The simple life. What does it mean in this modern world?
Many are attracted to the idea of living a simple life. But then, many are equally overwhelmed and anxious about the prospect of owning less or letting go of their stuff.
If you’re like this, don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Decluttering your home is not a simple task but it need not be a painful one either. Whether you’re looking to downsize, get rid of some things, or to simplify your life, the way to organize is best tackled through stages and steps.
Concentrate on one zone or room first before moving to the next. This way, you don’t overwhelm yourself and you’ll get that happy feeling of satisfaction and contentment every time after seeing a space cleaned. This will be your driving force to face the next.
Photo source: Extra Space Storage
First step to decluttering is to prepare five baskets or bins (or really just cardboard boxes) – no need for anything fancy. Each one serves a different purposes to get you going:
- Put back: for items you’ve misplaced or accidentally stored in an area where they don’t belong and need to be returned to their designated spaces
- Recycle: for items that can be recycled like paper, plastic, or glass
- Fix/mend: for items that might need a little helping hand and tinkering before they can function 100% again
- Trash: for items that can be thrown out immediately
- Donate: for items you won’t need/want anymore but are still in good condition and can benefit charitable organizations or other people
Bring these containers with you as you declutter. Set them up before you begin.
Well then, time to show you how you can do this at home, room by room. Here we go!
First stop: Bathroom.
Our bathrooms are supposed to be a place to relax, unwind and not to worry about anything while having a hot shower or a soak in the tub. To achieve that, we must keep it clean. No matter how small, tight or awkwardly-shaped it is, there will always be ways for you to keep it clutter-free and functional.
First things first, rummage through all your storage cabinets and drawers and take out all your bathroom products. Literally, take everything out. You might think you don’t have a lot but the pile you’ve laid out might just surprise you. But, don’t panic! Here’s what you need to do:
- Categorize: makeup, skincare, hair products, grooming tools, lotions and creams, dental care, soaps, tissues and toilet paper, first aid supplies, cleaning supplies, and so on.
- Sort through: easiest is to look for any expired products and throw them away, duplicate products you can keep if your storage allows. If not, donate them or give them to your sister or cousin. For all the others that you need and use regularly, keep them.
- Clean: while your cabinets and storage spots are empty, now will be a good time to do some cleaning, simply get a wet and dry cloth and start wiping down those areas
Photo source: Bath Fitter
Before you start putting back all the things you want to keep, here are some tips to improve your bathroom storage and avoid doing this all over again:
- Storage baskets: if you have a lot of extra towels, washcloths, toilet paper, you can get nice storage baskets to place these soft items in. Put them under the sink or on a shelf where they can fit nicely and be easily accessible. Another option is the open ladder shelf that can also add to the overall bathroom decor
- Small storage bins: for makeup, skincare products, hair scrunchies or other small grooming and beauty items, you can neatly place them in small containers that will fit nicely in your space. Otherwise, having too many mismatched containers may be become clutter themselves
- Wall mounted trays: if there is limited space on the edges of your tub or products are scattered on the shower floor, it might be time to get a wall mounted tray for all your shower needs
- Smaller containers: if you’re the type to buy a super large-sized shampoo, conditioner and body wash, you can try decanting them into smaller containers and refill when needed. This way, your space in the shower room will not get filled up by just one item
After than, you’ll eventually be left with some items you can’t find a home for, those will go into the containers you’ve prepared earlier.
Photo source: The Spruce
Next, the Bedroom.
Our bedrooms are our private sanctuary – the place we go to when we want to totally unwind and be most comfortable. It’s easy for our bedroom to pile up with stuff – laundry, bags, clothes, miscellaneous items – because it’s not an area that a lot of visitors get to see. But really, it’s the last place we should let clutter settle into since it’s our private retreat for full rest and relaxation.
