Whether you look to TV, social media or your best friend to help keep you in the loop, chances are you’ve picked up on just how enamored people across the country have become with the idea of decluttering.
As apartment dwellers, our limited living space means there simply is not enough room to accumulate clutter the way someone with a basement, attic and garage may be tempted to do. Here are some tips on how to stay ahead of clutter with some proactive measures you can do today.
According to the American Demographics Society, Americans collectively spend 9 million hours per day searching for misplaced items. Taking the time to both clear out old clutter and proactively prevent new clutter from accumulating may save you time when it really counts, like when you’re late for work (again).
As with any new habit, you may want to start small if your new approach is going to stick. Pick one room (or drawer or closet) to tackle and one new proactive measure to implement each week, and you can be on track in no time.
Dealing With Existing Clutter
Divide and conquer: Before you can implement new organization techniques, you’ll need to take stock of what you have. Gather like items in one area (such as all of your cleaning supplies from your kitchen, bathroom and laundry area), then toss anything expired. You may also want to take note of your total inventory before returning them to their proper places. Continue this process with all like items throughout your apartment, separating everything into piles of items to keep, donate, recycle or throw away.
Round two eliminations: Once you’ve cleared out the stuff you absolutely do not need to hold onto, it’s time to take a second look at the items that are remaining and the space that you have available. Ask yourself why you’re holding onto those items: Do they serve a purpose? Do they hold some sentimental value? You can even ask yourself a core question from Marie Kondo’s book called “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up:” Does this item spark joy? Give yourself permission to let go of those things that no longer serve a purpose or bring happiness into your home. Still holding onto that sweater your aunt gave you three birthdays ago? You’re never going to wear it, and it’s taking up valuable space in your drawer. Donate it!
Reconsider sentimental storage: We all have that one box of report cards and art projects from grade school. Free up some storage space by taking photos or digitally scanning them into your computer and disposing of the originals, perhaps keeping a prized item or two.
Everything in its place: Now that you’ve narrowed it down to the items you want or need in your home, it’s time to pick a place for everything to live. This can look different for everyone, but you may want to think about keeping all like items in one common place or having items in the exact space where you use them (like putting bills on your filing cabinet, so you can file it as soon as it has been paid) to help make putting things away more of a no-brainer when you’re done with them.
Get organizing: Once you’ve decided where everything is going to go, decide on what type and how much you’re going to need in the way of storage containers. Just because your hair products and makeup share a drawer doesn’t mean they don’t deserve their own space; separate them with clear plastic bins to make sure you can grab exactly what you’re looking for each time you reach into the drawer.
Preventing Future Clutter
Put it on the list: In order to help prevent clutter from creeping back in, you’ll need to be proactive and make organization a part of your daily routine. Whether by using a reminder app or using a good old-fashioned calendar, schedule recurring chores to help keep you from feeling overwhelmed. Some examples of calendar-worthy tasks may include setting reminders like:
Every Monday, clean out one drawer.
Every Tuesday and Friday, do a walk around your apartment and return all stray items to their proper place.
Every Wednesday, tackle that pile of mail or paperwork on your desk.
Every Sunday, tidy up your pantry.
Once a month, refold the clothes in your dresser.
Once every two weeks, clean out and reorganize the refrigerator and freezer.
Once every season, take a look at what you haven’t worn and donate it.
Never be caught empty-handed: Each time you move from one room to the next, take a look around and see which items are out of place and need to be returned to their home. This may quickly become second nature and taking the extra second in that moment may mean more free time and less cleaning up on your evenings and weekends! After a little while, take notice of which items are constantly out of place and think about creating a home for them in the spaces where they tend to end up being used.
Create more storage space: When it comes time to part with old hand-me-down furniture, you may want to think about storage potential when picking out your new furniture. Drawers and cabinets are your friends! Being able to help keep surfaces clear and miscellaneous items out of sight may allow your mind to rest without all of the visual clutter. Does your apartment or furniture have open shelving? You may want to consider using baskets to corral smaller items, helping keep them out of sight but within reach for everyday use.
Maintain balance: A simple decluttering principle to live by is the “one in, one out” rule from minimalist author, Francine Jay. You’ve taken the time to assign a space for every item you own, so don’t undo all of your hard work by adding extra stuff to the equation. Every time you bring something new home, try to get rid of an existing item. Before long, you’ll be thinking much more systematically about new purchases and whether or not they’re worthy of the space they require.
With these tips, you can be on your way to a tidier space and soon your apartment can begin feeling like home sweet home again!