’t take long because all the stuff that’s laying about annoying me has a home to go to.

What that also means is that I can easily see where things are going awry. I have “trigger points” that show me I need to declutter (not tidy, as I have kids and pets and a life I pretty much need to tidy constantly, as I’m sure you do too!).

Here’s some of my “It’s time to declutter” trigger points:

1) There’s stuff staying an extended time on tables and benches because it won’t fit in the cupboard or doesn’t have a home. That’s a huge alarm bell for me. Right now I have a big pack of Rice Bubbles on the kitchen counter because it won’t fit in the pantry – it’s been there a week. Silly me bought when we already had a full pack in there. I need to do something about that. I think I need to remove a container. Or just eat a LOT of Rice Bubbles very quickly ;). It’s not bothering me too much because I know it will get eaten eventually, but if it’s not a consumable like that I quickly resolve it. If you leave it, the table just attracts more stuff and then it grows to an unmanageable level.

2) I have to rifle through a pile on my desk to find something. When I notice myself doing that, I make sure I put aside 5 minutes as soon as I can to go through it and file stuff. And get some stuff done, too, as lots of it will be important actions to take. Also, when my files are getting fat that’s a warning flag too – time to prune.

3) I have things on the floor. As far as I’m concerned, the floor in my house isn’t storage. It should store furniture and half-finished Lego constructions only. And maybe the odd train track development project ;). So if I’m seeing stuff persisting on the floor, I need to declutter a cupboard somewhere that that stuff should be going into. Or get rid of said stuff.

4) I can’t find stuff or get to things easily. If I’m having to rummage through a storage container/shelf/cupboard then I add a declutter to my to-do list for that week. I can’t stand not being able to find things!

5) I feel cramped. This one is a slow-burner but it’s responsible for a whole bookcase leaving our house recently. I just wanted more empty wall space so the room felt bigger. It worked well too 🙂

 

Here’s some other posts that might help you declutter:

Declutter first, organise second

The “No Brainers” declutter list

Will it stay or will it go? How to make declutter decisions

 

 

 

Un-organising

I read a recent article about certain spaces you shouldn’t bother trying to keep organised in your home. They included the junk drawer, kids’ toyrooms, laundry cupboards, your utensil drawer and photos.

It had an impact in my industry, with lots of Professional Organisers saying “WHAT??? WHY?? NOO!!!!” to the ideas expressed in the article.

But I agreed with the article (most of it, anyway, I DO think the laundry should be fairly well organised because having an efficient clothes-washing system and routine has a flow-on effect to the rest of the house). I agree because I think we place too much pressure on ourselves to have our spaces organised to the “nth degree”. To have all our drawers neatly divided and our books colour-coordinated. To have all the kids’ Lego sorted by colour. To have a house that looks like the ones on Pinterest.

I think life’s too short for that.

To show you how it’s possible to let go on some of these high standards, I’m going to show you my stationery drawers. They are sorted into broad groups (writing, drawing {my art}, attaching, labeling, personal and technical) and labeled all neatly on the outside. Now, that’s pretty organised; I always know what’s in those drawers (or what should be in them if I’ve been good and put stuff away!).

When you open the drawers, however, it looks like a bit of a shemozzle; it’s all just chucked in. And I think that’s fine. It still takes me no time at all to put my hands on what I want, and isn’t that what organised really means? I can see there are a few things that shouldn’t live in a couple of those drawers, but they aren’t bothering me right now so I don’t really care. I can find what I want when I want it.

Organised chaos. That's my thang.

Organised chaos. That’s my thang.

The same goes for my son’s Lego, which is in one big long, shallow tub. Not sorted. Not at all. He doesn’t care one iota. And neither do I.

And my utensil drawer – everyone just throws the stuff in anyway, so why bother trying to keep it tidy? I keep it decluttered so that it only holds what’s necessary, but… tidy? Not worth the effort!

So chill out. You don’t have to have everything lined up with the labels all pointing outwards to have an organised home. You just need to be able to find things when you want them, and have only what you can fit easily in their space.

So, if you want to throw stuff willy-nilly in your top bathroom vanity drawer, go for it. If you want to just throw your undies in with your socks all messy and unfolded, feel free. If you want to have your hairbands in the same box as your clips and bobby-bins, go your hardest. If you can’t be bothered putting your books in order of genre or author, that’s completely okay. You are free to have a jumble if you so wish.

You’re welcome.

Weekend Weightlifter – the utensil drawer

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This week – the utensil drawer. This is where stuff that won’t fit in the cutlery drawer goes. And it can get rather messy!

  1. Lay out a towel on the kitchen floor.
  2. Pull all of the stuff out of the drawer and sort it into like groups (ie “cutting” “scooping” “storing” “making” “decorating”) onto the towel
  3. For each item, ask yourself:
    • How many of these do I have?
    • How often do I use it?
    • If I got rid of it, would I be able to find a way to still do what I need to do if the need arose (the answer is almost always YES – there is more than one way to skin a cat, as the old saying…rather grossly…puts it)
    • Will I use it again more than a couple of times a year?
    • Is it still in good working order?
    • Can I live without it (that’s me being facetious – unless you have a dialysis machine in there, of course can live without it).
    • Does my bestie/mother/sister/neighbour have one I can borrow if I do need it again one day?
    • Does it even belong in the kitchen? (there will be rubber bands, bits of broken toys, coasters, orphan bits of sets, the odd hair band, a few receipts, stamps, paper clips, bandaids or bobby pin and the like that should be re-home completely)
  4. Cull everything that doesn’t make the cut
  5. Put the rest back in the drawer in its groups.  You may need to use ziplock bags to group the small stuff together, and drawer dividers to keep it all from getting too jumbled again.

