Decluttering Tips From the MAWB 5-Day Declutter Challenge

By Guest Blogger, Hilda M. Rodgers

 

The decluttering challenge took place in the MAWB 5-Day Declutter Challenge FB event. There were 46 people who signed up for the event and over half of them participated through the week. You can read through all the posts and see everyone’s pictures and progress here. Feel free to share your own pictures there even though the event is over (add a new post so it shows up at the top, rather than adding a comment on an older post).With everyone in the midst of physical distancing, it’s a great time to declutter. Most people are more overwhelmed with their clutter because they are home all the time, with more people, and it’s much more noticeable. It’s great motivation for letting go. If you weren’t able to participate, or you want a refresher of the tips, this blog post will give you all the highlights of the challenge, including the main tips I shared. 

 

Introduction to the Challenge – Facebook Live

Before the challenge began, I did a Facebook live to introduce myself and kick off the challenge with some tips. You can see the video here.

Here are some highlights:
  • Clutter is anything you don’t need, use, love, or have enough space for
  • Not sure where to start? You can’t do everything at once, but if you start somewhere and then maintain that space, and then do the same with a second space, and a third, it will motivate you to keep going, and over time you’ll get there. The main thing is to just start somewhere!
  • You won’t be able to do everything in one week! Do whatever YOU can do, even if it’s just one small thing every day – every little bit adds up! You can revisit the tips here after this challenge is over and keep going in future weeks.
  • Try to stay focused on one area – otherwise you’ll get distracted with things in other rooms and end up doing a little bit everywhere, but feeling like you aren’t getting anywhere – use a “relocate” basket and then when you finish the space you’re working on you can put away the things from that box in other rooms
  • Tools – garbage bag, recycling bag, donation bag/box, relocate basket
  • What to do with decluttered items – tough question right now – donation centers closed
    • Use labeled boxes or clear bags so they aren’t accidentally confused with garbage 
    • Find a corner / space you’re not using and store them all there until they can be dropped off later (and where others won’t be tempted to grab things back out)
  • Involve the family if they are available
    • It’s best to start with items that are “your” domain
    • It’s also best to let others decide on things that are theirs (esp. spouses/partners)
    • Kids can help with their things (it’s a good life-skill – just do it in small bursts – and focus on keeping the items they really love rather than getting rid of things they don’t like any more)
  • Have fun with this! Put on some music, set a timer to see how much you can do it 15 mins, 30 mins, etc.
  • Take before and after pics – even if you don’t share them, it’s good to take them so you can see your progress and be motivated to continue
  • Don’t feel like you’re not doing as much as someone else, or as well as someone else – no comparisonsjust progress! Your decluttered spaces may not be perfect, but they will be better than before!
  • Decluttering can help improve your mood, your productivity, and your overall mental health
Here are two blog posts I shared to motivate and help you get pumped up for the challenge. 

 

General Decluttering Process

When decluttering, here is a good process to follow to help you stay on track:

  • Determine the purpose of the space you’re decluttering (e.g. in your kitchen – baking ingredients, spices, snacks)
  • Empty everything out of the specific area you’re decluttering (drawer, shelf, cabinet, etc.) – this really helps for finding hidden things you never use!
  • Wipe the space down while it’s empty
  • Throw away any garbage / recycling / expired items
  • Put items that belong somewhere else in a “relocate” basket to deal with later
  • Declutter anything you don’t need, use, love, or have space for (see decluttering tips below for each of the spaces we tackled during the challenge)
  • Once you’ve finished decluttering, put everything you’re keeping back in the space, grouping like items together and keeping in mind the purpose of the space that you identified in step 1.

Day 1 (Monday) – Kitchen

OK everyone! We’re kicking this challenge off with our kitchens! These are the most-used spaces in our homes, especially right now with more people home all the time. Choose one part of your kitchen to start with (only one!) and then move on to another one after you finish it. Keep doing a different part of your kitchen as you have time today. Don’t try to do several parts of your kitchen at once or it will get overwhelming.

If you only have time for one part of your kitchen, pick the one that has been bothering you the most (it probably means there is lots of clutter there). We’ll be physical distancing for a while it seems, so you can always pick another area next week.

I’d suggest starting with your fridge… it’s a well-used appliance in all our kitchens and often has a lot to declutter.

Follow the steps in the process I outlined above. 

Here are some tips for decluttering your kitchen:

  • Let go of things you haven’t used in over a year (other than some specialty items for holidays like a turkey roasting pan)
  • Donate items you have duplicates of (choose to keep your favorites)
  • Declutter plastic containers that are stained, worn, or don’t have matching tops and bottoms
  • Give away any small appliances you no longer use (if you haven’t started making bread in your breadmaker or making smoothies with your blender in the last few weeks, you probably never will) – doing this will create space on your counters or space in your cabinets for items that are usually on your counters – the net result is less cluttered counters
  • Keep a multi-purpose item rather than several different items if possible
  • Keep decluttering items if you don’t have enough space for the things you use regularly

If you’d like more specific tips for the space(s) you’re decluttering in your kitchen, you can check out a blog series I wrote several years ago, called 31 Days of Easy Decluttering. There are several posts that are about kitchen spaces.

