This article originally appeared on More Minimal. It is reprinted here in archive form.
One of the toughest things about decluttering our lives is just finding a place to get started. If you’re like most people, you are probably so crowded that the task seems impossible.
Which is why it pays to start small, with bite-size projects that produce results you’ll be able to see, but are limited in scope. It’s also smart to get right after those close-at-hand storage areas where clutter accumulates fastest. Here are five likely prospects that shouldn’t take more than an hour apiece. Begin by disposing of undue sentiment, set aside an afternoon, and let’s get more minimal!
Kitchen storage cabinets
Count the number of people you could comfortably seat for dining in your home. If you have a table for four and two TV trays, the total is six. This is the number of place settings you really need (six dinner plates, six mugs or teacups, six drink tumblers, six silverware settings, etc.). Dispose of the rest. If you entertain using outdoor furniture, keep extra settings for this purpose — but box them between seasons.
Most people cram them until there’s no room left, or until the shelf literally bends under the load. We’re going to leave a third of each shelf empty. Start by removing any knickknack you haven’t touched in two years (or any which no longer please you). Do the same with books unread in the last five years. Repeat the process with more frequently used items until you have your space. The tops of free-standing shelves are for decorations, not things you wish to store. Dispose of what you’ve taken down and get the dust rag!
We’re going to create space on a third of each shelf here, too. Dispose of any boxed items older than a year (in other words, anything stale or that you’re unlikely to actually eat). Food is always the last thing to go, and you can make space by committing less-frequently consumed items to next week’s menu. Remove kitchen gadgets, appliances, pans, or knickknacks you haven’t used in five years. Repeat the process with more frequently used items until you have your space.
Here’s a popular general dumping ground for things which should have more permanent places. Your fridge top is poor storage space, being impossible to clean and sort — and pushing something down the back by mistake can be really frustrating. So this is easy: Take everything down. Toss or recycle the obvious trash, then find shelves for everything you need and have room to store. Dispose of whatever is left. Reserve the top of your fridge for one or two decorations too large to fall behind the appliance, and not heavy enough to hurt people or pets if there should be a tumble.
Once again, we’re looking for at least a third empty space on shelves and clothing racks. Start by removing any item that doesn’t fit, or you’d no longer wear. Then — beginning with clothes you’ve not worn in the last two seasons — create your hanging space. Use the same process for closet shelving that we used for free-standing shelves, keeping in mind that decorations stored in a closet are clutter, not decorations. Guys: Dump the ugly ties, even the one she gave you. Ladies: You’ve got some extra shoes, don’t you? Of course. Thin them out. Do not allow floor storage to reach the bottom of your clothing.
A word about “disposing’”of things: Obviously, there are better alternatives to taking things down to the curb. Since we’re decluttering, we’ll assume disposing of something means getting it out of the house. Resell, give away, or donate what you can — then recycle the rest. Enjoy having a little storage space ready for the next phase in your organizational renaissance!