Recently, on my Instagram feed, I led a 14 day declutter challenge. Here is the full challenge for easy access.
The kitchen. Apart from the bedroom, it’s probably the room we spend most of our home hours in. Personally, I don’t love cooking, but it’s a pretty big part of my life, so I have to try and get some enjoyment out of it (and not just out of the end result!). So having a clean and clutter-free area in which to cook is extremely important to me. If cooking doesn’t come naturally, it may as well come in a peaceful environment, don’t you think?
The school term always gets a bit crazy and lack of time leads to little piles of stuff in places where they simply don’t below.
So here are my tips for keeping the kitchen clutter-free. I hope there’s something in this list that you can implement today.
- Find cupboard space for your toaster (if you use something for less than 10 minutes a day, it doesn’t deserve space on the counter)
- Use baskets in the pantry to store specific categories of food (eg, one basket for condiments, one for spices, another for medicines)
- Find a place for your incoming mail so that it doesn’t get dumped on the bench
- Find a place for your wallet, keys, phone, sunnies so they go straight to that spot when you arrive home, rather than on the bench to deal with later
- Aim for a thorough clean up after breakfast so you can start the day with a clear kitchen or, if you’re leaving the house, come home to a place that’s pleasant to cook dinner in
- Create a “happy corner” – a lovely little spot for the things you love and that make you happy, like a plant, a beautiful image, a candle or oil diffuser – this is the place that should always look beautiful so that when life gets in the way and the dishes are piled high, you still have somewhere to look for a quick, calming pick-me-up
Perhaps your dining room is part of your kitchen. Maybe – like me – you don’t really have a dining area at all – just a table and some chairs that are part of a larger family room.
Unless you have a formal dining area that’s easy to close off, it can be easy to forget the dining room in our task of simplifying the home, but if family meals are important to you, the dining room needs to be given due attention.
Earlier in the year, the dining table regularly became a dumping ground for the daily washing – in from the line, onto the table and there it would sit until I got around to folding and putting away. But honestly, if the putting away didn’t happen before dinner, the clothes would just be transferred to the floor or lounge to deal with later, so I needed a solution that would eliminate this issue entirely.
I invested in a shelf that has baskets – one for each member of the family – and the washing now gets sorted straight to these baskets. It doesn’t even go on the table at all anymore. #winning
This system helps both the dining room/meal time sanity and my laundry process.
So… how can you reduce the daily maintenance of this area? What will make it easier to keep clean and be a place where you actually want to go to eat and relax? What’s in your dining room that doesn’t belong?
I challenge you to cast a critical eye over the area and rather than just putting extraneous things away, find a solution for them so that they never end up on the dining table again. #goals
For the sake of this task, I’m going to assume that the purpose of your lounge room/area is to enjoy leisure and family time, so the first step in decluttering it is to remove anything work-related, such as laptops, study materials or projects that feel more like work and less like fun.
Next, implement a basket/box or shelf system for different categories of items, such as books, games and puzzles, remote controls, CDs and DVDs (if you still use those!) and get rid of anything that’s no longer used. For example, don’t hang on to wooden puzzles if your kids have outgrown them – pass them on to another family.
My little win today: I finally took out the CD player that hasn’t been used in almost a year.
Make sure any board games you have are accessible and orderly so that they’re something you actually want to reach for, rather than cringe over because you know there’s a piece missing.
Remove or fix any broken or damaged furniture and make sure there’s enough comfortable seating for everyone in the family so that everyone knows and feels they’re welcome.
Reward your efforts with a family board game, movie night or game of charades.
The office is a tricky place for me because I run multiple businesses out of it, but it’s also the place where my kids do some of their schoolwork, so the less stuff I have in it, the better.
By the end of a busy term, there are papers piled high, books that belong elsewhere, pencils, stickers, crayons and play money scattered around… and it’s time for a reset.
So today, you could:
- Remove any furniture that doesn’t need to be here
- Clear clutter from the desk and reset areas for items that need to be actioned
- Ensure all upcoming bills are placed in the diary in the week that they’re due
- Create a box/basket system for the kids work so that they have it accessible in the office, but not all over my desk
- Remove all old kid’s drawings from the wall to make room for new ones
- Order your next year’s planner/diary
- Bring in a nice plant and a candle to create some ambience
What can you do today to make your office a place that inspires you? What can be done to create a space that’s stress-free and easy to maintain?
