In his book, Simplicity Parenting Kim John Payne writes that by simplifying, parents protect the environment for childhood’s slow, essential unfolding of self. The human brain tends to function better when things are simpler and more organised. People of all ages crave a good clear-out as clutter affects anxiety levels, sleep and our ability to focus. No wonder Marie Kondo’s New York Times bestseller and Netflix show, Tidying Up has brought about a global decluttering craze.
How do I start?
Jackie Raubenheimer, owner of the home staging company, Set the Stage SA says: “One step at a time.” She always kicks off the decluttering process with three boxes: One for recycling (helping you help the environment), one for garbage and one for donations of usable, but unused items and things you have doubles of. Other items can be put away in drawers, cupboards and storage units.
“Start with the rooms in which you spend most of your time,” Raubenheimer says, like the kitchen, bedrooms, bathrooms and lounge. “You start with what is visible because that’s what bothers you the most.” Once you’ve organised what’s visible, you’ll have more energy to tackle the rest.
Be careful not to just organise the clutter. Focus on clearing out as you tidy up. Raubenheimer suggests keeping storage units uniform when it comes to colour, shape and size. See-through units are always convenient for you to see what’s inside, with many creative labelling options available. Rectangular units also take up less space than round ones.
Colour and clutter
Too many non-complementary colours quickly make things look cluttered. Raubenheimer says: “Don’t restrict colour in children’s rooms, but use colours that are complementary.” Rather add some fun and creative labelling to add to the room’s theme and keep the storage units uniform.
For other rooms Raubenheimer suggests storage units in colours that don’t stand out.
Categorising items you put away will make things much simpler, according to Raubenheimer. If you are decluttering the linen cupboard, make linen your main category, with single fitted sheets, double fitted sheets and more as sub-categories. Your food cupboard can just as easily be categorised, and Set the Stage SA can even assist with professional labelling.
Raubenheimer always refers to these five questions when decluttering and simplifying a home:
Is it still in good and working condition?
Do I still like it and does it make me happy?
Do I use it at least once per year?
Does it still fit? (This can be trousers or scatter cushions, depending which room you’re in.)
Do I have more than one and whom can I spoil with the other one?
Once things have been decluttered, the challenge is to keep it that way. It can be an uphill battle, especially in a home with toddlers leaving trails of toys behind. Jackie’s solution to this universal problem is simple: “Find a place for everything and put everything in its place.” Easier said than done? Once you instill these principles in your family’s day to day life, you’ll soon find that maintaining a clutter-free environment ultimately becomes a lifestyle, rather than a daily chore.
Raubenheimer says seeing the results is always satisfying. “As soon as things are tidier, it lifts your spirit.”