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Simple Living : Declutter the Intelligent Way


Clutter , be it at the workplace or at home can be one of the hardest things to get rid off. For those of you trying to fight your hoarding habits, the prospect of throwing away junk can be stressful because you don’t know where to start. Moreover, the more clutter you have around you, the more prone you are to procrastinate the act of cleaning it. This is something almost everyone experiences at some point. However, getting rid of clutter is more about the mental preparedness and will to clean up, rather than the actual act of throwing things we don’t need anymore. The “I’ll use it later” or the “I’ll declutter in the spring break” are all ways in which we try to convince ourselves that something needs to be kept, or that the clean up can be done later.

Cleaning up the clutter around needs to start today, even if it’s cleaning a small corner of your desk. No matter how daunting it may look, everything can be broken down. Start small and take your time to clean up, but make it a point that you do it. Here are couple of intelligent and effective strategies to get you started on decluttering your physical spaces:

Use boxes, they work

Boxes matter. They can be put almost any use depending on the task you wish to accomplish. Moreover, they aren’t hard to find. Most of us will have these lying in our storage anyway, but they can even be bought from a supply store. Divide your boxes into four categories: Put Away, Give Away/Sell, Storage and Trash. Even a trash can or trash bag would do for the last one. Start sorting out your things with these strict categories in mind. For every item, you must make the decision of keeping it in either of the four, it cannot be in between. Clutter accumulates due to various reasons, attachment, poor organizational habits, laziness or large amount of stuff. This four-box method forces a decision to be taken, lowering the possibility of unwanted items remaining.

Once done, it’s time to put the boxes in the right places. The Put Away items are those which have suffered internal displacement within the house, and hence need to be put back to their respective places. The Give Away/Sell box should go out of the house, perhaps in the garage for the day, but eventually to the flea market or charity nearby. The Storage box should go in the storage in the house, presuming that these are the things which currently are needed but cannot be fit into a specific place in the house. Make a quick inventory of items being stored before putting them in. The trash box needs no explanation; once in the item does not get out of the trash box. Don’t be surprised if the trash can’s size is larger than the other three, because that is exactly what most of your clutter is made of.

Throw things you can’t fix

We often decide to keep things which are broken, in the hope that we will be able to fix them, or get them fixed in the near future. Unfortunately, more often than not, that doesn’t happen. The mentality of hoarding things in the hope of getting them fixed is rather common, and even if this category of junk is limited in the house, it’s always there. The basic rule of this method is action. If something breaks, try and get it fixed in the next 7 days. If you’re hell bent on fixing it, try couple of places. But if there is no hope, then throw it. You might even think that you can fix it yourself, but that eventuality is always a slim possibility. While it may be tough to let go of something that had sentimental value or high monetary value, it’s also important to realize that there is nothing you can do about it. The easier way out is to throw it away, and buy yourself a better alternative if possible. The longer you keep things that cannot be fixed, the harder it will be to throw them away.

Find a place for essentials

The four box method shed light on the internal displacement that certain items in our house go through, increasing the amount of clutter we already have. This happens because we haven’t assigned proper places for even the most essential items in the house, and we find the car keys ending up in the washing machine. Fix a place for things you need everyday and things that are important, so that you can find them easily without having to take the whole house down. Have a drawer for your laptop, files and notebooks, a hanging for your keys, a handbag with enough compartments to fit all your things in. When you have designated places in the house for everything, you know where you need to look the next time. But for this method to work, you need to also make sure you get into the habit of keeping things back in their place. Nothing adds more to clutter than forgetting things where you left them. The moment things get back in their place, the space looks cleaner and organized. It’s that simple. Your coffee cup needs to be back in the pantry or kitchen once done, so keep it there instead of leaving it on your table.

Cut down on paper

Paper has the ability to accumulate, for all the wrong reasons. The fact that despite the advances of the digital age, we continue to work with paper means that it’s all around and we can’t completely eliminate it from our lives. However, we can definitely cut down. Paper around the house can be bills, magazines, newspapers, work documents, or completely random things that found their way in. Yet again, one can use the four box method to sort paper items. Bills, being essentials need to be kept in a specific file in the house which has a dedicated drawer to itself. But don’t hoard on bills too. You don’t need to keep a bill of a car repair from 2 years ago. Newspapers, magazines, advertisement flyers, voucher letters etc. once read need to be thrown. When it comes to something like magazines or other periodicals, try and find a nearby library from where you can borrow them, or opt for an e-version of the copy. Newspapers can be recycled into book covers, or if you’re creative enough, even paper bags. The good thing about paper is the alternative uses it can be put to. Have files ready to keep track of important documents, but resist the “I’ll go through these later” syndrome for unwanted documents.

Eliminate, as you buy

A rather intelligent method of balancing out the number of things you own is to eliminate as you buy, ie. for every new item you bring into the house or workplace, be it electronics, books, clothes etc., throw away something you already own, but haven’t used in a very long time. It could be anything, a bunch of old clothes you don’t wear anymore, or a couple of absolutely useless stacks of paper accumulating near your desk. If possible, equate the elimination with the purchase, such that if it’s an electronic item you bought, an electronic item is what you throw.

Although it might seem confusing, because you might not have as many things to throw in the first place, but if you do see a cluttered house around you, chances are you will always find something to throw. If you’d rather throw one thing at a time rather than a mass clean up such as the four box technique, then use this method. It will also give you the satisfaction that something better and more useful replaced something old and obsolete in your household or workplace.