If you’re reading this from the Southern Hemisphere, hopefully the weather is such that your days are able to be spent more out of doors than in, so here are some little hacks to help keep the verandah clean and clutter-free over the summer months:
- Invest in a shelf or bucket for shoes and only keep outdoor shoes there
- Keep only currently used outdoor shoes on the verandah (for example, in summer, pack gumboots into a crate and store in the shed)
- Have a sport/toy box on the verandah for the kids to return their balls, bats, trucks and helmets to at the end of each day
- Place a rack or hooks at the back door for hats, raincoats, umbrellas
- Get a bike rack (best investment EVER)
- If you have a pool, invest in a swim gear basket or box so that everything is kept in one place
- If you have animals, try to keep their food and accessories in one place and stored in crates so that birds and mice can’t get to it… unless birds and mice are the pets, of course!
- Once all of life’s bits and pieces have a place, take some time to set up a corner of the verandah or patio where you can sit and relax; get a comfy chair, a cushion, a small table and a plant.I know motherhood is busy and can be overwhelming at times, so make sure you prioritise a few moments each day to enjoy this special spot with a cuppa and book. #youcanthankmelater
Using the basket/box system again, consider having a basket for each family member’s clothes (if you have the room). When clothes come in from the line, they can go straight in to each basket to be put away by that member (if capable). For under-sink storage, use baskets to keep your cleaning gear and rags and make a big deal of crafting a roster that works for your family. If you can afford not to wash 3 days a week, then don’t! But if you need to do a load a day (that’s me), try to find a specific time to do it so that you can clear it from your list early on and not have yesterday’s laundry carry in to the next day.
Decluttering and simplifying the laundry isn’t just about making it more practical and less painful. The laundry shouldn’t be a place where all the dirty washing turns into clean washing and nothing else good happens there. It can be a place where gratitude is cultivated and we can find joy in the service of others.
Gratitude that we have clothes to wash and people in our lives to wash for. Gratitude that we have a washing machine and running water and tiles on the floor instead of dirt.
If you have the space, create a happy corner in your laundry to remind you of this – somewhere for a plant and a candle or diffuser and your favourite quote. If you don’t have bench space, hang some pictures that make you smile, whether that’s the latest drawing from your 3 year old, or a photo you took at a beach 10 years ago. Turn your laundry into a place you enjoy being in.
You spend enough time there – why not find the joy in it? ❤️
Take a look at your bathroom cupboard today. Like, a really good look. You’ll probably find there’s a bunch of stuff in there that you forgot you had because – #letsbehonest – you bought something when it was on special not realising you already had it at home.
Put your hand toward the back of the cupboard (if you dare!) and you’ll probably find something that’s well out of date, something that’s leaking and perhaps something that you’ve never even opened. Ok, maybe I’m the only one that loses track of what’s in the cupboard!
But now that I’m overhauling all our toiletries and cosmetics and replacing them with purer options, it’s been an interesting experiment to see just how easy it is to lose track of what we spend on personal care products rather than making careful and considered choices.
Often we buy stuff just because it’s cheap. And by “cheap”, I mean inexpensive. Because most $2-$5 cosmetic items aren’t exactly rolling in pure content which means that the impact on our health could be anything but cheap.
As I make an effort to upgrade all of our family’s personal care items (baby steps: just switching over 2-3 items per month), I’m allocating a separate drawer or box for each person’s cosmetics/ toiletries so that the whole box is brought out when something is needed and the temptation for items to fall to the back and remain untouched is fairly well eliminated.
The process has also proven helpful in the sense that I’m taking a more critical look at what we use and asking if it’s even necessary at all.
All in all, cleaning out the bathroom cupboard is a thoroughly therapeutic process and I recommend it at least twice a year!
I don’t want to be that person that tells you exactly how many of this or that item you should own, cause you know… weird.
But I do want to share my rule for the linen cupboard because if you’re anything like me (big family, tiny linen cupboard), you probably find this cupboard can cause issues for your headspace because it’s one of the few places in the home that most family members go most days of the week.
So without further ado, my little rule for linen is:
- 2-3 towels per person (this is to cater for visitors, slow drying times and illness)
- 1 face washer per person
- 2 hand towels per bathroom
- 2 bath mats per bathroom
- 2 sheet sets per bed (especially important if you are in the pre-toilet training stage)
- 1 mattress protector per child in nappies/night pants
- Other bedding necessary for your climate
Anything that is getting thin and ratty can be used as a rag or for pets. Mismatched sheets make great cubby houses. Old pillow cases can be turned into library bags, doll sleeping bags or used for sack races. Donate anything you don’t need but that’s still got lots of life left.
Junk drawer drive you crazy? Or does it save your sanity to have somewhere to dump random bits?
Don’t get me wrong: the point of today’s challenge isn’t to make you get rid of your junk drawer (if it’s something you love having), but the whole point of a decluttering challenge is to reduce the stress in your life (and often that stress is related to stuff) so if your junk drawer is something that kinda bugs you, one way to get rid of it is to take an item out each time you walk past it. Either put that thing in its proper place… or get rid of it. Eventually you’ll find the drawer is empty and it wasn’t even that painful to achieve. #winning
If you don’t have a junk drawer, pick any other annoying kitchen drawer/cupboard and try this low-stress way to get it under control:
- Take everything out and put it in a box.