Now, before we begin sorting through all our stuff, the first thing you should do is make your bed – by doing this, you’d have accomplished something already! It’s distracting to organize your bedroom when your messy bed is in plain sight. After that, here’s what you need to do next:
- Go one round: remove all items on top of your nightstands, bureaus, dressers and other surfaces, identify those that need to be trashed, recycled or misplaced
- Check inside: once the surfaces are sorted out, dig through the insides of your dressers, nightstands, shelves and sort the appropriate items into different bins
- Pick them up: if you have any clothes or laundry lying around, pick them all up and place the dirty ones in a hamper ready to be washed, the clean ones can be folded and piled up neatly on the bed
Those are the basic first steps before dealing with the bedroom’s biggest clutter culprit – the closet.
It’s common for everyone to have some mess behind these closed doors – clothes you don’t wear anymore or no longer fit, not folded or hung properly, not in the right stack, etc. We need to be ruthless when cleaning our closets and it can be tiring. We love our clothes and are usually torn between keeping or getting rid of it.
But don’t fret, and try taking these step-by-step:
- Grab that neat pile of recently folded clothes and take a few minutes to arrange them in your closet
- Take out the clothes that no longer fit or you haven’t worn for a while – you should know these, don’t deny it (the same goes for shoes)
- Go through that pile in #2 and donate or resell those that are still in good condition; throw away the others (or keep them as rags you can use to clean later on)
- Pack away out-of-season clothes, shoes and accessories so they don’t take up space. Neatly place them in large bins to be tucked away in a less accessed part on top of your wardrobe, take them out when the seasons change again
- Organize your clothes into different categories and sort either based on color or style (short sleeves, casual, work, tops and bottoms, etc.) – whichever fits your preference
- Clean out your accessories, bags, hats, and other items and don’t be afraid to donate or throw away those that do not work for your anymore
After the closet, take a short break before giving the room one last check. In order to maintain this clean bedroom look, here are some basic tips you can easily start with:
- Use trays or baskets to keep the clutter contained but make sure to check them once in a while or else they’ll turn to clutter themselves
- Make a habit of putting your clothes back in order or get a clothes hanger to minimize those that might be tossed about
- Invest in furniture with storage if you’re looking for more space
- Clean beddings, sheets and pillowcases once a week (ideally) to get rid of bacteria and other nasties, but you can stretch it to two
- Vacuum your rugs and carpets regularly – you’ll also be forced to pick up items from the floor while you do this
Moving to the Entryway or Foyer
The entryway – the portal between the outside and the home. The panicky space where family members frantically don their coats, get their car keys, grab their bags before they dash out and hit the road. This is also the place for guests and visitors to form a first impression of your home beyond the exteriors.
This area should be easier than the previous two because it’s a lot smaller. But, on the other hand, this small space would need more frequent maintenance because of the numerous ins and outs at random times of the day.
To have easier mornings and pleasanter feelings when you come home, here’s what you can do to organize and declutter your entryway:
- Like other rooms, get your put back bin and dump all the misplaced items inside
- Rearrange the small space to have designated areas for shoes, coats, car keys, bag, umbrellas, and all the miscellaneous items
Photo Source: Better Homes & Gardens
To create specific allotted areas in that space, you can incorporate these tips:
- Have a shoe holder or cabinet, make it a habit to place shoes back into the holder every time you come in, it’ll be easier to find and grab them too when you need to rush out
- Simply put a waterproof corner mat for wet boots and muddy shoes and an umbrella holder will keep your area and cabinets clean and dry
- Storage options to keep all the small, miscellaneous items in:
- Small cabinet with lots of drawers to hold everyday items like – mail, newspapers, car keys on the top row
- A narrow table with small trays for each category – easy to dump and grab
- Bench with storage underneath to have a more comfortable transition spot before coming in or going out
- Go vertical and install hooks for your coats, bags or put in small decorative shelves where you can place books or planters to give a warmer welcome
- Mark the space with a versatile, sturdy, easy-maintenance rug to add some design aspect and a touch of personality
Next stop, the Kitchen.
Now we’re moving to the heart of the home – the kitchen. It’s one area you spend a lot of time in. Especially now during extended quarantines and lockdowns, you’re probably spending more time in the kitchen that you intended.
