Declutter – Method, Objectives and Preparation

unclutter - method

Today I am starting  the big “declutter”  subject.

Spring will be here in a few days and with it the traditional Spring Cleaning. So why not take advantage of the last few cold gray days to attack the clutter in your home?

Have you ever thought -when entering your grandmother’s or a “collector’s” home- you did not know where to look, so the space was so cluttered. Or even tell you that there were so many things you no longer could think? It’s about you?

Your home is probably not in this extreme condition, however, when you get home and allow yourself a few minutes to chill on the couch, are your eyes spotting an object that prompts you  to do something?
“Well, I must sort out those toys,” “I haven’t been ironing lately” … because you see the pile of clothes. “I have to sort my papers” when you stop at the stack of mail on the table … etc … all that prevents you from relaxing completely, adds tasks to your  To Do list, and in addition you feel miserable with so much to do. All those things that lie around, block your mind, your creativity, your openness to novelty.

How does it link to productivity? Remember, being productive is doing effectively the tasks we need to do, and then only the useful things. Do you think that looking for your lovely blue scarf for 20 minutes is in this category of useful things? That moving everything that is on a shelf to find what is at the bottom, is too? No, of course not. So, de-cluttering is certainly a step towards increased productivity and serenity.

Note that I’m not talking about hiding stuff, by removing some unnecessary things and heaping the rest discreetly in a closet. Instead, anything we cannot put away today must remain prominent so that it motivates us to find a proper home.

I had two things I was not able to storeproperly due to lack of space. They were my vacuum cleaner and a large basket in which I put clean laundry ready for ironing. In my tiny apartment, there is no room to allow me direct access to them. So I left them in the hallway for several years until I’d sorted my closets to find a suitable place for them. And now I’m very proud to enter into my flat without having to see  these things.

So today, let’s define a few milestones together so you can think about your situation, and what you want to make of your home. Then I will propose some organizational methods for you to achieve your goal.

Imagine yourself in a few weeks going home after a good day at the office, and you feel free and soothed by the sight of a neat place! Anyone? So let’s go.

The subject will be divided into several sections, as there is so much to say that we cannot fit everything into one article.

Decluttering is part of a voluntary  long term approach, to reclaiming your living space. This is a long-term process because the goal is not to do it all in one day with a “commando operation” and then give up until next Spring. the right way is to proceed methodically to retain an orderly and convivial environment; you’ll not be ashamed, even when you receive an impromptu visitor.

The method: the 5 S’s

Japanese – always them – have synthesized a way, in the so-called “5 S’s” in the professional world. But this method is not only useful for a clean and tidy workshop or office, but also it is usable everywhere. More Info about this method, here is the link to Wikipedia, but there are many websites and books on the subject, mainly oriented towards professional use.

The meaning of the 5 S that are five Japanese words:

SEIRI: Sort. It is the action to sort, delete, throw away all that is unnecessary, obsolete, broken, etc. This step also includes putting away objects based on their frequency of use.
SEITON:  Set in Order. Order things so as to make them easily accessible and usable for everyday use. Or easily located for objects of a more restricted use.
SEISO: Spic and Span = Clean … Not only Spring Cleaning , but also the daily cleaning that allows our environment stay clean and pleasant.
SEIKETSU: Standardize = Organize. To Simplify your space, to make it even more functional. In this step, we will categorize objects, store them in stackable boxes, for example, label …
SHITSUKE: Sustain = maintain. This is the final touch, the most important in the long term. The rules we’re going to set for our organization, we have to apply every day, lest all our efforts evaporate. We must also apply them to our leaving environment, to our family because the goal is not to become a slave of cleaning behind the kids!
There it is, so our 5 steps are defined. Have you ever imagined a bunch of applications in your home, I guess. Keep in mind though, we’ll use them soon!


By failing to prepare, you are Preparing to fail -Benjamin Franklin “

Whatever area of ​​your life you choose to start a project, preparation is the crucial step. It is better to spend a little time preparing than rushing ahead only to fail in the middle.


First step,  define your goal precisely . Is the goal a room, the whole house, garage, basement, that you want to declutter? Have you planned a “commando operation” on a weekend or holiday or do you  expect to do it a little every day? Personally, I recommend a “commando operation”, and then daily refining if required. But there is no one way that fits all cases, so think ahead and set goals that best suit you and your environment. For example, if you are planning a “commando operation” on a weekend when you have young children that require almost constant attention, you will likely ask grandma or someone else to take care of them.
So ask yourself, think carefully about the objective. And WRITE DOWN YOUR GOAL !

Also, remember the ultimate goal. To install a home office, create a room for when the baby arrives, move, feel better, to work? … Make this the ultimate goal and take steps to achieve it.

