Declutter Like a Pro

“How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.”

I love that saying.  And it applies so well to the principle of decluttering in your home.  Even if you were starving and wanted to eat an elephant whole, you are restricted by the size of your mouth and the time it takes to chew.  Like eating an elephant, decluttering is a sizeable project, that must be done in babysteps. Clutter is gradually and continually accumulated in our homes.  Most of us are not going to be able to eliminate it overnight.  Babysteps are essential to avoid burn out as you deal with clutter, and also to keep you from adding more chaos to your home in the process of trying to organize it.

Now that I am selling my home, and planning to move cross-country, it is so much easier for me to decide which things I truly love and need.  If I don’t love it, I certainly don’t want to pay to haul it!  Before I pack a thing, I am going to systematically declutter through my home.  I hope you will join me on the journey.

A Declutter a Day Keeps the Chaos Away

To get my home ready on time for my  move, I need to focus on the decluttering daily.  There are a few rules I follow to make my decluttering project go smoothly:

1. I don’t Declutter until my Daily routines are done.  My Morning and Evening routines are the backbone of keeping my home in order.  I can’t sacrifice the time spent on those, just to jump into another organizational project.  I make sure my bed is made, my dishes are dealt with and my living areas are generally picked up before tackling any decluttering.  I always want to upkeep the work I completed yesterday before pressing on.  It’s also easier for your brain to focus on organizing an area when your surroundings are fairly in order.  You don’t want to add to your mess!  Never skip your basic routines.

2. Don’t pull everything out!  Always set a time limit for your decluttering project.  And overestimate the time it is going to take because decluttering takes a lot of emotional energy and can wear you out quick.  Break the area you are working on into sections.  When I am not under a deadline, I like to focus on a drawer or shelf a day (I don’t tackle a whole closet at one time).  Even though that seems small, you may real progress faster than you think.  Small goals are doable goals.  If I think my shelf or drawer will take 15 min., then I split the time in thirds — I spend the 1st 5 min. emptying the area and wiping it out quickly.  The next 5 min. are spent sorting the contents of the area.  This is when you decide if you are throwing the stuff away, giving it away or putting it back.  You sort everything into like-item piles.  The last 5 min. is spent putting the “to keep” items back neatly on the shelf.  You don’t have to make it all pretty at that moment, just try to keep it neat.  No matter how much time you think you’d like to spend on a given day decluttering, most of us need a break after about an hour.  So make every effort to never pull out more than you can deal with in an hour.

3. Scale back as needed.  Some areas are either too overwhelming, or you find that in order to do it right you need to see what is in there before you can declutter it.  In that case, I still go shelf by shelf and drawer by drawer, but I a do what I call “a once over pass”—-I make my primary goal to sort the contents of the area before I focus too deeply on eliminating anything.  When I began sorting through my 8 ft. buffet table full of photos and scrapbook supplies, I realized that I needed to gradually go through the entire buffet putting like items in group so I knew what I had. That way I could decide which things I had too much of, and which things I didn’t care about anymore.  So, with this approach I pick my next shelf or drawer, empty out the contents and sort everything into groups, and then neatly return the groups to the shelf or drawer.  If I see something I instantly know I want to get rid of, I dispose of it and continue with my sorting.

If I am easily overwhelmed by an area, I “pick at it” instead of emptying the area, I pull from the top and just pull out things I see that need to go somewhere else, or need to head to the trash.  You don’t always have to tackle the whole spot.  This is also a great trick to decluttering throughout the day.  When you are putting on your makeup in the morning, you can quickly dispose of any old makeup or supplies in your drawer.  When you are putting videos away, glance to see if there are any titles that are no longer loved and can be added to your giveaway box.  Always be considering what you love in your home, and what you no longer need.

Let’s Get Started!

Do you have time to declutter for 15 min. today?  Just pick a shelf or drawer to start with.  I’ll be sorting through my to-file piles in the office.  Throughout the next 30 days I will be posting different decluttering projects from the house that will hopefully give you some ideas and encourage you to push forward in your own decluttering efforts.  There is nothing like decluttering to get rid of the chaos in your home.  Let’s just take a bite every day, and see the progress!  Happy Flinging!


From Sloppy to Showroom-ready in Just 1 Week!

