Just don’t look in my garage: 10 tips to declutter your space

Clutter kills my calm. I cannot stand to work in a cluttered messy environment. In order for me to be my most peaceful, creative, content, joyful self, I need visual order. I need ‘white space’ in my home and work. I need a clean slate when I wake up in the morning so I don’t have to deal with yesterday’s dirtied baggage before I start a brand new day. I need to be able to vacuum, scrub, and put things away quickly and easily. And I need to be able to childproof thoroughly. Very very thoroughly. That means clutter has got to go or I cannot function well. And as a mom of 6, I need to be running on all cylinders, all the time. There is no time for me to misfunction over missing stuff because there is just so much stuff that I can’t find what I need when I need it. It’s amazing how much stress clutter adds to our lives – whether it’s junk mail, email, extraneous stuff that piles up around the house, junk drawers that are too full to even close, and basements full of boxes unopened since the last move. It takes so much time and energy to deal with all of the stuff, and to me, a cluttered home means a cluttered brain. People often comment how clean, picked up, uncluttered my house surprisingly is for being a mom of 6. It’s probably not so much clean as it is uncluttered and picked up. And don’t you dare look in my overfilled cabinets which have to contain food for 8 or especially, my garage, where all the clutter actually hides.

10. Get the kids on board. Have you ever noticed what happens to a child’s playskills when there are too many toys at their disposal? The play area becomes a dumping ground, and the actual playing turns into chaotic game of running around and screeching rather than developing age appropriate play schemes and scenarios. But given just a few flexible toys, the imagination unfolds and amazing worlds and characters develop into delightful play. So get those kids involved in sorting, tossing, organizing, and storing toys. Let them show you their favorites and make some of the decisions.

Throw out anything broken, old, hazardous, junky, or that comes out of a happy meal. No ifs and or buts. You’ll thank me for it in the long run.

Donate anything that is clean and in good condition that isn’t played with on a regular basis. No matter how much you love it, if your kids don’t play with it, send it to someone who will. Hint: If it’s lost in the bottom of the toy box, they probably won’t miss until you show them that you’re getting rid of it.

Put away anything that isn’t age appropriate and save it for the next child or donate it, sell it, pass it on.

Keep it if it is sentimental, the kids play with it a lot, or there is a developmental need for it.

If you can’t possibly bear to part with toys and books, at least put some away for short term toy rotation. Just make sure that they are well-labeled and stored without batteries (trust me, you’ll think you’re going crazy when those plastic bins start talking in the damp basement). After a few weeks, take out the current toys and replace them with the stored toys. Unless your children are very young, try to only keep as many toys in rotation as your children are able to clean up with minimal to no help from you.  You can always add toys back if you see they are able to handle cleaning up after play.

9. Avoid it. If you have an older child, it’s ok to just shut the door. Don’t look at the clutter if they are capable of managing it on their own. My bedroom rule is not that the rooms must be clean but that I must be able to walk to their beds and dressers without tripping, falling, or suffering from lego induced agony to my naked toes. If there is some clutter that you just can’t get rid of (um, bill paying, perhaps?) find a way to hide it, disguise it, or cover it up so you don’t have to look at it when you don’t need to. I keep my vacuum cleaner in the garage because the closets are full of coats and clothes (yup, mom of 6 equals an overflowing coat closet) and I don’t want to see it every single time I enter a room.

9. Home it. Do you remember the old saying, a place for everything and everything in its place? All of your stuff should have a home of it’s own. Shoes go in the shoe cabinet by the front door when you come in the house (plus it helps keep dirt, germs, and chemicals out of your home). Keys and wallet go right in the drawer (the one with the baby locks on it). Have the kids put their backpacks and coats away as you come in the door so there isn’t extra clutter just lying about for people to trip on or little kids to get into.

8. Rehome it. If there isn’t a space for it, rehome it. Give it away. If you have more coffee mugs than can fit in your coffee mug spaces, than find them a new home – either a cabinet that’s bigger or one that belongs to someone else!

7. Eradicate it. Seriously. Be ruthless. How often do you really use the waffle maker? When was the last time you made yourself an espresso? Examine your closet and get rid of anything that doesn’t fit, anything that is worn, broken, out of style, or that you don’t wear on a regular basis. You probably have just a few outfits that you love and wear all the time. Get rid of just about everything else and you’ll spend much less time digging through your closet, your dresser, your laundry bins for the perfect shirt.

6. Erase it. The delete button works wonders! Treat your computer like you would your home – either file it, send it, or delete it.

5. Deal with it.  One of the reasons we have clutter is that we hang on to things in order to deal with them later. For example, we put the stack of mail on the counter to ‘look at later.’ But later gets busy, so the mail piles up and pretty soon, the counter is full, something gets spilled, and the pile of mail, which is mostly just junk, gets sticky and gross. Do yourself a favor – as you bring the mail in the house, deal with it. Toss it, file it, put it with the bills to pay. Same goes for kids’ papers, lunch boxes, toys, and receipts. Procrastination leads to piling. And piles of stuff destroys your calm.

4. Don’t buy it.  Just don’t. Don’t buy pictures, or pretty things, or anything at all unless you absolutely need it. The less tchotchkes the better. It means less things to distract your brain, less things to dust, less things to clean around. Less things to get broken, less things to have to child proof, too.

3. Sell it. If it’s saleable, consider selling it. Make a little cash and get rid of stuff. It’s a win-win.

2. Organize it.  Give it a home, the right home, in the right spot, in the right order, with the right label. And put it away every single time.

  1. Exchange it. The best rule is 1 in, 1 out. Kids got a new toy for their birthday? They get to choose one to donate or toss. Hubby got new underwear or socks? Make sure he remembers to remove the “holy” ones. Got a new purse? Send one packing so you don’t have to store the other.

Yes, yes, I make it a mission to seek and destroy clutter so that I can think clearly, create easily, and clean more quickly. But please please please, just don’t look in my garage..


4 Replies to “Just don’t look in my garage: 10 tips to declutter your space”

  1. My biggest down fall is the deal (#5) with it…especially with mail! But maybe it is combo with the “home it”.

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