Truly Effective De-cluttering Does Take More Than Five Minutes

girl teetering on piles of excess clothingWe all love the look of a beautifully decorated room. Sometimes it seems impossible to achieve such a thing, though. We are fascinated by magazine images of serenely clutter-free roomscapes, but it seems to be a nearly impossible task to achieve this uncluttered serenity while living our busy lives. We decide that the images are not genuine and only exist while the photographer is there taking the shot. Once the photo shoot is over, the room returns to real life, we think.

clutter of outdated decorative items of a flat surface

Many otherwise lovely homes are defeated by daily clutter. Often it is simply the sheer volume of possessions that occupy the home that creates this unhappy situation. Our lives often seem to be involved with the accumulation and care of “stuff”. We are bombarded daily with messages that urge us to acquire even more things than we already have. Each of the items that we own has needs. By that we mean, each thing much be cleaned, displayed, stored, fixed or otherwise paid attention to. When you have far too many items it can be overwhelming even to decide what needs to go and what should definitely stay.

small contemporary living room in neutral colour palette with black clean lined sofa and grey area carpet

As time passes we accumulate many unnecessary things, many of which we may have emotional attachments to. A favourite person may have given us a gift that we simply do not like, but, out of respect for our friend or relative, we keep that item. In the back room with the inherited furniture that doesn’t fit or is out dated. We are attached to some items because we paid a lot for them. They were a mistake, but “they owe us”. We would love to have the rooms of our home look like they came out of a magazine, but we feel that we cannot get rid of certain things.

dramatic black, contemporary bedroom

One key way to cut through the pile is whether it would make it onto the moving truck in the next move. This approach is helpful because moving costs are high. If the item cannot justify the cost to move it, why keep it, and especially if we haven’t even looked at it in quite awhile. Can it become a more useful or productive object in another room of your home, or in the home of another person? Does this object inspire negative feelings when you look at it? Resentment, guilt, worry or anger should not surround objects where you make your home. Decreasing negativity in the home is always a good thing.

upscale casual small living room with grey sectional sofa and area rug and rose gold accessories

Many people retain outdated objects from their distant past. This seems like harmless sentimentality but many times the sheer volume of these items can be staggering. Old furniture doesn’t wear out. It simply looks sad, and sometimes worn. Its time is past. The sofa may have been poorly constructed and inexpensive. It was what we could afford at the time, and we needed a place to sit. How bad could it be, we thought? Was there really any need to pay more for a sofa? Even when we have de-cluttered and the sofa is not being used to store extra items till they can be put away, the sofa looks sad and rumpled. It’s doing the best that it can, but if the fabric and construction were low end, it simply “uglies out” quite quickly. Money spent on the mountain of unused items laying around the home, could perhaps have added up to what was needed to purchase a better quality sofa. Sometimes a sofa can be refurbished but this takes money and effort, and so the piece sits there waiting…ugly, and worst of all, cluttered with objects that need to be removed from the room or removed from the home altogether.

otherwise very nice cluttered living room with exercise bike and items piled on the sofa

That sofa could look great if it were reupholstered, for instance. Yes, it is true that re-upholstery often costs more than a new piece, but that new piece may not be worth carrying home. Low end sofas are poorly made of shoddy materials which often off gas toxic fumes. The fabric choices available today are fantastic. They are durable and creatively made. The updated inherited sofa or chair could transform the room design. If you simply don’t want to invest in that poor old piece of furniture, how enjoyable is it to look at it every day? While it sits there looking sad, it makes you feel guilty or inadequate for not having brought it back up to speed. The 1950’s was a very long time ago. Give it to someone with more energy that you have and revel in your new little bit of space.

zebra pattern wing chair in brown and cinnamon from Uttermost

Some things do wear out. While they are wearing out, they look pale and sad. Things like towels. We really don’t need fifty towels. No, really. Many times, a good portion of this dreary towel collection are stored in the laundry cycle. That’s because they won’t all fit into the linen closet. They look sad as they go past, linen closet, to the bathroom, and back to the laundry. Rather than a dreary parade of sad towels that we feel we must use to the death, donate these waifs to an animal shelter. They will be overjoyed. They need these useful things. Get yourself and your family some happy, fluffy new towels that match each other and face cloths that also match. Your bathroom will be revitalized. You only need a few of these nice new towels. Don’t be tempted to fill the linen closet. The closet will look nice being able to breathe. While you’re at it, how about sending out the sad old bath mat. Let it have some fun with all those nice dogs at the shelter.

