De-cluttering: getting started

(a.k.a.) Pinterest inspirations: 40 bags in 40 days

A friend pinned a list she found online of 40 places to sort over 40 days. I love the idea of living a simple and clutter free life. But, at the same time, I’m a bit of a magpie – I like to collect “pretty” things (that is, I have a bad habit of collecting pretty or interesting things – just ask my family about my once epic collection of beach treasures). When I was a teenager, I had lots of things that I didn’t need, but wouldn’t purge. As I got older, I got better at weeding things out, but hadn’t yet learned the art of not buying any old thing that I fancied. I was in a constant battle with myself: I’d de-clutter a few times a year, but then quickly accumulate more things to fill those empty spaces.

Over the years, I got better at being selective about things that I brought into to my home. Then I moved a few times (including a move across the country). Having pretty, interesting, or potentially useful things is great, moving them is not. So, over the past few years I’ve been working on de-cluttering my life, living with less, and appreciating what I decide to keep (literally and figuratively). It’s been hard, especially when I was sorting through things I had inherited from my mother (not so much because they were my mother’s, but because I was worried family members would be upset if I got rid of certain things).

I’ve reached a point where I know myself well enough to be able to curb my desire to collect things (most of the time) and take preventative actions (example: the more places I have to put things, the more I will own, so I don’t like having too many shelves or dressers).

That said, I still have de-cluttering to do because I haven’t made a concerted effort to de-clutter my whole apartment since my last move. So, when I saw this list I decided to use it as inspiration to create my own list and finish the job I keep starting but not finishing.

The idea behind it is to list all the places that need de-cluttering and sort through one each day. But, first, I need to plan a head: I need a list, I need to determine the ferocity of this de-clutter (major de-clutter or just a wee tidy up?), and I need a place to put things that I’m going to donate (this is very important for me – I don’t have a car, so donating things may not happen right away and may take a few trips). I have lots of space in my apartment, so finding a temporary home for things I plan to donate is easy. I don’t have much stuff, but I want to deal with things that I keep being indecisive about so I’m going for a full-on major de-clutter.

That just leaves the list. I can’t use the original list because there are too many spaces that I don’t have (kids room, garage, etc.), but I can use the list as a starting point to create my own personalized list. The first things I did was write “Be Brutal” on the top of a page. This is my way of reminding myself to only keep things that fit under my “should I keep it?” list. Then I picked the things I could use off the original list and started adding my own.

This is my final list:

  1. Junk drawer in the kitchen
  2. Utensil / cutlery drawers
  3. Under the kitchen sink
  4. Refrigerator / freezer
  5. Lower kitchen cupboards (mostly small appliances and containers)
  6. Upper kitchen cupboards (mostly dishes and dry goods)
  7. Office supplies
  8. Art / craft supplies
  9. Cameras and accessories (digital and film … mostly film)
  10. Movies and music (including copies in iTunes)
  11. Books and magazines
  12. Bedroom closet
  13. Shelves in bedroom closet
  14. Jewelry and jewelry boxes
  15. Front hall closet
  16. Under the bathroom sink
  17. Storage closet: shelves
  18. Storage closet: everything else
  19. Papers (files and the pile of random papers waiting to be sorted or scanned)

I didn’t even make it to 20, but that’s OK. I live in an apartment by myself and I don’t have many places to let clutter accumulate. It doesn’t matter how small your home is or how much stuff you have, this is a good exercise. Some people will find that all they end up doing is a quick tidy up of the space, other’s will find that they needed all morning just to get through the junk drawer.

The next step is, of course, to start de-cluttering. So, I need to print off this list, put it somehwere where I will see it each day, and commit to tackling at least one everyday until they’re all done.

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