OK now get to it! It’s going to make life so much easier for you after you do this.

Day 2 (Tuesday) – Bathrooms

I’d suggest starting with whichever bathroom annoys you the most. Then if you’re on a roll and have time, you can work on other bathrooms. Within your bathroom, focus on one area at a time (counter, drawer, cabinet, shelf, under the sink, medicine cabinet, linen closet, etc.) so you don’t get overwhelmed.

Follow the 7-step process I shared above. And here are some tips for decluttering your bathrooms:

  • Let go of things you haven’t used in over 6 months (chances are there’s a reason you haven’t used it – you don’t like the scent, it didn’t work as well as another product, etc.)
  • Give away sealed products that you won’t use (e.g. items that were gifts) *Shelters love donations of new toiletries
  • Throw away products that are old or that you no longer love (lotions, ointments, and cosmetics all expire and can cause problems if you use them when they’re too old)
  • Make a bin of samples, freebies, and hotel toiletries to take when you travel (or just use them up if you don’t travel often)
  • Bring all expired medications (prescription or OTC) to the drug store (if you can’t find a date, it’s probably old – when in doubt throw it out)
  • Declutter towels that are frayed, stained, or if you have more than you need (animal shelters LOVE old towels and sheets or you can put them in a bag for textile recycling)
  • If you’re decluttering your linen closet, consider how many sheets you need for each bed and eliminate extras (someone in another group suggested using cotton sheets for homemade masks as well as the elastic from a fitted sheet)
  • Keep decluttering items if you don’t have enough space for the things you use regularly (especially if you’re trying to keep your counters clearer – declutter to create space in drawers or cabinets so you can move items off the counter and your bathroom will feel less cluttered!)

For a small area, we fit a lot of different things in our bathrooms! I’m sure you’ll find lots to declutter today!

Laura Plummer shared this helpful information about when to toss older make-up.

Day 3 (Wednesday) – Office/Papers

Today’s the day for decluttering your office and/or paperwork! This was the most requested space in the MAWB poll so hopefully you’re all warmed up and ready to tackle it!

We’re much more productive when our work space is clutter-free and organized, so this is definitely an area with a big ROI. But it’s also an area that can be overwhelming and time-consuming, so break this into manageable smaller tasks so you can see progress and be motivated to continue.

Follow the same 7-step process as you did the last 2 days. Note: your relocate basket may be working overtime if your office has become a dumping ground (offices often do).

Also, really think about the purpose(s) of your office – they tend to have too many functions and end up becoming hard to maintain (e.g. many offices also hold things like gift wrap, greeting cards, scrapbooks, photo albums/boxes, memory boxes, etc.). If possible, move some of those items elsewhere so your office can truly function as your office.

OK here are some specific tips for offices (I’m including some organizing tips as well as decluttering tips because having good systems in your office will help reduce future clutter):

  • Throw out / recycle all garbage you find (e.g. pens that don’t work, expired coupons/flyers)
  • Clear as much as you can off surfaces (desk, file cabinet, etc.) by storing things in drawers
  • Donate excess office supplies that you know you won’t use (e.g. promotional items, things you bought on sale but never ended up using, pens that seem to multiply in their sleep, etc.) – then keep a small amount of office supplies in your desk drawer and store extras in a bin/box in a closet/cabinet to maximize your desk space
  • Recycle /shred paperwork that can be found online (manuals, bank statements, etc.)
  • Separate your business paperwork from your personal or family paperwork (different drawer, different coloured folders, maybe even a different room)
  • For both personal and business paperwork, separate your archive papers (previous tax files, legal documents, mortgages, etc.) from your active papers (recent bills, current tax documents, medical receipts, etc.)
  • Then recycle / shred papers you no longer need – Click here to see for how long to hold onto tax paperwork

Good luck! You can do this… and I promise it will be worth the effort

Wednesday Evening FB Live Q & A session

Throughout the first few days of the challenge, I received several questions about decluttering and I answered them in a FB live video. Click Here to watch it.

Here are some of the questions I answered: 
  • I have so much stuff – where do I start?
  • What happens if I didn’t finish decluttering this week?
  • What do I do with all my decluttered items with donation centers and charities closed?
  • I also shared things you can declutter without adding to your donation pile at all!

Watch the video for my answers and tips 🙂 

Day 4 (Thursday) – Bedrooms

Our bedroom should be a peaceful, relaxing place of rest, but sometimes it becomes the place we hide things when we tidy up before guests come over (pre-physical distancing of course).