wide view of upscal clean lined bathroom with floor to ceiling tile and a black vanity

Art is another household item that we tire of, or that was acquired with little thought. Many times we’ve had clients who do not even realize that the image in the frame is barely visible due to fading. It just doesn’t occur to people to change and update artwork. Some art was purchased or inherited and so has sentimental value. Even that sort of value is of little use if the piece no longer looks nice. The image, itself, may still be nice, but it may be trapped in a frame of unsuitable style, overly ornate and gilded, while the home owner’s taste has become more clean lined and modern. Many people have an artist in the family. Often the artworks are forgotten in the basement simply because the artist is not a professional one. If they have been framed, it was often with garage sale finds which are often barely holding together. It is a wonderful thing to have an artist in the family. Properly framed and hung in a place of honour, these pieces are true family treasures.

clean lined transitional dining room with blue table base, tryptich wall art, and square lined chairs

Many of us would like to lose weight and we are saving plenty of clothing for when that happens. It may happen, but it often doesn’t. Meanwhile the clothing remains…and becomes outdated. Anything that is part of a mountain is paralyzed in place and really should go where someone could make use of it while it still has time to be useful. The feeling of freedom that results from not having to look at piles of unsuitable clothing may be what helps us stick to our resolutions.

clean and organized bedroom closet with shelving in white

Cosmetics and toiletry items that we pick up in our travels often do not hold their appeal once we arrive back home. These partially used containers can really pile up and we begin to think that we need more storage space. Rather, we need to dispose of these items or give them to someone who can appreciate them. It’s also a great idea to stop collecting these things while travelling, especially if they are rarely used once we are home. By making a point of using these things before any new ones are purchased we soon discover a lot more space in our cabinet and a feeling of lightness and freedom. You are not only free of excess baggage but also from the guilt that you have them but ignore them.

bathroom vanity cluttered with toiletries and cosmetics  

Plants can be quite unforgiving. If they do not receive the light, water, and nutrients that they need to thrive, they do not thrive. They often take a long time to die entirely, though. Their sad fate is sometimes prolongued by well-meaning visitors who are appalled at the state of the plant and give it some water. If that visitor does not stop by very frequently, that plant goes back to slowly dying. Many of us really do not have enough natural light coming into our homes to keep many types of plants looking good. Often, people who do not have the right conditions to grow healthy plants seem to have large collections of unhappy plants. The plants often stay alive but we stop noticing that they are pale, dry, drooping or otherwise a sad sight to sit beside. If you love to have plants but really are not that great at caring for them, allow yourself to give them to someone who loves to nurse things back to health or who has more light than you do. Then go buy yourself a nice new plant. Once it looks sad…and this may take a little while, let it go. Plants are quite affordable. There are plants, such as Clivia who do not need much light, and which like relatively infrequent watering. They may even bloom under these conditions. They are a little costly, but they last for years, and even grow. They are beautiful with long, strappy green leaves a little like amaryllis, and often the flowers are orange. Many succulents (they are related to cacti) do not need a lot of light or water. Even orchids are relatively low care.

healthy and happy orchid in an upscale serene living room   succulent kalanchoe in beautiful urn

Some trends are simply that. Funky chair styles that were popular in the 70’s often don’t look great with a contemporary room design. The chair simply did not wear out. They often don’t. It may have been recovered in a trendy fabric which has not worn out. A grating flame stitch fabric can be quite stressful to live with. True, some geometrics are back, but many aren’t, especially if the colour is extremely dated. A more tailored look and a purge of items that are in your home simply because they’ve always been there may be in order. Do you still have the battered desk you used at university? If you have been in a good job for awhile, perhaps a nicer desk is in order, even if only you will see it. Once you have decided to update your office furniture, most likely you will de-clutter unfiled paperwork during the process. You will be happier even if you do have to bring work home. Your work is important and it would be nice to have a nice place to work. Your home office should be a happy place.

