After nearly 35 years of living in the same home, it was time for my parents to downsize. Before they moved, my dad had a unique but slow-paced way of decluttering. Every time we went for a visit, he’d offer us something, I would say yes, and my husband would cringe. I didn’t take everything, but I do have a hard time turning down antiques and eclectic memorabilia.
Most of the time, people have too many things for the space they have, according to home staging expert Helene Jattan at The Art of Preparation. “We need to look at what has a function in your life today,” says Jattan. “Because removing clutter truly gives you the feeling of space and freedom.” Leslee McCarthy, a professional home organizer and designer at Do It With Less, agrees: “Our physical clutter has a much greater impact on our mental clutter than we realize.” Clearing away the physical clutter can help reduce stress, clear your mind, and make your home more peaceful and efficient.
Let it go
You’ve decided (realized) it’s time to eliminate the unnecessary. How do you let things go? Some of us may be attached to the past; others might be overwhelmed with paper; or perhaps it’s the kids’ toys that are the issue. Or you don’t really like grandma’s prized doll collection but feel guilty about giving it away. “We tend to hold onto things to remind us of people and events in our lives,” says Jattan. “We feel that if we got rid of them, we would offend someone or forget about them.” But if you have trouble letting go of something, like your wall of trophies and plaques, Jattan and McCarthy offer a solution: preserve the item’s memories in a photo album. “What items to keep is a personal decision,” says McCarthy. “But everyone should be honest with themselves. Are you only storing it, and not using it? Are you just passing it on for the next generation to deal with?”
Finding your organizing groove
The key to proper organization is to match your organizing style. Figuring
out whether you’re a visual, kinesthetic or auditory learner can help this process. “It helps to understand how you relate to clutter,” says McCarthy. While kinesthetic learners may respond well to physical cues for their organizing systems, a visual learner may respond better to colour-coded systems. For example, if you’re a kinesthetic learner and you keep losing your keys, it may help to get a key rack that fits the shape and size of your keys snugly; the keys feel as though they belong there. If you’re a visual learner, you could organize your key rack based on colour—or simply paint it a bright, attractive colour to grab your attention when you get home from work. The final step is to incorporate organizational systems that will work best for quick, easy access and tidiness.
It might seem daunting, but professionals confirm it’s worth the reduction of stress in your life. “The effect of decluttering is so lifting,” says Jattan. “You can see clearly, and you get a new found energy.” McCarthy adds that organizing isn’t about cluttering your space with more organizational systems. It’s about reducing what we already own. “One of the greatest pleasures of life is learning to live simply, but well.”
“The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.” – Socrates
With HELENE JATTAN (The Art of Preparation)
and LESLEE MCCARTHY (Do It With Less)
Do I use it regularly?
Can I live without it?
What value does it offer me?
Does it earn its place in my life right now?
Does it cause me stress?
Is it getting put somewhere ‘just for now’?
If it’s a sentimental item, can I take a photo of it to keep instead?
Can it be donated or sold?
If it’s broken or damaged, can it be fixed?
Have I used it in the last six months? The last year?
by Becky Dumais & Emily Bednarz
The Art of Preparation
Do it with Less