You have no idea what's for dinner tonight. You need a gift for that party next week. You still haven't consolidated your super. You're out of contract on your phone and paying who knows what. Those cupboards won't declutter themselves. The kids need a plan for the next school holidays. It's time to get the gutters cleaned. You still haven't made a will.
Sound familiar? Then this is the life admin guide you've been waiting for. Life admin can't be eliminated but it can be minimised, automated and better shared within families.
Working parents Mia Northrop and Dinah Rowe-Roberts have marshalled their professional expertise in innovation, finance, design thinking and operations to research best practices, trial the tech and craft the most efficient processes to optimise their own life admin. The result? No more overwhelm, way more spare time and thousands of dollars saved.
We find ourselves in an era where decluttering is a thing. We talk about feeling suffocated, stifled, buried and trapped by our possessions. We're drowning. It's no wonder decluttering has become a global movement. If your home is on the cluttered side, it's not just because you're hopeless at keeping your place organised. We live in a time of fast fashion, furniture and homewares, which are cheaper than ever to accumulate and have delivered within a week. It doesn't take long to amass things we rarely use, no longer like or that are obsolete.
You might be in a situation where you haven't been able to stay on top of the influx of stuff. If you've just had a baby, returned to work, inherited possessions, had an illness, been caring for another or are in a busy season of your life, then you have less time to stop the avalanche and cull.
People have different levels of emotional attachment to their belongings. Sentiment or guilt, an over-buyer tendency (where you buy for "what if?" scenarios) or a scarcity mentality (where you believe there will never be enough of anything) can make it daunting to get rid of stuff.
Where are you placed on the decluttering mindset continuum? Are you exhilarated by the chance to get rid of stuff, or does the idea fill you with terror? How about your decluttering abilities? Do you have a system? Or is decluttering ad hoc and panicked? There's also a third dimension - your tolerance for clutter. Is your partner blind to it, but you sure as hell ain't? You're not alone if your place is heaving with stuff and you're feeling dazed by the disorder.
Decluttering falls into the realm of life admin, because someone has to manage the accumulation of stuff in your home. It takes someone's planning, process and precious time to minimise the inflow of new items and deal efficiently with the outflow of unwanted and unneeded belongings. In this chapter, we'll explore popular strategies so you can find approaches that will work for you. You'll feel inspired to get stuck into that clutter, and empowered to keep it under control.
Most of us don't need convincing that decluttering is a worthwhile thing to do. It can be incredibly empowering to get rid of things with a higher cost than benefit - not a financial cost, but the intangible personal cost of storing, cleaning, ignoring, organising and moving stuff we don't want.
When you only live with what you need and love, you are:
Most of us are challenged by the number of possessions we live with. So often, people delay decluttering their home until they decide to sell it or move. A much better payoff is to invest in this time so you can enjoy your home while you live in it.
You should declutter when:
Decluttering is as much about mindset as it is ability. If your head isn't in the game, it doesn't matter if you know 10 techniques to identify and get rid of clutter. You've got to want to overcome your attachment to stuff so you can let it go.
There are various philosophies driving your reasons to declutter:
What resonates with you? Maybe you're drawn to feelings of Zen, a zero- waste stance, or aesthetically pleasing spaces. Tune in to what motivates you and keep this in mind as you determine what decluttering habit will best serve you.
If you or someone in your household has an inflated attachment to items, resulting in a level of clutter that makes it difficult to comfortably inhabit your home, you may need some professional help. Between 2 per cent and 5 per cent of Australian adults are living with hoarding disorder. If that sounds like you or a loved one, please visit your general practitioner for a referral to a psychologist with expertise in hoarding.
Depending on your decluttering mindset and available time, choose a decluttering method that is either a slow and sustained marathon, where you're reducing clutter gradually, or an intensive sprint, which gets big results fast.
You can declutter:
Category by category: Books, clothes, papers, shoes, pens
Room by room, or zone by zone: Kitchen, bathroom, a particular drawer, shelf or cupboard
In timeslots: 10 minutes per day, one hour a day, or a 7- or 30-day blitz
By number of items per day: One item on day 1, two items on day 2, and so on
Following a rule: The one in/one out rule, or the space in the cupboard/spare clothes hanger rule.
If you're feeling unnerved by the task, take baby steps. One step in the right direction is all it takes to start the journey. One drawer. One shelf. Your tea towels. Build up over time and let the momentum of progress carry you. Regardless of your method, you'll need the same tools and ask yourself the same questions.
You're going to need bags or boxes for:
For each item, ask yourself: Do I love it? Do I need it? Do I actually use it? Do I have a home for it?
The objective: everything in your home should have a purpose or be something that you cherish. And everything needs a place to live. Declutter sentimental items last, once your discarding muscle has been trained on that shampoo you hoped would smell nice, the tea diffuser you never use, and those shoes that just never really fit.
This is not an exercise in organising your existing things in clear acrylic containers, colour-coding them or simply folding them in a certain way - you need to cull.
After you've sorted items, take them wherever they need to go. Dedicate an Hour of Power or identify Ten Minute Time Killers to get the stuff out of your house. Don't let those bags or boxes slump in a corner or squat in the boot of your car, providing a different source of clutter.
Breathe. You're going to encounter resistance from others. They've got their own attachment levels to their stuff, their own tolerance for clutter and their own decluttering abilities. Adopt a gentle attitude and lower your expectations about whether they'll help you or deal with their own things. You can hope that your habits and results will inspire them, or you can bully and fail and feel frustrated.
Start with quick wins - whatever gets the biggest bang for the buck in a space that matters to them - so they experience the benefits. What philosophy will appeal most to them? Find a motivation. Does your daughter like the idea of selling her old Lego to fund her new Sylvanians obsession? Does your son warm to being environmentally conscious? Maybe your partner needs to start with uncontroversial stuff that poses a safety risk - expired medications, or lead-based paint in the hall cupboard - before moving on to that extensive collection of their too- small band T-shirts from their glory days. Make it playful and celebrate your progress with something fun together.
Reduce the amount of stuff that enters your home, whether through buying less, collecting less or accepting less. Continue to ask yourself the following questions whenever a new item comes your way: Do I love it? Do I need it? Do I actually use it? Do I have a home for it?
Decluttering is my superpower. I can't think in messy spaces; I delight in the idea of my unwanted stuff living on in the hands of another; and I'm always on the lookout for moments to chuck stuff. This makes me intolerant of clutter, not particularly attached to possessions and habituated to cull. I've had many homes, both houses and apartments, both interstate and overseas, and happily treated the moves as catalysts to purge items.
When I separated from my husband and set up my new home, it was made partially easier because we had so many extra towels, bed linen, crockery, cutlery, glassware and vases. Emergency stuff, special occasion stuff. I now use the "good stuff" all the time. The rest of my belongings are things I truly need or dearly love - I curate my possessions with care and use what I have. I still have sentimental stuff, such as primary school report cards and mixtapes. I know where they are, and now and then I look at them.
A few years ago, I did a 12-month quest of not buying any new clothes, shoes or homewares, except for absolute essentials. The initial goal was to save money and live more sustainably; I wanted to cut my addiction to buying cheap, cute things. I stopped using social media regularly, unsubscribed from store e-newsletters, avoided interior design and fashion magazines, and pretty much disengaged from shopping. I found there was no tug to upgrade. It made a massive difference to my happiness levels and wallet, and the inflow of stuff. It taught me to acquire more intentionally and mindfully.
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