- Take each item back out of the box only when you need to use it.
- Once used, don’t put it back in the box. Put it back in the drawer or cupboard. This is obviously a keeper!
- After a few weeks, you’ll probably notice that there are a lot of items you still haven’t taken out of the box. If you can’t bring yourself to part with them yet, keep them in the box a little while longer.
- If, after three months, there are any remaining items in the box, evict them from your home!
For this challenge, I’m doing the utensils drawer, but you could also do it with the tea towel drawer (do we really need 20 tea towels??), the pots and pans cupboard or the containers drawer. The idea is to eliminate one annoying thing from your life and simplify kitchen processes. If you find yourself constantly saying, “Ugh! I can never find anything in this drawer/cupboard/pantry!” – that is the place you need to start with.
Project 333, capsule wardrobe, the minimalist game… you name it, I’ve tried it. And nothing seems to fix the clothes issue permanently.
The way I deal with it now is just to do one sort annually. With 8 people in the family, an annual cull is a must for keeping it all under control. Clothing isn’t something we can declutter once and then forget about forever because people grow and change and our tastes evolve and it’s important to wear clothes that we feel confident in.
So once a year, each person goes through their clothes and the criterion is simple:
- Don’t keep stuff you no longer fit
- Don’t keep stuff you don’t like (someone else is bound to love it!)
- Don’t keep stuff that you put on and then take back off again because you didn’t feel comfortable in it (that stuff should never go back on the shelf)
- Don’t keep stuff that’s beyond repair: ripped, badly stained or doesn’t work (ie slack waist elastic)
There’s no magic number in our home for how many articles of clothing each person should have, but it should all fit in their designated cupboard space. I do take my little girl’s off-season clothing out only because they are so messy, but it could all fit in their cupboard if I needed it to.
This job really shouldn’t be a huge deal. The important thing is to get it done and not agonise over it, and by removing clothing from your life that is not needed or loved, you will free up more headspace in the morning.
Less choice is almost always a good thing.
Are you a book lover like me? I find it really hard to part with books, but there are some categories of books that are easier to cull than others and these can be a great place to start when decluttering the bookshelf. You may find clearing these categories is enough to clear an entire shelf and that can only mean room for more books, right?! #notquiteminimalist
Books that you might be able to declutter:
- Outdated travel guides and street directories
- Cook books
- Anything that the kids have outgrown (ie board books)
- Used educational workbooks
- Magazines, newspapers, pamphlets
- Outdated text books or business books
- Anything you haven’t read and don’t intend to
The way we consume media has changed so dramatically over the past decade and the chances are pretty high you’ve still got media items in the home that you no longer use. Time to do a cull!
VCRs – seriously, unless you have a VCR player, do you really need to hang on to these? #behonest
DVDs – do you use them, or do you watch movies some other way? If your family has outgrown them, pass them on to someone else.
CDs – music is a huge part of my life and always has been so parting with my beloved CD collection was hard, but necessary. We now listen to music using Spotify and couldn’t justify hanging on to the CDs I’d collected during my teens and 20s, so we donated them. Disclaimer: I did keep my Garth Brooks albums cause he’s not accessible on Spotify and you know… sometimes you just want to listen to Garth Brooks.
USBs, hard drives and memory cards – check what’s on them and re-categorise as necessary so you’re not holding space for things you don’t need.
Folks, the truth is that everything in our home takes up space and needs to be cleaned up or around or maintained and if you don’t use and can’t see yourself using it: do yourself a favour and don’t keep it.
Referred to as e-waste, electronic devices account for around 140,000 tonnes of waste each year in Australia. Most councils have regular free e-waste drop-off days published on their website. Contact your council for details.
Any electronic devices that are no longer of use to you should be taken to an e-waste drop-off point for correct recycling or they can be sold if you feel they have resale value and you have the time to do that. Do NOT put these in a box to deal with later. Deal with them this week and don’t think about it again.
Non-working electrical goods often only require a new part, and if you have a few of these hanging around, it could be worth getting a white goods repairer in for an assessment.
Final task of the declutter challenge and it’s all about toys and games.
There are so many families in need who could be blessed by a toy, game, puzzle or piece of equipment that your children don’t require, so involve them in the process and get them thinking critically about their stuff.
We never know how much someone else might love and enjoy the things our kids have outgrown and it’s the perfect time of year to be donating (or selling, if you have the time and can use the cash), so try and find time to commit to this task over the next few days.