Make Quarantine Count, Declutter!

Our Tips For Decluttering During Quarantine

Given the circumstances, is there any better time to finally tackle the decluttering jobs that you’ve been putting off for months? It’s spring cleaning season, after all. And considering how the coronavirus has anchored us to our homes, we certainly have the time! Experts recommend smart strategies for how to get the job done. 


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First, some general tips:

  • Don’t overthink it. Just get started. And think small. A project today, another tomorrow.
  • Add a little fun. Put on some music. Maybe pour a glass of wine? Have someone join you– even if they just lob words of encouragement!
  • Whatever job you tackle – a closet, a workshop, a backyard shed or even a kitchen cabinet – put items in distinct categories. The people at Glad (yes, the trash bag people) recommend the “Four Box” method: 1) trash, 2) giveaway or sell; 3) storage; 4) keep and put in the proper place.

 

The bedroom:

  • Your bed: Start here. Make it! That’ll feel good and you can use it as a temporary space for dividing items into the four categories.
  •  Your nightstand: Often a clutter magnet, remove every item except the stuff you really need, like your lamp and alarm clock (duh), the book you’re reading (just the one you’re reading now), and maybe your sleep mask or earplugs.
  •  Dresser drawers: If you haven’t worn a piece of clothing in six months, or if it no longer fits, it goes in the toss or giveaway pile. For the stuff you’re going to keep, fold items neatly and keep them face up so they’re easy to see.
  • Closets: This is the biggie, so take a deep breath. But plow ahead! It’s a good idea to just remove everything so you get the big picture. That’ll also allow for overdue cleaning. Then, divide items by category. It’s important to stay strong; don’t get tempted by the “I’ll wear this dress someday” trap.

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The Bathroom

  •  Bottles and whatnot: We think hard about the beauty products we buy. It can be hard to let go of makeup, skincare lotions, conditioners, etc. But the longevity rule applies in the bathroom, too: if the bottle hasn't been squeezed in six months, dump it! Moving forward, keep track of your inventory; use every drop of shampoo before opening a new bottle.

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The medicine cabinet

  • Remove everything. Clean the shelves. Get rid of the stretched-out hair ties. And then dispose of old medicine properly. Two options for this: Ask your pharmacist if she knows about a medicine take-back program. Or, dump the old pills in a sealable bag, add coffee grounds (the smell will deter kids and pets), and stick in the trash. Never flush drugs down the toilet because they can eventually reach the groundwater.

 

Living areas: 

  • Use the category system for assessing your array of toys, books, magazines, DVDs, games, photos, etc. Recycle the mags. If a toy is too worn to donate, toss it. Be discriminating about the knickknacks. Some of the older ones get boring anyway, right? 
  •  Find an attractive basket (hey, maybe you have one in the garage!) to hold the TV remote, chargers and video game controllers. Tell your kids: When you leave the room, everything goes in the basket! 

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The home office:

  •  Get rid of non-office items, such as toys, dishes, clothes, etc. 
  •  If papers are stacking up, sort them into three piles: shred or toss; file; and actionable. Your digital files aren’t visible, but think about organizing them also. They can add to the feeling of disorganization.
  • Pull your desk drawers out – way out. There’s probably stuff in the back you forgot about and don’t need anymore. Put often-used items – like pens, your phone charger, maybe a notepad or calculator – in the top drawer.  Save the other drawers for other items.

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The mail

  • Never start sorting the day’s mail without finishing it. If you don’t have the time to tackle everything that arrived on a given day, toss it in a basket. When you’re ready – and don’t wait long – tackle the entire pile. 
  • Pull out the stuff that is, or might be, important. That includes the bills, of course, which should be opened and dealt with immediately. Then hunt for other items that might matter, like personal correspondence, invitations, requests for charitable donations, membership renewals or new credit card offers (careful!).
  • The rest of the mail if probably disposable. Recycle the ads. Same thing with most catalogs, except the ones you really care about. For catalogs you wish would stop, rip off the back page with the mailing label. When you get a few of these, logon to Cataloguechoice.org for a free service to cancel unwanted mailings

 

Donate!

  •  Find a home for items that you don’t need but that others could use. A recent Washington Post article offered some good ideas: give your extra glass vases to flower shops or community organizations that deliver flowers; take extra hangers to a dry cleaner or thrift store; donate extra tools to Habitat for Humanity or Community Forklift in Hyattsville; and if you’re getting rid of linens, give those in good shape to a homeless shelter or transitional housing group.

Organizing guru Peter Walsh offers a few other tips. In the kitchen, put dirty dishes in the dishwasher, not in the sink or on the counter. Get rid of stuff that doesn’t belong in your house, whether it’s a sweatshirt from the kid next door or items that belong to one of your kids who’s grown and left the house!

 

Bottom Line

The most important key to success is persistence. Consider establishing a consistent time for the family to work together. Do 10 minutes a day for week, Walsh says, and you’ll notice a difference. After two weeks, other people will notice. And do it for a month, and you’ll conquer the clutter!

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