home office piled with clutter of unfiled paper  fresh and elegant home office in coastal style in white and navy colour palette with grass blinds in windows

Each year as the date turns over, we make earnest resolutions to become closer to perfect. This sometimes causes us to make purchases for things that we really don’t make use of. It is a terrific idea to make your own yoghurt and juice or what have you. You really will be healthier…but only if you actually do it. It’s alright to realize that we all have limitations and some of these tasks that we set ourselves are just too boring or too extreme. Some homes have very little storage. They are simply very small homes. In a small home it is difficult to find room for items that never get used. Even in a larger home, excess items, if they are large like exercise equipment, or small and plentiful, like kitchen appliances, are not pleasant to look at if the space they take up is resented. Less is more, so often. The room shown below just would not be the same with an exercise bike in it.

serene living room

Purge your home of the kitchen appliances and exercise equipment that is simply creating clutter. Or try again to actually make use of it by a defined date. Organize all of your bits and pieces so that you can reach them easily and so that they look good. If you are using them regularly, they will not even get too dusty in open shelving. Getting rid of everything isn’t always the right solution. Really enjoy the things that you keep. Perhaps making it more fun by inviting a friend over on a regular basis to jointly make yoghurt of juice or to exercise together is more doable than as a solo effort. If you are successful and do change some habits, keep the equipment. If not, give it to someone who will use it. Lose the guilt as the stuff goes out the door.

open labled kitchen storage contemporary living room with media unit built in with open shelving on two sides in white

Books are great. Many of us love to have books around us. They look great on a book shelf, along with some beautiful accessories. Some people reread books several times. Some people simply collect them and intend to read them. They really do take up a lot of space. Some books are antique, valuable first editions. They may look nice on a display shelf with some carefully chosen accessories. If you have been a serious reader for many years, you likely have many books. Most of these will never be reread. A few of these are books that we will always have an attachment to so keep those. Get rid of the ones that are just there. Donate them to a used book seller. It’s very difficult for them to resell books and make a profit. Simply gift them and enjoy the space on your shelves. The image below is one of my favourite images. It is Nigella Lawson in her library. She reads. You can see that she really enjoys those books. She does not have too many. Here is a link to places where you can donate used books in Oakville, ON. http://search.hipinfo.info/record/OAK2248

Nigella Lawson in her library  library storage solution with built-in book shelves all around second floor landing shelving in a corner A book fell on my head. I can only blame my shelf

 

Once you manage to divest yourself of things that you were keeping for all the wrong reasons, you will likely find that there is some other collection of items in your home that can now occupy that shelf space rather than where it was in full sight before. As you work your way through this process, making space where there previously was none, you may begin to enjoy the purging process and actually be ready to eliminate entire categories of possessions with no monetary gain. Work on displaying the treasures that you are keeping.

elegant black and white living room with black wall unit and zebra otoman elegant masculine living room with clean lines and large artwork to the floor

Often we retain huge amounts of possessions because we feel that they have not worked hard enough and they still somehow owe us. We would like to let them go, but we insist on selling them. This is a lot of work and often very little money and a lot of exhaustion is the result. Life can be a lot more fun if our limited spare time is not occupied with trying to sell things that few people are willing to pay much for. Relax in your spare time after donating some nice things to a group trying to help those less fortunate that you are.

relaxed living room with soft greyed blue sofa and rose gold accents

Free stuff is great. Some of it is even nice. Some of it was inherited from friends or relatives who have passed on. We often retain an attachment to that person through the object that was inherited. Often that object is really ugly. We keep it out of respect and attachment to the person that it previously belonged to. Some things that are really ugly are things that we will never get rid of because we are still very attached to the previous owner. Whether we live in a large or small home, we will eventually run out of room for things that are really ugly but that we must keep. The solution for some is to refurbish the item so that it looks nice. This is a great idea and we have often done this for clients. The chair, table, bureau or what have you is now gorgeous and works well in a place of honour in a main room of the home. Everyone is happy.

elegant cream wing chair with nail studs, faux fur toss cushion, and neutral geometric motif area carpet

Sometimes it works just as well to gift the item to a splendid new friend or young relative, rather than to continue to keep it. They may like it in its current condition and not consider it ugly. It may only look ugly to you. It may actually be a really nice thing that is simply not your taste. The previous owner would be happy that the piece is being cared for and enjoyed. Everyone is happy.

