At last the decluttering project is drawing to an end. I began in December, not realising that everything I owned would be handled at least twice and that I would have to live in a process for three months. But now I am nearly there!
Here are my notes – lessons learned on decluttering.
I removed six car boot loads of stuff from the house to the charity bin. I mean, seriously, full loads, like the boot was just loaded with big black plastic bags of stuff. The house does now look less cluttered, though I am not sure it looks like that much stuff is gone.
I also Ebayed quite a bit of stuff. I made about $300 selling stuff I no longer wanted or could no longer use. This was quite a satisfying process. Clutter out – money in.
Even better than Ebay was Gumtree, which was a Perth-only network which allowed me to get rid of items that needed to be picked up. Also, it was way easier to sell things on it. You basically type in a one sentence description and loaded a photo and you are good to go.
I culled about 400 books, mostly going to second hand shops, the University second hand store or charity bins.
I have been through, literally, every drawer I own and examined every item. Do I use this? I asked. Is it useful? Is it beautiful? Does it mean something to me?
I managed to give one desk away to charity. The large charities are fiendishly fussy about what they will take – they also, in my experience, tend to reschedule at the drop of a hat and work on the assumption that the person making the donation has unlimited time to wait at home for them to stop by.**
I got rid of one desk to a neighbour, one ancient and hideously ugly cupboard has gone to the verge chuck out, a cheap and nasty bedside table went into the bin, and I managed to Freecycle my TV cabinet (but this was a saga involving constant rescheduling).
I did take in another bookcase and two chests of drawers, but one of these has gone straight into the new shed.
** A friend suggested that a smaller charity might be more able to use furniture, like one for people setting up new homes after leaving domestic violence. I tried a domestic violence charity and they did want the furniture but could not take it because they did not have a ute and they also had nowhere useable to store it. So, really, openings for someone with more to donate than I have – their first need is an airconditioned storage area so that they can access items in the storage. I called in the middle of one of the hottest summers ever and the director said their shed was full and could not be emptied until the weather changed because it was unendurable to be in there.
Things that worked for me
Containerising things. It is a lot less visually cluttered if I have one box of hair accessories than if they are all spread out on the counter top.
Lofting things. It was a revelation to me that you can loft little things as well as big ones. Lofting my microwave allows me to store the frequently used foods underneath and leaves valuable counter space for cooking.
Getting a shed! Did you know that even if you have virtually no shed they have itty bitty little ones that nestle under your eaves? Brilliant!
Things that did not work for me
Virtually all the decluttering books in the local library were co-written by interior designers whose interests did not mesh with mine. I really was not looking for advice on where to place a throw rug. I was looking for advice for how to cram the belongings of three people (slightly more than the national average for one house) into sixty square metres (about a quarter of the national average for a house).
For example, one chapter on laundries mentioned setting up a TV in the laundry to give you something to look at while you did the ironing. I would begin by saying that there would not be room to set up an ironing board in my laundry. Also, I have never owned one as it is a single-use, large size item requiring storage. Also, I decided that even the iron, which I had occasionally used, was not valuable enough to make up for the amount of space it uses, so I sold it in the recent purges. Finally, I would add that I also sold the TV in the lounge because that also took up too much space. Either the TV or the couch had to go and I really wanted to keep a place for my friends to sit.
In short, my reality, not really matching the one envisioned in the decluttering books I read.
Where I did find useful information
Usually I would go for books as my first source of information but these were a disappointment to me. Full of tips on how to arrange your towels in a visually appealing manner, they lacked information on how to squeeze them in when you don’t own a linen cupboard. My answer: dangle a hanging shoe storage thing from the rail in the wardrobe in the girls’ room and shove them in that.
I did find a few inspirational websites:
I also found that walking around the local storage solution shop was really helpful. For instance, it was there that I discovered the lofting devices and the hanging devices. I now have extra space for bathroom towels in use by hanging an extra rail over the door to my bedroom (not quite in the bathroom but certainly within two steps of it). I also have three new hooks behind the door for bags – they just hang there, no nails, perfect for me.