I often read online that people instinctively know how to declutter. This hasn't been my experience. I find that most people fit into one of two categories: those who know how to declutter and are already organised as a result and those who have no idea where to start. That second group of people? They're the ones with junk drawers wedged shut, more clothes than my local thrift store and kitchen cupboards full of gadgets they've never even used.
When you find yourself living in a cluttered environment, it can be difficult to know where to start decluttering. My own personal decluttering journey has opened my eyes to the tragically underreported Clutter Blindness Syndrome. My theory is, that in order to reduce the mental clutter that comes from living in a cluttered environment, our brains develop a clever coping mechanism and switch off our ability to notice the clutter we build up around ourselves. Thus, we notice the clutter and mess in other people's homes but are oblivious to our own.
What can we do to treat Clutter Blindness Syndrome? Is it incurable?
No! We can retrain ourselves to see the clutter in our homes if we know where to look. Today I'm going to share 10 places in your home that you can declutter right now and tell you exactly what you should be looking for. Pick one space (or go for a decluttering Olympics of all 10!) and get ready to see your clutter in a new light.
1. Makeup kit
Whether you're a makeup lover or a totally confused novice like myself, I can almost guarantee that you'll find something to declutter in your makeup drawer. So what are you looking for?
Make up has a sell by date. Look for the little drawing of a tub with a number on it. It should say something like 12 months. This gives you an idea of how long you can keep this makeup once open. So that mascara marked 6 months, that you opened 8 years ago? It needs to go.
Dried out or empty makeup. When I first started recovering from Clutter Blindness, I was left scratching my head, wondering why I had 8 open black mascaras - 6 of which had totally dried out. Chuck 'em. In the future, don't open a new product until the others are finished.
Excess brushes and tools. If you don't know what that funny shaped pointy brush is for, odds are you don't need it. I used to own a full "professional" kit of brushes that confused the heck out of me. Today I have just two that I use: one for blusher, one for bronzer. Simple.
2. Underwear drawer
Life is just too darn short for bras that dig into your ribs all day, or knickers that make you squirm with discomfort. On the other end of the spectrum, life is far too special for raggedy old, stained underwear with stretched out elastic. Commit to treating yourself right today and toss anything:
Full of holes or unpleasant stains. You can cut these up and repurpose them as cleaning rags.
Bras that give you shelf boob, four boobs or gape at the top. Badly fitted bras are awful for your health and you deserve better. Donate these bras and they can go to a new, happier, breast healthy home. In the UK you can donate to Against Breast Cancer - do your bit for the environment, help stop breast cancer and support small businesses in Africa. Can I have a win, win, win? If you're not in the UK a quick Google search should bring up similar options.
3. Under the kitchen sink
Few of us are lucky enough to have a Pinterest-worthy cupboard under our kitchen sinks. But we can have a less messy space by decluttering a few simple things.
Unused and unwanted cleaning products. Bought something in bulk that you just don't like? Bought a product that you haven't got round to using? You can donate unopened cleaning supplies to homeless charities and food banks. Commit to using up opened products, then remember not to buy them again.
Grotty old cleaning cloths. You can use your decluttered underwear and socks as new cleaning rags, no need to buy new ones (make sure to wash them first!)
I've never been that "into" shoes so it surprised me how many I had accumulated over the years.
If they make your feet blister and bleed, they gotta go. Or you can soften up the leather if you really love them. But just remember, pain is not beauty. Pain is an uncomfortable grimace on your face, an awkward limp and a ruined night out.
My flip-flop collection was extensive before I decluttered it. There was a "surfer chic" vibe to my ratty, falling apart old flip-flops I told myself. Only they were so old and worn that I never wore any of them, for fear that they would disintegrate while I was out and about.
Unworn shoes. Let's be honest. We all make mistakes. We aren't perfect humans. Which is why I decluttered 7 pairs of almost entirely unworn shoes when I began seriously decluttering. I have strangely small feet but I used to buy beautiful shoes in the sales, even though I knew my doll-like feet would never fit them. They were all donated or sold.