So use your “relocate” basket today to help get your room back to its rightful purpose. You can also toss a load of laundry in right away if you’ve got dirty clothes on the floor or a chair.

Use the same steps as earlier this week, and choose just one small part of your room at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed (drawer, surface, etc.). I recommend you start with the floor.

Here are some decluttering tips:

  • Floor / chair – get everything off the floor or chair and find “homes” for the types of items that typically land there – to keep your chair as a place to relax place a book on it to remind you not to dump things on it.
  • Clothes
    • Let go of things you haven’t worn in over a year (or seriously ask yourself when you’ll wear it again)
    • Pass along anything that doesn’t fit (unless you are actively working to return to a previous size, but even then just keep a few favourites as goal outfits because your body shape may change)
    • Purge items that you don’t love any more (even if you absolutely loved them in the past – it’s OK to move on from them to new favourites and let someone else enjoy the old ones)
    • Declutter pieces that you have a lot of duplicates of (if you group by type of clothing and colour you’ll see duplication easier)
    • Set aside things that are worn out, ripped, stained, or missing mates for textile recycling. 
    • If you’re having trouble remembering when you last wore something, look for dust and also ask me about the hanger trick.
  • Surfaces (e.g. dressers) – reduce items on top by storing items in drawers (declutter drawers to make room) or in baskets on top if necessary – limit decor on surfaces for a calmer, peaceful environment (bonus: you’ll have less to dust!).
  • Night stand – get rid of garbage, relocate items that don’t belong there, purge old toiletries, declutter items if you don’t have enough space for them – use small baskets to contain loose items so your night stand doesn’t feel as cluttered (remotes, chargers, lip balm, lotion, pen, etc.).
  • Under the bed – declutter items you haven’t used in over a year (or forgot were even there) – use under-the-bed bins for things like off-season clothing or sentimental items.

 

Good luck decluttering your bedroom today!

Day 5 (Friday) – Storage

It’s storage decluttering day! This is a broad category and can include actual storage rooms/closets, as well as your basement, attic, spare room, or garage. Basically wherever you tend to store things you don’t use very often. Sometimes when decluttering areas that have things you almost never look at (or forgot they were even there), you may find things are easier to let go of.

If you declutter your storage areas, you’ll have more space to store some less-used items from other areas of your home so they aren’t taking up space in your “prime real estate” in the rest of your home (for example, overflow kitchen items or items you only use when entertaining a few times a year). 

Storage spaces can seem overwhelming, but just start with whatever is closest to the door and deal with it (garbage / recycling / donation / relocate / keep). Then move onto the next thing. And then the next thing. If you’re really overwhelmed, put a blanket over all but the small area you’re tackling so you can just focus on a smaller area.

You don’t have to do the whole storage area at once. But everything you do is better than nothing.

Here are some tips for decluttering storage areas:

  • Pull everything out (literally touch every item!) and decide if it still fits your lifestyle, interests, and home. Be honest about whether you will ever use each item again. Let go of any items that you no longer use or love.
  • Give away or sell sporting equipment that is too small or no longer being used.
  • Sort through seasonal decorations and give away any that you don’t think you’ll use in the upcoming year or that you no longer love as much as you used to.
  • Declutter household items that you never look at or use (bits and pieces of old hardware, tools, extra paint, leftover items from the original build or previous renovations, etc.).
  • Let go of overflow kitchen items that have been collecting dust. Or if you forgot some of the items were there and you want to use that breadmaker, specialty baking pan, or giant platter, then do it now while you’re at home anyway. But set a reminder in your calendar for 3 or 6 months from now to donate those items if they still haven’t been used
  • If you have sentimental items stored in your storage areas, make sure they are stored in containers that will protect them (cardboard boxes aren’t typically good for long-term storage).
  • After you’ve decluttered all the items you no longer need, use, love or have the space to store, then take a few minutes to organize your storage area so it’s easier to find what you need, and it won’t become a dumping ground! Group like items together, put them in containers, label those containers, and then put all the containers back in an organized way.

Challenge Wrap-Up Video

On the last evening I did one last FB live to summarize the challenge. I also announced the nominations for the participation prize, and awarded the prize. Click here to see the video!

Summary

Congratulations to everyone who participated in the MAWB decluttering challenge! I really enjoyed sharing tips with you and I loved seeing all your progress! It made me realize how much I miss working in person with my clients right now. 

I hope you continue decluttering! I’m available if you have questions. 

I’m also offering a free 15-minute Zoom session to all MAWB members. if you need help with a specific area or need a kick-start for an area that’s particularly overwhelming. Just contact me and we’ll see it up!

Here’s where you can contact Hilda:

 

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