 

Weekend Weightlifter – the cutlery drawer

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My cutlery drawer after a little spruce-up

This week we’re tacking the cutlery drawer. It’s a short job, but with great satisfaction because you use it so frequently.  I did it today myself and it took me only 8 minutes! (mind you, mine was more dirty than cluttered so most of the time taken was cleaning the cutlery tray!).  It should still take you less than 15 minutes.

Here you go:

  1. Pull everything out and place it all in like groups on your counter-top or table (knives together, spoons together etc)
  2. Take out the cutlery tray, if you have one (if you don’t, get one as it prevents a lot of searching!) and give it a good clean.
  3. Wipe out the inside of your drawer
  4. Assess your piles on the counter. What do you use all the time? How many do you REALLY need? What do you never use? What can you live without? (ie, if you didn’t have one, you could still make do).
  5. Put the frequently-used items back in the drawer in their groups
  6. Find homes elsewhere for the stuff that doesn’t belong
  7. Donate or trash never-used, duplicates or broken items
  8. Smile every time you  open the drawer!

 

Weekend Weightlifter – organise your car

It’s quite common for our cars to get a little messy inside.

This weekend your mission is to clear out the junk and make sure you’ve got all the things you need in your car.

1. Empty out the rubbish.
2. Take out things that don’t live in there and out them in their homes inside the house or garage.
3. Give it a bit of a wipe down and vacuum if it needs it.
4. Make a list of things that are handy to have in the car. It may include: tissues, rubbish bags, shopping bags, maps, first aid kit, spare sunnies, books, notepad, pens, a bottle of water (for the radiator, not to drink), spare hats, spare umbrella, sunscreen (essential in our hot Aussie summer!) or anything else you find you need when out and about.
5. Find suitable storage for those items (you can get special organisers for the car or just make up your own) and put it all back in.
6. Try to make a habit of tidying your car whenever you get home and teach your kids to do the same with the back seat.

Are you Dame Washalot?

My daughter loves reading the Faraway Tree books. In it is a character called Dame Washalot, who spends all of her time doing laundry.  Today, sitting on the floor in the laundry, sorting my own pile of washing, it occurred to me that most women (sorry guys, but usually the women do the majority of the clothes washing tasks!) spend far too much time keeping their family in clean clothes. Unlike Dame Washalot, however, they don’t really enjoy it!

I go into people’s homes just about every day. One of the most common causes of clutter that I see is clothes. Clean or dirty (or of unknown status!), they overtake the house! I see it time and time again – and it really bothers people but they don’t know how to deal with it.

Here are a few tips I implemented at home, and recommend to clients, to reduce the task a bit:

  1. Wash regularly and, if you have a good machine that adjusts water usage, with small loads. Don’t save it all up for the weekend.
  2. Reduce the amount of clothing you have by setting boundaries. If I can’t fit any member of our household’s entire wardrobe in their cupboard and the washing basket (and on them!), I cull their clothes (and mine, too, of course!). There should be no overflow whatsoever.
  3. Avoid ironing as much as possible. In summer I drip-dry, then shake and smooth them out before hanging or folding. In winter I either use the dryer (and remove and hang immediately) or I line-dry and then lay them flat on each other for a few hours before putting away. For the perfectionists out there who say this is impossible, let me tell you that this has made the single biggest difference to the efficiency of my washing cycle. I save around 2-3 hours a week, not to mention the elimination of the stress of that ironing pile waiting for me! I was once just like you, ironing everything but underwear. After a month on a family road-trip last year, I returned home realising that I will survive without ironing. And I have ironed only a handful of times since. If I can do it, so can you!
  4. Finish the cycle before starting another.  If you have mounds of clean clothes waiting to be put away, finish that job before you put another load in the machine. “Clean” is not the end of the job. If you regard it as such, you will find yourself and the rest of your family perpetually dressing themselves from the pile of clean washing taking up half of your living or spare room. Regard each load as a singular task, with “Away” as the end of the task.
  5. Engage the help of the family. Have them fold and put away their own clothes, or a load each.  It’s a simple job – one that can be done in front of the TV if there is a need to make it less mundane (although I have found it a great opportunity for meditation when done as a solo task).
  6. Have routines.  Choose a time to put a load on every day, and follow through the entire cycle (wash -> dry -> away) on the same day. Stick to the routines until they become a habit.

Do you have any tips or tricks of your own to help keep on top of the washing? Do tell!

How do you STAY organised?

Many people work hard to get organised. They do a big cull, pull everything out and create homes for their stuff. They make it all neat and tidy and breath a big sigh of relief when it’s done.  However, they all face a similar struggle once they finish de-cluttering and organising their space. How do they maintain it? How do they avoid having to do it all again in a year’s time?

They  feel a little silly at this stage, because they think it should be easy once it’s all organised. But it’s not – you still need to work on it. Your space will not change in the long-term if you don’t change, no matter how clever you are!

This is where routines and habits come into play.  Organised people are organised partly because it’s the way their brain works, but also because they have built up a repertoire of habits that positively reinforce their organisation.  There is more than one way to build habits, but my favourite is by introducing them through routines.

When you introduce a routine, try to think about what you always do out of habit already, and ‘stick’ new habits onto it. If you always turn on the coffee machine as soon as you wake up, add a positive habit to that routine such as checking your calendar while you wait for it to brew. Once you have a habit ‘sticking’ (around a month of trying should get it working okay), add another. Keep going until you’re a well-oiled machine.  You’ll free up your brain, have a more organised day, more organised spaces and be able to enjoy life a little more.

Share with us – what habits and routines do you have that help you stay organised? My favourite is choosing my next day’s outfit the night before – it saves so much time and reduces stress a great deal!

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