Gothic style antique buffet hutch

The same goes for furniture that you owned with an ex. If you are able to relax in that furniture without recalling bad memories, continue to do so. If you are consumed with negative thoughts when you are sitting there, get rid of that furniture. Your home may be a little bare but you will be happier.

fun, clean lined sitting area with tuquoise shaded ombre wall treatment

Closets are getting larger and larger. How much stuff can we actually wear? It is a great idea to convert an unused bedroom into a beautiful and functional dressing room. Your clothes will be much more accessible and will likely get worn more often. They will not be crushed and crammed into a too small closet. During this process purge those miserable metal hangers. They damage your clothes and are not meant for long term storage of beautiful items. Top quality, non-slip hangers and worth it and your clothes will be better treated.

small bedroom built as a dressing room with three walls of floor to ceiling closet cabinetry

How many pairs of shoes do we need? Quite a few, it seems. But wait. How many have we worn in recent years. Do we still have twenty pairs laying around that we wouldn’t be caught dead in, but which “owe us” because they were expensive? Be brutal. Let them go. Donate them to your favourite charity. Someone who can’t afford twenty pairs of spare shoes will be thrilled.

clutter of excess pairs of shoes  I judge a man by the shoes he wears, Jerry

Old cell phones and cameras need to be disposed of in an environmentally friendly way. There are local disposal services that will gladly take them off your hands. You may even gain an empty drawer.

cell phone clutter in a drawer

We all love to take photos of the family. These should be displayed in a beautiful and dignified way in an organized and tasteful gallery wall, if we do want to see them every day. So often we see an absolute mishmash of differing, and very cheap, frames all thrown up onto the wall with no thought at all. It looks terrible, and that was not the intention. There is a process to creating a gallery wall, whether it is family photos of simply a collection of artworks. It should be professionally done. When it is, it is a joy to live with.

upscale living room with white leather bench and art wall gallery of framed artworks

Sometimes we love to cook, and other times we just can’t remember what recipe that we bought that expensive unusual ingredient for. If it is not expired, do an internet search for a recipe that appeals to you that calls for that ingredient. If it is expired, let it go. You won’t even remember you had it. Make a point of going through current stocks and make it a fun thing to find recipes to use what you have. If you really can’t face cooking, donate anything that is not expired to a food bank. They really need it.

ingenious pantry storage         large organized pantry

Pinterest is a wonderful thing. It’s like hoarding without the clutter. If you tend to keep magazines for years and have piles of them around your home, it may be time to wonder why you are interested in decorating but do not take any of the advice. Digitize all of the fabulous ideas so that you can find them easily and finally take action on some of those decor ideas. Piles of decorating magazines are simply not good decor.

piles of magazines stored on shelves in a basement

The same goes for receipts. Yes, we do have to keep them, at least for awhile, but we really do not want to look at them. Shred or compost paper that is no longer needed. It sounds simple but making it an automatic process is far better than looking at ugly piles of paper that you no longer need to keep.

wide view of upscale living room with dog on sofa   relaxed upscale living room sofa and orange toss cushion with close-up of planter and succelent plants

In summary, it can be a monumental task to de-clutter once the accumulation has reached epic proportions. It is not easy , although you often read articles that suggest that it is not that big a deal to create a serene and clutter free home. We are bombarded with a huge number of media information constantly and all of it suggests that we acquire more. Try to look at the bigger picture and work on decreasing rather than increasing the volume. Since 1993 Mulberry Interiors, interior design consultants have been assisting clients in Oakville, Mississauga, Burlington, Brampton, Milton, Georgetown, Etobicoke, western Toronto, and Vaughn. We specialize in residential interior design and decorating and are at our most creative when we use colour as our theme. We offer a full range of interior design services such as choosing paint colours, space planning, furniture sourcing, custom draperies and soft furnishings, flooring selection and accessories. Call Mulberry Interiors now at (905) 849-6423 to book a consultation. We look forward to working with you to increase your enjoyment of your home.

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