January is always a frantic month for me as I get many requests from clients to help them declutter their home as part of their new year resolutions or in preparation of Chinese New Year. While the idea of having a fresh start at the beginning of the year is certainly invigorating, don’t worry if you haven’t scheduled a decluttering exercise yet as there are plenty of other good times to declutter your home.
1 | MOVING
Moving is one of the best times to declutter. Why wasting time – and money!! – in packing, moving and unpacking items that are no longer needed? You’ll be busy enough settling your family in your new home, especially if you’re relocating to a new country and have to apply for new schools, find new doctors, open new bank accounts, buy a new car or a new insurance policy etc.
Start the decluttering process as soon as you know about the move. Focus on those items that are a no-brainer for you to part with: the broken toys, the faded/stained/torn clothes, the old magazines and newspapers, the expired food and cosmetics, the stuff that you don’t use – including those boxes that are still left unopened since you moved out of your last place – the stuff that you don’t like, the stuff that doesn’t belong to you etc. In case you can’t finish the decluttering before moving, make sure to open one box at a time in your new home and re-evaluate what you should do with its contents.
For more tips on a stress-free move, check this article.
2 | DOWNSIZING
Maybe you’ve decided to embrace a new lifestyle and want to spend less time taking care of your home and your stuff so you can travel the world or spend your money on experiences rather than on rent and utilities bills? Or maybe you’re forced to downsize because you separated from your spouse or lost your job? In both cases, you’re going to need a take a good look at your possessions and keep only what’s going to fit into a smaller home.
It’ll obviously be harder to declutter if you feel the downsizing is being imposed on you, but letting go of the past and of some of your hopes for the future can be therapeutic and help you make the best of your present.
3 | SELLING YOUR HOME
Maybe you don’t feel the need to be clutter-free to feel comfortable in your home, and that’s ok. But put yourself in the shoes of a prospective buyer entering your home. You need to help them visualise how their possessions will look in “their” future home so they can picture their life in it. Decluttering is an essential part of the home staging process that will make your home more appealing to a greatest number of prospective buyers and hence allows you to sell it faster and probably for a higher price.
4 | MERGING TWO HOUSEHOLDS
So you’ve found the love of your life, and you’re considering moving in together? Congratulations! You’re very likely to come across multiples of the same items and you’ll have to agree on which one to keep. As shown in this infographic from MakeSpace, a cluttered home is often a source of arguments in a couple, so make sure you don’t start a new relationship on this basis.
5 | EXPECTING A NEW BABY
Changes in a family setup are also one of the best times to declutter. In fact, the addition of a new baby to a family often naturally prompts the expecting mother to declutter and get organised so everything can run smoothly while she focuses on her new baby’s needs.
Tiffany contacted me several weeks before the due date of her first child. She was starting to freak out about the clutter and lack of organisation in her home. Decluttering and organising her home helped her feel in control:
“I can’t tell you how much stress it removes from the pregnancy to have a neat and organized space, and be well on my way to welcoming baby. Now I can see what I have versus not, and feel like my mind is clear and calm ahead of this big change. I also feel empowered to manage the house going forward and keeping it uncluttered, and avoiding buying stuff I don’t need.” Read Tiffany full testimonial here.
6 | SENDING YOUR OFFSPRING TO UNI
Decluttering is not only a case when there’s a new addition to the family, but also when a child leaves home to start university. Whether you’re happy to see your child spread her wings or worry about how you’re going to cope with her being gone, your lifestyle is going to be different and your home should reflect this change.
I must confess I personally dread that time, but I also know that hanging onto all of my son’s stuff once he’s gone won’t help me embrace this new stage in my life. I’ll probably ask him to help me declutter his belongings to ease the process.
7 | SETTING UP A HOME OFFICE
You’ve decided to leave the corporate world and to work from home so you have more flexibility to look after your children? Well you’re going to need to set up a proper home office away from distractions so you can protect your work time, be focused and get work done.
Whether it’s using a little corner in your bedroom or living room, or converting a guest room as your home office, there’re things that are going to need to go so you make space for your new office.
8 | SPENDING MORE TIME AT HOME
Being surrounded by clutter is a source of stress, so it’s quite natural when you find yourself spending more time at home to feel the need to declutter so you don’t suffer from cabin fever and can instead better enjoy your surroundings.
9 | FIGHTING ALLERGIES
It’s not easy to clean a cluttered home. There’re plenty of areas that are not easy to access and that are never properly cleaned. If you have a sensitive nose, you might be prone to allergies and to respiratory problems. Remove the clutter and your condition might improve. Plus studies have shown that by getting rid of the clutter, you can reduce your housekeeping time by 40%!
Very recently, my son started to read some of my old books and I noticed he wouldn’t stop sneezing. Although my shelves were not cluttered, some of these books were quite old and were obviously inhabited by dust mites. Despite a strong attachment to books, I had already done a drastic purge on my bookshelves, keeping only the ones that I loved. His allergic reaction convinced me to let go of most of what I had left. I’m now down to only the ones I haven’t read yet (they are all less than 3 months old) and kept a few coffee table books. The outcome: no more sneezing, more space and more energy flowing!
10 | “DEATH CLEANING”
Many parents believe they’ll make their children happy by passing the family heirlooms onto them, but the reality is that most children don’t have the same emotional attachment to their stuff and won’t be keen to keep it.
I must confess that dealing with my stepfather’s death was made even more difficult as I had to help my mum declutter his overstuffed garage so we could restore it to a reusable space. After spending 3 summers purging his garage of 40 years of accumulation, I made a promise to myself that I’d limit my physical possessions to what I needed, used and loved so as not to add misery to my family after I pass away.
Although I admit that the term death cleaning, coined by Swedish Margareta Magnusson, sounds rather morbid, it does make sense to me.
But let’s not end this article on a morbid note! Because at the end of the day, decluttering is very freeing and liberating. To me, there’s never a better time to declutter than now. In fact, once you’ve started, you’ll very likely wonder why you’ve waited for so long to do it and why you’ve hung onto the stuff in the first place. So what are you waiting for? If it’s a compassionate presence you need, I’m here for you to help ease the process.