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How to declutter your home before the new year

Johannes van Graan Johannes van Graan
Classic style kitchen by Salomé Knijnenburg Interiors Classic
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Most of us tend to accumulate stuff, but it’s usually around this time of year that we discover how much we actually collect – and if your house faces a state of clutter, then it’s time for action. After all, a little decluttering is all about making room in your home for the things that matter, including holiday guests. 

That brings us to Döstädning, the Swedish word for “death cleaning”. It might sound ominous, but it’s actually just a new method of downsizing and organizing your space. This new way of decluttering is focused on people older than 50 years and how they can purge their homes and organise their possessions to ensure their children aren’t overburdened by mountains of clutter after passing away. And it involves every room in the entire house, from the bedroom and hallway to the kitchen and dining area. 

Yes, it might sound morbid, but it’s really a smart idea. 

The idea behind Swedish death cleaning is not to get rid of all your possessions, but rather to streamline your life to make it more practical. It’s a permanent way of organising your home and your life to ensure a more sensible and comfortable lifestyle. 

Let’s see how you can ensure that for your home before 2019 arrives! 

1. Declutter your home: Set goals

Don’t just randomly start picking up stuff in your home – have a plan in place. Keep the following in mind:

• Write down all the rooms that need to be decluttered (even if it’s all the rooms in your house, having them all neatly on a list can make the job less frustrating).

• Grade each space based on its level of clutter (i.e. a very messy room would get a 3, while one that only requires some tidying up would get a 1). This will help prioritise your time. 

• Start and finish one room at a time.

• Set completion dates for each phase of your decluttering project.

2. Declutter your home: Create a sorting system

One of the most popular sorting systems for a decluttering project is the “three-box method”. It forces you to make a decision item by item and ensures you don’t end up with more clutter.

Get yourself three nice boxes or storage bins (colourcode them if you want) and mark them as: 

• KEEP: Empty it after you complete a room. These items should be placed in their newly designated homes. You can rest assured knowing something you no longer use will have much more meaning to someone else. Clothes, shoes and other household items can find a good home when donated to a church or charity. 

• TOSS: Used for all items you wish to throw out or donate once it's full. If your recycling gets picked up from the kerb, then all glass, plastics and paper from your “TOSS” box can immediately be recycled once full. Otherwise, put all those recyclables in bags so you can take them to the nearest recycling drop-off spot.  

• STORE: As you fill it up, label each item or draw up an inventory sheet detailing what needs to be stored where once it's full.

3. Declutter your home: Remember the 80/20 rule

When sorting through each room, it really helps to keep the 80/20 rule in mind. This generally focuses on clothing, but can also hold true for other things like video games, computer parts, books, DVDs, etc. It works on the basis that we only use 20% of the stuff we own 80% of the time. 

Your mission? To purge your home of everything you don’t use 80% of the time!

4. Declutter your home: Get over sunk costs

In economic terms, costs that have already been incurred and can’t be recovered are called “sunk costs”. As you sort through each room in your home, you can consider most of those elements sunk costs (except for very rare occasions where an item may have increased in value, like a painting). 

For everything else, remember that you can’t get its original value (that you paid for) back. So, only think about the value that the thing adds to your future life. Once you understand this concept of sunk costs, it’s much easier making rational decisions on what stays and what goes. 

5. Declutter your home: Clear all flat surfaces

After your home has been “death cleaned”, keep an eye on all flat surfaces to ensure clutter doesn’t creep back in. Countertops, table surfaces, shelves, the floor and other flat surfaces have a funny way of accumulating stuff.

If you need to keep a few items on a countertop that’s fine, but remember that it can’t approach a cluttered state. See if you can’t make space in drawers or obtain some storage boxes that you can keep out of sight. 

To make living in a clutter-free home more attainable, we have these 7 habits to make sure your home is always clean


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