By Vince Mancuso, Storage.com
Storage.com is an advocate of a cleaner home, whether through helpful tips for tackling clutter or the use of a storage unit.
Whether you’re living in a one-bedroom apartment or a house fit to hold a family of six, there is always that one space that acts as a gravitational well of seasonal clothes, toys, magazines, and other junk. The universal catch-all space may range in size from a table top to an entire garage, but it’s still a waste on your home’s usable square footage.
To help people take back their storage real estate at home, Storage.com spoke with Marla Cilley, more widely-recognized as the FlyLady, on decluttering tips for your home. Marla has helped hundreds of thousands people organize their lives and homes through housekeeping and life advice through the FlyLady system, which recommends a slow and steady approach to organizing catch-all spaces.
“Every home has one,” Marla says. “For me, it was my extra bedroom. It just becomes so bad, I mean, my extra bedroom, before I got organized, was piled to the ceiling.” The bedroom now serves as her home office, and she says it only took about 15 minutes a day over the course of six to eight months to declutter the room.
To declutter a closet, a room, or your entire home, the FlyLady says to set a timer for 15 minutes and take a manageable amount of items, such as a bag or box, from your catch-all space. While the perfectionist may struggle with not getting the whole area cleaned at once, it’s important to avoid getting overwhelmed.
“Don’t pull out what you can’t put away in an hour,” she says. “We don’t have big blocks of time [to declutter,] and if we do, you better be spending it with your family.”
“Have you used it in the past year? Do you actually have a place for it in your home? And does it make you smile?”
FlyLady, Marla Cilley
In this 15 minutes, pick up each item individually and ask three questions: Have you used it in the past year? Do you actually have a place for it in your home? And does it make you smile? “If it can meet those three things, then you’re welcome to keep it.” Marla says. “If it doesn’t, if you don’t have a place for it, and you haven’t used it in a year … it needs to go away.”
As you ask and answer these three questions, the FlyLady recommends placing them in three piles: the give away, the put away, and the throw away. The give away pile should be reserved for those items that are still useful and in good condition, but are no longer needed in your home.
“I do a radio show every Tuesday, and a lady called in,” Marla recalls. The woman was a mother who home-schooled her children. “She was holding on to curriculum, and all of her children were getting old. She wasn’t going to have anymore in kindergarten, first, and second grade,” the FlyLady says. “She needed to bless someone else with that stuff.”
For the items placed in the put-away pile, it’s important to know where these useful items will go. The FlyLady added that if the area you’re going to place the item(s) needs to be decluttered first, then it’s okay to set the items nearby, as long as you put them in their place once the spot is available.
As soon as your timer goes off, place the give away pile in a bag or box and set it in your car, move the put away items to where they belong, and tie up the bag of trashed items and throw it away immediately. Marla says it’s important to throw away items as soon as possible to avoid someone in your home pulling items back out, which would only add clutter back to your home.
WANT ANOTHER HOME DECLUTTERING TIP?
There are two challenges people face when it comes to throwing away items: safely getting rid of sensitive financial documents and decluttering sentimental items. For financial documents, Marla recommends shredding them or making a family night around the fire pit to burn the old documents. “Most paper items can be recycled once you remove your information, but you can have a family night and roast some marshmallows to make s’mores,” she says.
It’s tough, but Marla says you have to limit the amount of keepsakes you have when decluttering a home, despite the sentimental value. For this, she recommends getting a six-gallon tote or some other air-tight storage bin that can fit easily in the closet. Limit what you place in there, whether it be a child’s favorite toy, scrapbook of life events, or other mementos.
“If you don’t know where things go, get a born-organized friend to help you, because they will tell you where things need to go,” she jokes. “Especially if it’s in the trash.”
Another thing Marla notes is that catch-all spaces can form in more than one space around your home. For instance, bedroom closets, bathroom cabinets, and kitchen cupboards can become easy targets for what she refers to as the stash-n-dash. “Those areas become those stash-n-dash areas,” she says. “The places we gather up clutter and get it out of vision when guests are coming.”
If you need to declutter your entire house, Marla recommends splitting your house into zones as one of her FLYing lessons. Following her method, you can take specific days out of each month to address and declutter the specific zones, which cover everything from your front porch to your master bedroom. You should also make one day each week your anti-procrastination day, where you tackle things you normally put off.
The FlyLady warns self storage users to not make their storage unit an off-site catch all, but to use it as a space for things you will eventually incorporate into your home. These items can range from seasonal clothing and decorations to large recreational vehicles and boats. “I recommend using storage for what you don’t use often, but that you need,” she adds. “That way you don’t have to store them in a basement, taking up space where your family could have a playroom.”
For instance, she said a storage unit is typically used by those who enjoy large Christmas and other holiday displays, but can even be used by parents who don’t have storage space for a large amount of toys. “Let’s say you got a lot of toys, a whole lots of toys,” she says. “Divide the toys into four groups, like the four seasons.”
LEARN MORE ABOUT HOW SELF STORAGE CAN HELP YOU DELCUTTER
From here, rotate each group in your child’s play area, and as you do so, declutter the toys. Place toys no longer age-appropriate in your give-away pile, put away the good toys back into storage, and weed out broken toys for the throw away pile. And a storage unit makes a perfect space for toys, she says, because otherwise the kids will get them all out. “If you leave them in the house, they will find them,” she adds.
“Storage units aren’t catch-alls,” the FlyLady states. “They’re there for a purpose. They’re there to hold things we don’t have room for in our homes.”
However, she adds, her simple, slow-and-steady process can be just as effective on decluttering a storage unit as it is on a closet, garage, or bedroom. And, once you have the clutter gone, you have less to organize, making your life more organized overall.
“We have decluttered our basement, our garage, all in this process,” she says. “I did this three times a day, and eventually I got all the clutter out of [my spare room] and turned it into a wonderful space for me to work.”
For more tips from the Flylady, check out The Best Decluttering Tips from the Best Home Organizing Websites.
What are your decluttering methods? Let us know in the comments!