A Wild and Crazy Transition

Hello Friends! I have missed sharing with you the last few weeks.  Just over a month ago, my husband was offered a job in Ohio (2500 miles away from our current home), and he decided to take it! Needless to say my schedule has been a whirlwind ever since.  We had to get him ready in a hurry because the new position was to start immediately.  The plan was to send him ahead to try out the job, while the kids and I stayed in California to sell our home.  We met with the realtor, and to my surprise, she wanted to put the house up for sale a week after he was to be gone!  That news kicked me into high gear— I knew I was going to need all the time before my husband left just to get him and his stuff ready, which meant only 1 week to get the house spotless!!  I knew it was going to take all my Flying skill and experience to tackle the job.  Incredibly, I was able to do it.  Whether you are preparing to show your home, or you just need to get your home out of chaos in a hurry, the following tips will get you moving in the right direction:

1. Narrow Your Focus

When you begin to think of selling your house, you begin to see every detail in your home that is out-of-place and that needs to be fixed.  But if you are in a hurry, you can’t afford a mile-long list of to-do’s.  I had to take a deep breath, and really consider which actions would make the most impact and what could afford to wait a bit.  There were minor repairs and paint projects that needed to be tackled, and of course a good amount of organizing and cleaning to do.  I decided to focus on the cleaning and organizing as my primary mission, and I would also include 1 or 2 small repair jobs that I could tackle on my own (and only because they were super obvious to visitors, otherwise I would have left them off the list).  I also scaled my initial cleaning list down too — I wanted my house to be sparkly clean, but that didn’t mean I needed to include all the detail cleaning chores from the whole year.  I could wipe off and spot-clean my kitchen cabinets rather than spending the time to oil-them, and I could spot-clean my area rugs, rather than taking a day to shampoo them outside!  I needed to focus on the basics.  What items needed to disappear?  What would make my home feel more cozy?

2. Surfaces 1st

By the time my husband left for Ohio, my house was a wreck.  And I didn’t have 24/7 to focus on the house either– I still had to work, and I now had the kids to take care of on my own.  So the focus for my cleaning and organizing became “Surfaces 1st”.  Obviously, everything on the floor had to be put away or thrown away, and then all of my counters and surfaces throughout the house needed to be cleaned and decluttered.  So I took 2 days just getting that done.  I made the beds 1st and used those as sorting stations for things that needed to be put away.  Then I went to work tackling the clothes, and putting away books and toys.  In the kitchen, I cleaned the sink 1st and started with dealing with all the dishes, and getting the counters cleared.  I resisted the urge to clean beyond what was on my normal Morning and Evening routine lists.  I would tackle the cleaning after I got my surfaces and floors cleared.  This was not a time to start organizing my cupboards or eliminating items from my bookcase (unless I couldn’t get them to fit).  I left the interiors of my cabinets alone, and just got the areas I knew people would be looking at cleared.  I didn’t reorganize the closets, but I did get everything off the floor in there, and at least stacked neatly on the shelves.

3. Tackle Projects in Babysteps

Before my husband left, he got excited and removed all the cabinet doors from my laundry room and began sanding them in preparation for a new coat of paint.  He had not narrowed his focus.  Guess who got to finish the job?  You guessed it!  After the basic surfaces were picked up I had to split my time between cleaning projects, and home tune-up projects.  I decided to finish up the doors and get them back in place as quick as possible, and I had to repair a broken trim piece.  Anything else that need to be tuned-up could wait until later.  I spent every free moment I could working room by room getting it cleaned.  And I split my tune-up projects into babysteps I could do throughout the day.  Primer on the cabinets and trim only takes about 30 min. to dry.  So I would use my timer and tackle that 15 min. at a time, early in the day, so I could then coat with paint and let it dry mid-day.  In the evenings after my Before Bed Routine, I put up the cabinet doors and installed my new trim, and then did my touch-up on the trim.  By using my timer and breaking the project into pieces they got done quick and easy.

4. Stay True to Your Routines

When you are getting the house clean in a hurry, nothing is more critical than sticking to your routines.  I now had to take a no-excuses approach to my Morning and Before Bed Basic Routines each and every day.  I wanted to make sure that whatever areas I had tackled the day before would stay clean, and that I could move forward with the next items on my list.  The only way to do that is to stick to your routines.  I also implemented mandatory 10 min. house pick-up times after lunch and before bed, so that we could everything nice and tidy.  The kids needed to help keep things clean too.  This was a life-saver.  On the last day of the week before my house was ready to show, I made it sparkle by tackling my Weekly Home Blessing list (7 things done weekly to keep your home tidy) including the mopping, dusting, emptying the trash and wiping off all my mirrors.  I am pleased to say that my home got an outstanding review by my realtor when she saw it!!

My home was far from clean when I started the week, but with focused dedicated actions, I had it sparkling by week’s end.  I can now continue to fine-tune as needed and begin decluttering for my big move ahead.  Sticking to my routines, and continuing to work in babysteps daily will get me moved without the stress.  Try some of these tips on your next big house over-haul.  Happy Flying!!!