It’s so easy to buy more of what we need when it comes to kitchen supplies. You probably have crockery and cutlery for over a dozen when you’re only feeding a family of five. (Unless of course, you’re having dinner parties every so often, but maybe not now.) Or, it’s common to find surprise items hidden at the back of the fridge or cupboards that you forgot you had.
Get your bins and some cleaning supplies ready. Go through each of the areas one at a time.
- Start with the countertops since those items are out in the open. If there are chips, cereals, or other food containers, put them in your put back bin for later, then take this chance to wipe the counters down so they’ll shine again
- Tackle your crockery and cutlery, and segregate them into keep, donate, trash. At this moment, when you’re only keeping to small family dinners and lunches, remove all your ‘spares’ – store them for later use when house gatherings are commonplace again
- Check your pots, pans, casseroles and baking dishes and organize them according to their uses. For those you rarely use, donate or store them away if you have extra storage space
- Look through your fridge and throw away anything that’s expired or spoiled or food you’re not going to eat
- Test and check your appliances to see those that work vs. not working and those you need vs. you can donate
- Last, sift through your pantry with a fine-tooth comb since it’ll have the most small items. Get ready to throw away anything that’s expired, or give away those you won’t use any time soon
To keep your kitchen neat and tidy with items that are easy to find, here are some tips:
- Make everyday things accessible
- Refrain from getting too many spares that you know you won’t use
- Position food items and spices so you can see what you have
- Get rid of boxes and store dry goods in identical glass tight jars (e.g. pastas, flour, oatmeal, cereals, etc.) and sort them further into broader uses like baking, snacks, breakfasts, cooking, etc.
- Store pots and pans you use most often in easily reachable cabinets and choose those versatile ones that meet many common cooking needs
For your kitchen, decorate simply with practical, functional and beautiful pieces to have a visually appealing and clean kitchen.
Finally, the Living Room.
Keeping the living room organized and decluttered is going to be challenging because it serves multiple functions and has to adapt to the needs and preferences of all family members. As such, it might be easier to declutter a small amount each day or do it as a family so you can all be in on the decision making process of what goes and what stays.
To get started, follow these decluttering steps:
- Like in other rooms, start with your put back bin
- Get rid of those you do not use or need anymore. You can always donate them to a charity, family or friends who’d need them more or try selling them online, just make sure they are in good condition
- Throw away broken and unusable items into your trash bin; same goes for all those old magazines that have piled up and neatly arrange the ones you want to keep in a magazine rack or table
- Pick up the items strewn around the floor (e.g. pillows, books, remote controls, etc.) and put them back in their proper places
- Straighten things out on the counters because when everything is askew, it’ll still look messy – like those remote controls, books on shelves, displays on the mantel, throws and pillows on the couch, etc.
Photo source: Decoist
Now, to maintain an orderly living room where every family member can still relax, entertain, play, eat, even exercise, here’s are some tips you can follow:
- Create a home for random objects like toys and pet clutter and have designated bins for each of these, perhaps stationed in the corner of the room
- Invest in smart furniture or ones with built-in storage to give you more choices on where to place your things. While you’re at it, create two storage solutions to better subdivide those spaces – like having smaller containers in a big wicker basket
- Arrange your shelf. Treat shelves as part of your living room design – neatly arrange books, small decor, but do not overcrowd it with little items
- Go for decorative trays that can hold small items on your coffee or side table, such as a holder for remote controls, to give them designated, easy-to-find areas
Photo source: Real Homes
Remember, perfection is not the goal here. The goal is to declutter but make sure that these spaces still work for you and you still have all your valuable and meaningful items in each room.
While these tips we’ve listed will generally work for different spaces and homes, you can always adjust it to fit your own style and preference and fit the theme of your room. There’s no ‘one-way-fits-all’ rule for decluttering but one thing is for sure – you only need to make a habit of committing a few minutes a day to achieve that clean, pleasing, uncluttered space you want.