The proper goal is SMART:

Single / specific: for example, remove and store the garden shed. A simple sentence with subject, verb and specific complement, that’s all.

Measurable: You can regularly measure progress and for this you will cut it into small pieces. For example:

  • Store the children’s room.
    • sort the toys
    • sort clothes
    • storing children’s toys
    • store clothes.

When it is done, tick the list and you can actually measure what you have done (in addition to physically see the item in question)

Achievable/ Ambitious / Assigned: Yes your goal should be attainable but challenging too and should be assigned to someone ( probably you). For example, it is ambitious to declutter the attic storage room of 70 Sqm, in which you have crammed everything and anything for 15 years, but this is probably not achievable in 3 hours and alone. There is very little chance that it will happen. You will be disappointed. Set an achievable goal especially in terms of time. Estimate the time and multiple it by 2. (consider you will always underestimate the needed time). Similarly, cutting a big, ambitious task, in small pieces, makes this task more easily attainable. Psychologically by reading it, you will not feel like a huge and insurmountable thing.

Realistic: So we forget the magnificent interior decor seen in a magazine ! We forget the pictures of immaculately arranged and almost empty cupboards . Why? Do You know many people who can live with three pairs of pants and two shirts in their closet? You know many families with three children and a dog whose house is so tidy we feel they have left and will never come back? No, nor me. A house has to be lived in, it’s not a museum. So be realistic. The interior photos of these magazines are like the models in fashion magazines, paid to be nice, “photoshopped” and do not exist in real life. Moreover, having had a friend who had a “magazine-like house”, I can assure you it is not pleasant. Besides the fact that she made it clear that you had to “walk on your hands” … only to sit on the sofa, it seemed to bother the decor. This means friendliness !!! To make it short, forget that. I advise you to visit mom’s blogs on the subject, with real photos of real life.

Timed: You must set a time to achieve that goal. You set  a starting date for your objective, a realistic time allotted and an ending date . As stated above, I am in favor of “commando operations”, but it’s up to you to choose the schedule according to your capabilities. Do not say “I don’t have time or money!” It just takes time to get started, and the time spent to proceed to the uncluttering,  can be considered as an investment for the future. You spend a little time today to save a lot tomorrow. In addition, you will gain space and serenity. Winner on all fronts!

smart objectives english

So you will get a list of things to want to achieve, and set a schedule for each.

Always remember that the theory of small steps always works. One step after another, or one step at a time as you like. Better to do it slowly over a period than working like a dog only one day and do nothing for a year.


outils - organisation
D-Day is near. You will start by organizing the place. For this you need

  • Large rubbish bags, for what you are going to DISCARD. Depending on the objects to be sorted, you will probably provide several bags for sorting (light bulbs, batteries, electronics spares, glass etc.). This bag will be you “disposal place” during your de-cluttering operation.
  • Large ‘IKEA’ bags, and do not tell me you are the only person in the world that does not have some IKEA bags at home. They are strong, easy to handle, perfect for our DECLUTTER operation. In the absence of big bags, card boxes will do very nicely. Prepare one for what you’ll GIVE (Charity Org, Red Cross, or other), one for what you get SELL (Ebay, etc.). Identify in advance the organizations that accept donations, and the site you will use to sell. So that you’ll be able to clear your home quickly after your de-cluttering.
  • Depending on what you are going sort, you may need more bags. For instance one to “MOVE” for what you should be throwing but for which you are not ready yet and that will be relegated to a “waiting” area. Or use it for the object that does not belong to you and you need to consult your spouse, your teen to clarify the future status of the object.
  • Sponge Towels, apron, gloves. You may want to clean a little bit if necessary, but this is not a cleaning operation !!
  • A stool if necessary
  • Check the collection days for large items (furnitures), electronics items with your city, in case you need to get rid of those objects. Ask for the full list of recycled items that can be collected.
  • The address of the nearest recycling center (waste), with timetables and conditions (i.e., in France, often requires proof of identity and proof of address)
  • The list of papers to be kept with their shelf life. Here are links to sites for all the details: & good housekeeping. Be carefull as it may be different in each country/ state.
  • old newspapers for packing dishes if necessary.
  • Even a friend to give you a hand, and more importantly to advise when it comes time to sort things, as she/he will have a less sentimental relationship towards your possessions.
  • a camera for the  before / after photo for your satisfaction.
  • Tea, cakes, anything that will support you!
  • And finally the good mood!

It’s good, you feel ready?

Then I leave you prepare your goal and your schedule and next week you will do it !!

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Priscille LIVENAIS
J'ai une passion pour l'organisation, la gestion des projets et les outils de productivité. Mon but n'est pas de tout faire, mais de ne faire QUE ce qui compte vraiment pour mener la vie que je souhaite, tout en sérénité.
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