Decluttering – In an age of clutter

Whether you are thinking of selling your home or whether you are still very happy in your home, clutter is a challenge. Studies claim that clutter causes stress, feelings of being overwhelmed, and even possibly depression.

In the words of Wendell Berry:

Don’t own so much clutter that you will be relieved to see your house catch fire.

The good news is that don’t need to wait for New Year’s eve, before making resolutions to start decluttering – we can start a new lifestyle – right now.

Here are some tips that can help:

  1. Live simply – don’t fall into the consumer trap and buy just because you can, someone else has it, or because it’s on special. Buy it ONLY if you really need it and are going to use it.
  2. Try not to buy something, unless it’s taking something else’s place, which you already have.
  3. Don’t buy something which you could easily rent for much less over its useful life or the period that you need it.
  4. Less is more – keep surfaces and countertops free of unnecessary clutter, knickknacks, and unnecessary appliances.
  5. Routinely target one area/drawer/section of a cupboard and unpack it and repack what you need, removing anything which is dated, no longer necessary, or just taking up space.
  6. Don’t put something somewhere where you don’t intend it to stay – how many times have you not put something down somewhere, fully intending to put it somewhere else, only to find it still there months later.
  7. If it’s not used often – pack it away in a cupboard or drawer, close to where it will be used, to be taken out, when necessary and returned after use and cleaning.
  8. Repack, sell, repurpose, and/or donate – When considering an item firstly decide if you are still using it or whether it has a real benefit to you. If it does, pack it away. If not sell it and get some money back, repurpose it to another use, and/or donate it to someone in need.
  9. If its paperwork – have a ‘one-touch’ approach. Consider if it’s needed, if not drop it in the trash. If it does, scan and the original tossed into the trash. If it needs to be kept, file it. When it comes to stored paper, make sure you note when those documents can be destroyed. Use by dates – when you decide to keep something, set a date, by which date the item will be disposed of if it’s not used.
  10. Moving – put things you use most together in one box. If you need anything else, pack only that item out, but nothing else. There are exceptions, but if something is still in a box six months after you move in, it’s very likely is not worth keeping

In real estate, clutter erodes the appeal of a home and robs buyers of the opportunity to enjoy the home’s natural spaciousness. J.D Salinger once wrote in the short story Franny & Zooey (which could be said of many homes, which come to market):

The room was not impressively large, even by Manhattan apartment-house standards, but its accumulated furnishings might have lent a snug appearance to a banquet hall in Valhalla.

An essential part of selling any home is making sure the home shows off, not the stuff in the home, which is not part of the sale.

As a parting comment, remember that decluttering should not leave your space looking stark. It’s all about striking a balance so that your home reflects who you are, while remaining functional and inviting; without being overwhelming.

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