It’s week 1 of the Cozy Home Project, and I’m SO excited to get the ball rolling by conquering the clutter in here. I knew exactly where to begin: toys, paper clutter, and the bathroom counter.
Just to refresh your memory on where we began, this was my living room BEFORE my conquer clutter week:
I don’t expect it to be perfect or look like it did before kids, but I’m pretty sure it can be better than it is now.
To tackle the clutter this week, we’re going back to basics with a few simple rules for keeping clutter at bay.
Rule #1: The 4-bag system.
When you do a sweep of your house to clear the clutter, use a 4 bag system: toss, recycle, donate, put back/find a home. Don’t try to put away each individual thing, just stick in the appropriate bag and keep going.
Rule #2: Give yourself a fresh start/clean slate
Sometimes the easiest way to clear clutter is to clear EVERYTHING out of the cabinets or counter and start fresh as if you’re moving in. Do this at a time when you can adequately think through how you are going to arrange your things and what actually needs to be out.
I’ll show you an example from my house: the bathroom. Organizing has been on the list for while (….since moving in), but the more the clutter grew, the more overwhelming it became. That’s the vicious cycle of clutter.
To take this clean slate approach, I cleared everything off the counters/cabinets/drawers and either put it back where it actually belongs or into one of my 4 bags. I was surprised at what I found: empty lotion bottles, two half-full boxes of soap, expired medication, toys…
Using the 4-bag system made the sorting surprisingly easy. When I was done, I put the content of the bags into their proper homes. Simple and very rewarding.
Rule #3: touch the mail once
Touch the mail and other papers that come into the house once (maybe twice). This means sorting through the mail as soon as you get it rather than putting it in a pile to be sorted through later. Let’s face it, “later” doesn’t happen as soon as we think it will.
Rule #4: Contain it where you can
Place a basket or box in a high clutter zone and get in the habit of putting things there instead. It’s SO MUCH EASIER to put things away when you can just take the box with you. Boxes, bins, jars, and trays can also help you keep things organized in shelves and cabinets and at the very least make the cluttered objects looked grounded (rather than floating all over your space).
Rule #5: Give your stuff a home
Does your clutter have a place to live?
I’m learning to be okay with some things living on the counter. For the most part, if it’s used daily or needs to be seen for us to remember to use it, it’s allowed to be out.
But the other things? They need to find a home someplace else. Like that box of toothpicks and the broken crayon and the mail from last month and the bottle of vinegar and the tape measure. They do not need to live on the counter anymore.
The space that needed the most help our living room/playroom. The toys keep multiplying, and we haven’t updated our storage in almost 3 years. It’s not surprising then that everything explodes daily.
To give the toys a home in the playroom, I thought vertically. There are only so many boxes that you can line up around the room before even the storage becomes clutter. We added another set of wire shelves and as many bankers boxes we could fit on them.
We try to keep the toys semi-organized in the boxes, but I’m not going to get too worked up over it. As long as the toys are away, I’m happy.
The sprawling toys are a thing of the past. Cleaning up has been so much easier when there’s actually a place for everything to live.
Rule #6: Let it go
There’s probably more than we’d all like to admit just lying around taking up space. If you don’t need it anymore, you don’t love it, it’s outdated, or it doesn’t add any meaning or value to your life, consider letting it go.
The broken cups that we’re probably not going to fix? Time to let them go.
That ruffled shirt that hasn’t been taken off the hanger since 2008? Time to let it go.
That tummy time mat that we didn’t even use when our first was a baby? Time to let it go.
Rule #7: DO IT DAILY(ISH)
Make clearing out the clutter an actual thing you do. Even just a few minutes a day makes a MASSIVE difference. And if the kids are old enough to help, even better.
We’ve started taking 10 minutes at the end of the day to clean up the toys in the playroom. We put on fun music, set a fun alarm on my phone, and away we go. They think it’s a fun game (at least for now).
Having the extra storage has helped so much with this. It’s so much easier for them to fill up a box that we place in the middle of the room and carry it to a shelf than it was to put each toy away individually.
Picking up after you’re finished with something is the next habit we’re working on here, but that one’s not quite as much fun 😉
To put these rules in place in your own home, here’s 7 steps you can take right now (don’t worry, you don’t need to do them all at once!):
1. Do a walk-through of the whole house or 1 room at a time using the 4-bag system. Don’t try to put away each individual item at a time, just stuff ’em in the bag and sweep the house. When the bags are full, sort through them. If the things in the bag don’t have a home, now’s the time to give them one.
2. Make a home for the top 2-3 clutter offenders in each room (I’ve got my eye on you electronics). Even a tray on the desk or counter to contain it all can make a big difference.
3. Edit your closet. Pull out 5-10 things you haven’t worn in the last year and put them straight into a box labeled “DONATE!.” Schedule a date to bring the box to your nearest donation center – and bring it in even if it isn’t full.
4. If your clutter comes from too much coming in, try out a temporary freeze on buying. Give yourself 30 days off of buying non-essentials as you whittle down the stuff you already own.
5. Put boxes or baskets in the places that collect the clutter. Get in the habit of either putting your things away (right away) or putting them in the box. When the box is full or at the end of the day (whichever works for your family), take your box room to room and put everything away.
6. Set a timer for 20 minutes and GO. Choose 1 area to declutter and give it your full attention for the whole time. If you can, remove EVERYTHING to start with a clean slate.
7. Do a quick tidy. Even 5 minutes can make a big difference. The more often you do this, the more quickly it will become a habit.
Join the Cozy Home Project with the Cozy Home Project Planner (it’s free).