How many plain white t-shirts do you really need? The answer is almost certainly not 47, but that's how many I found in one client's wardrobe. Decluttering clothes can be emotionally challenging, so start out small and easy. Look for:
Items with holes or unremovable stains. Add these to your new stock of cleaning rags.
Things you just don't like or feel good in. Donate them.
Duplicates. See above white t-shirt bonanza.
Try turning all your hangers backwards. When you wear an item, turn the hanger right way round. After 6 months, go through the things you haven't worn. Do you really need or want them?
Guys, let's get real. It is 2018. Do we really need to own hundreds of DVDs anymore? I'm not saying you need to get rid of them all, but you can likely declutter a fair few.
Movies you didn't like. I can't tell you how many DVDs (and books and CDs) I used to keep, even though I didn't like them. If you didn't enjoy it, let it go to somebody else who might love it. Donate or sell.
Movies that are easily found on Netflix, etc. If you have a subscription to any online TV depository, chances are you don't need to keep very many DVDs at all. Only your absolute favourites should make the cut (my Harry Potter and Monty Python DVDs are all that remain of my old DVD collection. "He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy!")
This one was my Achilles heel. I love books more than any other possession in my life. The idea of letting go of them gave me heart palpitations for years. Now I've learned to let them go, I can speak from experience and say that I was worried about nothing!
Much like DVDs, books you just didn't like should be first in your donation pile.
Books that represent your "fantasy self." For me this was endless fancy schmancy books on philosophy that I was never going to read but liked the idea of. For you, it may be cookbooks you've never actually used, novels in a foreign language you don't speak or War and Peace. Nobody really reads War and Peace, do they? (I still own War and Peace. Someday... Fantasy Claire is still lurking).
Old textbooks. I kept my university textbooks for years after graduation as I couldn't figure out what to do with them. I'd scrawled notes in the margins and highlighted huge chunks. Who knew you could sell them, even with these markings? I made a small fortune by selling mine to We Buy Books. Just be careful to check when selling books with markings that the seller accepts these.
8. You car
No, don't go getting rid of your car! But do a quick sweep for rubbish in the glove compartments, CDs you didn't mean to keep there and other things that don't belong. You'll be amazed by the accumulation of forgotten about shoes, that book you never finished, donations you never got round to donating, half finished snacks... The list goes on.
9. Junk drawer
You may be surprised that I'm recommending tackling the dreaded junk drawer. But this is just an early stages sweep, not an in depth purge. What to look for today:
Rubbish. Yep, I'm talking literal junk in the junk drawer. You may be surprised at how much excess packaging, broken old things and other miscellaneous stuff you find in there to toss or recycle. Get rid of the packaging on that role of tape, recycle the takeout menus for the Chinese restaurant that closed down years ago, clear out the broken items you've been meaning to fix for ages (better still, actually fix them).
Batteries. I can't recommend getting a battery tester enough. They cost a tiny amount and let you know how much charge remains in your non-rechargeable batteries. You can find them easily on Amazon. This has been an absolute game changer in my decluttering tool belt. Clients love it more than any other bit of my kit.
What do you do with mail that comes through your door? Most of us Lazy Daisys chuck it down into a pile somewhere and leave it until the precarious Leaning Tower of Mail is on the brink of collapse (guilty as charged). Start a system to immediately recycle envelopes, deal with (or at least temporarily file) important mail and stop junk mail even coming into your home. Let me know if you'd like a post about how to stop getting junk mail entirely!
What are you waiting for? Ready, set, open your eyes and declutter. Recovery from Clutter Blindness Syndrome is not instantaneous but it need not be painful or costly. If you find yourself truly overwhelmed by your clutter or don't have the time to deal with it, try hiring a professional organiser and declutterer. I work in Edinburgh and am always happy to help out or recommend a colleague in the UK.