Quite often, we think about decluttering our homes in the midst of a life change— a new baby, an empty nest, a remodel, a move. Sometimes even a subtle shift like a new school year or a seasonal change will prod us to push the reset button on our collective stuff. Whether you are on a tight timeline, or taking it slow and steady, we recommend this simple, 5-bin approach to minimizing your home’s clutter.
THE 5-BIN STRATEGY
Bin 1: Items to put away
Place items that belong somewhere else in the home in this bin. Eventually, you’ll put them away; the intention is to put them somewhere while you’re sorting through or cleaning a room. Consider keeping a permanent put-away bin in high traffic areas like kitchens, great rooms, playrooms, and mudrooms to keep day-to-day clutter at a minimum.
Bin 2: Items to fix
Place items that you plan to fix or that need to be washed or cleaned in this bin, such as toys, dirty clothes or scuffed shoes. Be honest with yourself about the time it will take to fix an item. Err on the side of throwing something away or donating it if it is a time-intensive fix.
Bin 3: Items to donate
Items in this bin are in good condition, but you no longer need or use. Follow the Kondo method and hold the item with both hands and ask, “does this spark joy?” Or more pragmatically ask, “do I ever use this?” Items that don’t spark joy, or get used, should be given away, sold online or donated to a local charity. Take note: Savers, will recycle clothing and electronics that are not saleable; Deseret Industries will send the same to the landfill.
Bin 4: Items to recycle
Visit Salt Lake City’s recycling site to verify the type of paper, plastic and glass that can be recycled. Plastic bags are not allowed, but you can take those to most supermarkets for recycling.
Bin 5: Items to discard
Place expendable or expired items here that you can’t donate or recycle.
TIPS FOR SUCCESS
Declutter in an order that works for you. Some experts say to move room by room, others recommend sorting by category after assembling all the items in one place. Choose whatever way feels less overwhelming to you.
Don’t forget the big stuff. Apply the 5-bin method to items that might not fit into a bin. Walk through your home paying attention to the space between you and edge of couches, coffee tables or other objects. If it feels tight, or your unnaturally moving to avoid stubbing a toe or elbow, reposition your furniture, replace it with something smaller or remove it altogether.
Find a decluttering partner. Find someone you trust and trade off helping each other weekly or monthly. Many hands make a chore light (and more efficient)! Plus it’s nice to have someone else’s perspective on what to keep and toss.
Consider a shopping fast.We highly recommend this short essay, “My Year of No Shopping,” by Ann Patchett in the NY Times. A shopping fast is good for your wallet, the environment and saves your time for more worthwhile things now and in the future. No better way to cut the clutter than by not bringing it home at all!
Take it to the finish line. Planning what it will take to clean and organize a room after it’s decluttered can be the hardest step of all. Try and use items in your home that you have on hand—don’t let perfectionism get in the way of function. (And beware of creating more clutter with your storage solutions!) Here are a few storage ideas to consider, room by room:
- Kitchen. Invest in storage solutions that move almost everything (kitchen tools and small appliances included) off countertops and optimize cupboard and drawer space
- Living and Great Rooms. Create easily-accessible permanent storage for most-used items like remote controls and other electronic devices. (Please hide the cords!) Place a decorative basket or ottoman with storage near the sofa for throws and pillows. Minimize objects on table and shelf surfaces.
- Bathrooms. Organize drawers and shelves so that items you use most are readily available. Invest in under-sink, drawer and shower organizers.
- Bedrooms. Find temporary storage for non-seasonal clothing. Consider supplemental shoe and garment racks and bins for wardrobes and closets. Remove everything from your nightstand and place them in the put-away bin. Minimize objects on table and shelf surfaces.
- Mudroom/foyer. Place keys in a pretty bowl or on hooks so you don’t waste time looking for them. Minimize coats, shoes and boots: put away those that are out of season or not frequently used. Add baskets and bins that won’t overload your space.
MORE RECOMMENDED READS
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo
The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter by Margareta Magnusson
Real Life Organizing: Clean and Clutter-Free in 15 Minutes a Day
By Cassandra Aarssen
New MInimalism: Decluttering and Design for Sustainable, Intentional Living
By Cary Telander Fortin and Kyle Louise Quilici
My Year of No Shopping
Ann Patchett, NY Times Dec. 15, 2017