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#AskElle: A Lesson in Decluttering

Be patient – decluttering your home usually does not happen in a day. To avoid being overwhelmed, I suggest breaking it up into ‘projects’ or bite-sized bits that are easier to handle. It might take several hours over a few weeks to accomplish your goal.

Over the years, my techniques have helped many clients with organizing their home.

Here is what I shared with them:

Start Small
Every day for the first week, spend 10-15 minutes decluttering your counters, shelves, desks, table tops, etc. Have your recycling, donation, and trash bags ready. For the items, you plan to keep, find a suitable storage space such as a drawer, basket, or ottoman. This should be relatively easy and you will feel motivated to continue. Once a bag is full, take it to your nearest donation or recycling depot. This will immediately give you a feeling of accomplishment and space.

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Decluttered and it feels so good! | Elle Hunter

Divide and Conquer
The best way to avoid getting overwhelmed is to focus on just one room at a time. Here are a few tips on how to get started:

For many people, clothes tend to be the hardest thing to let go of. Be honest – if you have not worn it in a year then you are unlikely to wear it ever again, so send it off to consignment or the charity shop to be reused and re-loved. If a piece of clothing has special memories, take a photo of it and the memory will keep, trust me! When you have purged, put everything in its place with easy access for in-season items and store off-season clothing at the back of the closet or the bottom drawers.

Take everything out of your cabinets. Plastic pots – keep only a few containers with lids and donate or recycle the rest. Kitchen gadgets – if you have not used it in a year or do not even know what it does, it goes. Only keep what you use on a daily basis on your counter; everything else – put it away. Pantry items, condiments, spices, and inside-the-fridge items – look at the expiry dates, you will be amazed what should be thrown out.

Home Office
First things first – get three baskets, ‘to file’, ‘to do’, and ‘to shred.’ Remove everything from the drawers and start sorting. Remember you must keep all tax documentation for seven years. Go through all your supplies, letters, books, etc., and put them in the proper basket. Once it is all sorted, place the ‘keep’ items in the appropriate drawer or cabinet.

Empty all the drawers and cabinets – it is amazing how many unwanted toiletries we can accumulate. By now, you have become a decluttering master and you are not wasting any time – keep, toss, toss, toss, donate! When throwing out medication, remember to remove all personal information on the prescription labels of your empty pill bottles or packaging before putting them in a sealed plastic bag, and then to your local pharmacy for disposing of.

Living Room
Because this is the ‘living’ room, you might find items that are just laying around, such as plates, cups, books, toys, knitting, etc. Bring them back to their proper home. Be really honest with yourself – do you really need all those books and candles? Remove most items off the ledges, fireplace, and coffee tables. Keep the knick-knacks down to a few, and store other ‘keep’ items in drawers or baskets. Switch them out 2-4 times a year, that way they seem new again.

More spaces – laundry room, attic, basement, crawl space, garage … tackle these just as you did the above, one room, one space at a time.

Selling items you are not keeping
If you are looking to make a bit of money on bigger ticket items such as bikes, skis, or furniture, consider putting your items up for sale on Craigslist or Kijiji, or if you suspect it has serious value, consider getting it professionally appraised. To save time, advertise a garage sale instead of selling each item separately, as each item will have to be listed in the appropriate section if you choose to use an online marketplace.

Most importantly, do not try to copy home decorating magazines or TV shows – they are made to look picture perfect, but no-one really lives like that. Aim for a clean and organized home and you will reach your goal. Happy decluttering!

Bringing all the Ellements of Re:Design to you!


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Dominique is a designer, stylist, fashion writer, and milliner. Her work has been seen on the runways of Vancouver, New York, and Paris and has appeared in local and international media. High-profile clients have included Katie Cassidy (Gossip Girl, Arrow), Erin Cebula (E.T. Canada) & Miss America, Mallory Hagan.

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