I promised an update to this about three months ago, but I was so determined to get the house decluttered that I didn’t feel like stopping to update. I finally have some pictures uploaded to show you what all got done, and even some taken in September, after it had been done for several weeks, to show you what it looked like then.
Unfortunately, I kept forgetting to take before pictures. Or maybe I was just ashamed to do so. Either way, I didn’t take a lot of before pictures. If you go back to my first decluttering post and see what the entrance to the house looked like, that pretty much sums up the whole house: too much crap + too little storage space = BIG MESS.
One of the things I love about this tiny house of ours is the walk in pantry. Frankly, I don’t know how people who don’t have a walk in pantry do anything in their kitchens. Unfortunately, it’s just shelves, which, if you are naturally a neat person, isn’t a problem. When you have problems with organization, shelves alone lead to a disorganized mess and difficulty finding sage when it’s hiding behind all the other spice bottles.
What I ended up doing first, even before I really started decluttering the main part, was to get some fabric cube drawers to organize some of the loose bags and boxes. I have a cube for each of these categories now: beans; rice and pasta; boxed mixes; and jello. They are all different colors, so I know by the color and place which one I’m getting out (Jeff hasn’t quite learned the system yet though). If it seems weird that I’m putting boxes of food in a cloth cubby, I understand. And there isn’t a lot in the jello cubby. However, if you’ve ever stacked boxes of jello and pudding, then you know that they get moved around or knocked down rather easily. If they’re in a box, they can be messy on the inside, but my shelves look nice on the outside. For the mixes, the cubby became a central place for all the mixes to go, instead of being scattered hither and yon around my lovely walk in pantry.
Once I got down to the major decluttering – and make no mistake, I procrastinated on it until the middle of August – it took me almost all day. I got rid of small appliances (waffle maker, you seemed like a good idea at the time), coolers, and a bunch of old spices that I bought at the store years ago (that dried basil smells like cardboard. I don’t think it will give anything a delicious basil flavor anymore.). Old baking items got tossed, and those items I use got combined with other containers of the same thing (see, that’s what happens when you have a disorganized pantry – duplicate purchases!). Then I took everything off the shelves and put baking supplies and dried beans that were in reusable containers into ziplock bags, bowls, or other plastic containers so I could wash the old ones. Once everything was off the shelves, the shelves got washed, sanitized, and I added a layer of contact paper to brighten the place up. Then everything went back onto the shelves and got organized.
Once the pantry was done, I was so relieved that I kept thinking, “Why didn’t I do this sooner?”
Kitchen cabinets got done too. I ended up giving away or recycling a lot of items, both glass and plastic. I was fortunate to have done the cabinets on a weekend where my parents were here, so mom helped me sort items, clean the cabinets out, then put down contact paper on the shelves.
One of the very last areas I worked on was our bedroom closet. I use the term closet loosely, because we have two closets in the house – one in each bedroom – and neither of them is more than my arm’s length in depth. Our son’s at least has a shelf; our closet doesn’t even have that. It was a barely functional mess. Here it is after getting decluttered and cleaned:
This corner of the living room was the last area I did. Here’s an actual “before” picture of it:
All that stuff on the floor? It’s Jeff’s. I finally just had to put it all on the dining room table and tell him to please deal with it or it was all getting tossed, shredded, recycled, or given away. Once that was out of the way, I went through the books and organized them. It looks much better now.
The whole idea behind decluttering the house came from this idea: “You know, if I had less crap around here, I wouldn’t have to do as much cleaning and picking up as I feel like I’m doing.” And what I’ve found is that now that most everything in my house has an actual place to go, it usually gets put back in its place. So six to eight weeks after doing all of this decluttering, here are some of the after pictures. Yes, some of the areas are a little messy again, but they are also very easily cleaned up.
Some of those areas are a little messy, but the mess is easily picked up now. The pantry and kitchen cabinets have stayed picked up because there is so much less that needs to go into them. I have to say that I’m especially proud of my husband, who has stuck to the organization in the pantry, which has stayed decluttered and clean, even now that it’s been two months since I worked on it.
Back on June 10 I explained a little bit about how I started this whole project and how not to get overwhelmed doing it. Here’s how to do it with more details.
First, I think you just really have to want to get rid of the stuff that’s cluttering up your environment. If the thought of going home from work to a messy, cluttered house doesn’t send you into anxiety mode, you might not be ready for it. That’s fine. I think it took me years to get to the point where I was really ready to see the mess and call it an actual mess, instead of just ignoring it.
When you know you’re ready, grab a notebook and number each line. I went all the way to 90 in my notebook, which took about three pages. As I said in my earlier post, I only got to number 33 before I was done with my areas.
Now, pick any spot in your house and put that area down as number 1. No, not the whole living room. That’s too big and will be overwhelming. To do this right (or at least my version of right), you need to pick small areas. Divide the living room up by the areas that are cluttered. For example, my list for the living room looked like this:
- china cabinet
- entertainment center
- get rid of entertainment center (donate to Habitat for Humanity)
My original idea was to work on one area a day until the whole house was done. That stuck for about the first four days, but I discovered that some of the areas took longer than I thought they would or that some of the areas were way too interconnected to just work on one at a time. What ended up happening after that was that I usually worked on two to five areas each Saturday. I occasionally worked on something during the week after work, but only very occasionally.
Once you’ve got your numbered list, start working on it! If it helps, set a goal to have it done in a certain amount of time. I chose to finish by the end of summer and was able to accomplish that. If your house is larger, you’ll probably need more than three months to get it done, and that’s OK. The important thing is work on a little bit at a time. If you think a project is too big for you to complete in one day, then break that area down into smaller areas. For example, when I listed the pantry area, I did it like this:
- left side of pantry
- right side of pantry
- middle of pantry
Since I didn’t know exactly how long each part would take, I wanted to be able to cross one whole project off my list. But dividing it up, I was able to do that. Added bonus: I finished the whole pantry up in one day and was able to cross three items off the list.
Another very important idea to keep in mind: the point of decluttering is not to put as much stuff in the landfill as you can. You won’t be able to avoid trashing some items, but your goal should be to give away (or sell) as much as you can, and recycle what you can’t. Tax documents from 1997? Shred, then recycle (don’t laugh. I had tax documents going back that far). Bank statements? Shred, then recycle. Yes, this is a good opportunity/excuse to buy or borrow a shredder, but you will use it almost every day, especially on days when the postal carrier brings two new credit card applications. Kids old art projects? Recycle (if possible). If you absolutely need the reminder of what your 29-year-old made for her first grade art project, take a picture of it, then recycle the project. If you have enough of these pictures, add them to a photo album or scrapbook, which takes up much less space than three boxes of art projects you aren’t even looking at anymore. Most anything can be recycled now, so use good stewardship principals as you get rid of your clutter.