Decluttering, after Covid lockdown

As the anniversary of the end of the Covid-19 lockdown period approaches, I am looking back at the cultural shift that I felt at the time. That sudden increase of time at home (March-May 2020) changed a lot of people’s minds about life at home.

Since spring 2020 my business life, as a buyer’s agent in real estate, jumped into high gear as people began to reach for better living environments for themselves. People who do home repair also got too busy, too. It’s a national trend!

Meanwhile, millions of people didn’t move, didn’t renovate, but wanted to change the way they keep a house.

The big question for most people is where to begin. I am no different. The changes I made without planning mostly didn’t work out well. Mostly, I think that is because there was no overall plan. Now, two years later, entropy has set in again!

Step one is often decluttering and evaluating the current living space. I decluttered, but I didn’t declutter strategically. I didn’t evaluate the living space. Therefore, the points where clutter likes to accumulate did exactly that. Places where I developed logical storage, I had more lasting success.

General advice: Do one type of thing every month for a year. Or one room every month for a year.

Here are some basics to help clarify where to begin decluttering and how to stay motivated:

  1. Sit or stand in the place where you spend the most awake time in your house. Look around. What is cluttering it, or what don’t you like about it? That’s where you begin. If the place you spend time is an office, it might be paper, it might be books. If the place is the living room, it might be books, toys, paper, shoes… Work on the most obvious category of thing in the space you are in most.
  2. Organize the place where clutter tends to collect. Start in the room where you are most annoyed for the longest time in a typical week. For example:

I recently heard this advice about clearing a junk drawer:

    1. Put a towel or sheet on the counter above the junk drawer. Put a recycling bin, a garbage pail and some paper bags on the floor nearby.
    2. Put a bowl or bucket of warm soapy water on the counter. Have rags or paper towels handy.
    3. Set a timer for thirty minutes.
    4. Dump the drawer on the counter.
    5. Go through the contents. Sort: recycling, garbage, worthy of giving away. Anything dirty can go in the soapy water. The rest goes back in the drawer at the end.
    6. When the timer goes off, you are done for the day. Put back everything that isn’t recycling, garbage, or for give away. Clean and dry the soaking things.
    7. Return for round two, if you didn’t finish. Choose a time to do that. Put it on your calendar.

I am pretty good with junk drawers. I can clear one in a half hour, or even less. I have two and I know which junk goes where.

files on top of filing cabinetMy problem is office paper “growth.” Paper collects around my workspace. Then, I can’t find what I am looking for. In 2020, I added a file cabinet right next to my desk. Now paper grows on top! I am not filing as I go. Here’s what I plan to do.

  • Develop some basic categories for file the types of paper that I handle every week. This is the hard part. It is going to take me a while. 
  • Have the recycling bin and shredder handy.
  • Set out folders, labelled with my newly developed categories.
  • Go through the papers that are accumulating and put them in a folder, the recycling bin, or the shredder.
  • Put the folders in the filing cabinet that right below that pile.
  • Do this for a half an hour at a time until it is done.

Wish me luck!


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