Have you ever looked around at your apartment and been like, “How on earth did I get all this stuff?!” Yeah, same.
There are plenty of good reasons to have things in our homes — for utility, for decoration, and, yes, sometimes for sentimental value. Our houses and apartments are filled with all sorts of brick-a-brack that makes living more convenient, comfortable, and fun. But a lot of times our spaces fill up with stuff we don’t need. AKA, clutter. It feels like the longer we’re alive, the more of this extra stuff we pick up: a busted ottoman that we never got around to fixing; a CD player your dad got you that you’ll never use; an entire bathroom drawer filled with dried up mascaras. But we can gain control of our stuff, and clear it from our lives. And it doesn’t have to take all year to do it — in fact, it can be done in less than ten minutes a day. Really!
I sat down with interior designer Mandy Cheng of Mandy Cheng Design, to get tips on how to tackle the toughest de-cluttering tasks, in the easiest and fastest way possible. Here’s what I learned.
1) Understand Your Space
Cheng believes you need to know your space and its limitations and live within your place’s parameters. For example, if you have a small apartment with a tiny kitchen table that seats four max, recognize that you only need enough dishware for four people to eat, and just get rid of the rest. (When you have guests over, Cheng suggests just buying cute recyclable plates and cups.)
2) Let It Go, Let It Go
The next step is to get rid of the things that no longer serve you. “People tend to hold onto objects because of their sentimental value,” Cheng says. For example, “Maybe you’re keeping an old, broken record player because it was something you bought with your friend and it was a really fun day and every time you look at that record player it makes you remember that day and smile. Call up that friend, have them come over, take a picture of them holding that record player and then put the player in the trash. Not every memory needs a physical object to be attached to it.”
Make a Game Plan, and Execute It
Now that you know the basics, it’s time to get to work. Here’s how you could break down your 10 minutes a day:
Day One: Get boxes and a trash bag. Place one box in each room and one large one in the entryway. Label the large box “donations” and note that the other boxes in each room are for you to place stray items that go somewhere else in the house (ie: a book on the dining table that belongs in the bedroom goes into the box in your bedroom).
Day Two: Start with your entryway. Put everything that’s sitting on your entry console away, or if you no longer want it, into the donations box. If it’s not decor or an intentional piece of furniture, it shouldn’t be sitting out.
Days Three, Four, Five, etc.: Each time you have 10 minutes, do this with the remaining surfaces in your house. Get everything off your tabletops that doesn’t belong there. If you don’t have room to put it away, place it inside the box in its appropriate room. Or, donate or trash it. Remember, if you only have a few things to put away, find homes for them immediately. If it’s too much and feels overwhelming, place them in a box to tackle later. Do this until you’re finished; the number of days will depend on the size of your home.
Day Six: Move on to your bathroom(s). Get rid of all expired products or things that you no longer use. Get rid of duplicates if you can only use that item one at a time. Place all remaining items in a nice basket — Cheng recommends Target, World Market, and Overstock.com for cute ones that aren’t too pricey — and then place that basket in a drawer or cabinet. That way, everything stays contained and things aren’t falling all over themselves when you reach into your drawers or cabinets.
Day Seven: Move on to your storage closet(s). Again, get rid of stuff you’re not using, and place the remaining items in organized bins.
Day Eight: Move on to the living room and dining room. Only leave out what is intended to be displayed. If you’re placing something on the floor or a tabletop because there isn’t room for it anywhere else, it means that you need to get rid of something to make enough space for your things. At this point, your house should start to look pretty clutter-free and nice.
Day Nine: Move on to your kitchen. Get rid of pots and pans you never use, as well as gadgets and “convenience tools” that are so specific that it’s not actually convenient to use them (like that contraption that cuts vegetables for you, even though it’s faster and easier to just cut them yourself!). Recognize what you realistically use and donate the rest.
Days 10, 11, etc.: And finally, tackle the bedrooms. Remember to only leave out what is intended to be displayed. Everything else should be put away and if there isn’t enough room, some stuff needs to go. For your clothes, imagine yourself wearing each item in your closet and think, “Do I really want this?” If you find yourself skipping over something, it’s probably not right for you anymore so you should free up that hanger.
Once you’ve gone through each room, spend 10 minutes going through each of the boxes. Now that you’ve gotten rid of your overages and your expired items, there should be more room for these box items to be put away.
At the end of all this (in two weeks to a month, depending on the size of your house), you’ll have a clutter-free home that you can luxuriate in. Might I suggest getting a new record player and having friends over to celebrate? Don’t forget the cute recyclable (or compostable!) dishware!