Spring Cleaning: Decluttering Your Entire Life

I am a sentimental hoarder. Someone might kindly label me a collector, but when the sheer number of collections become a collection in itself, we have to call it like it is.

With that said, I also love sorting and organization. From the time I was in high school, family members and neighbours would “hire” me to organize rooms or spaces and I loved doing it. From sorting my brothers LEGO and K’nex from their Mega Blox and dismembered Bionicles to completely redoing my aunt’s bathroom cabinets, my mom’s closet, and neighbour’s playroom… it always brought me joy (and a little bit of extra cash).

While organization and sorting is a strength, it isn’t until relatively recently that I’ve been any good at purging. I’ve donated stuff I don’t wear or use anymore,  but in 2016 after following along with Tonya Dalton (of Inkwell Press)’s “Get Organized” Challenge, I really started decluttering. It was a few months after a major breakup and several other significant changes in my life so getting rid of lots of stuff was extremely cathartic. I felt an immense emotional weight had been lifted from my shoulders as I got rid of four garbage bags filled with things that no longer belonged in my space.

Now, almost two years later, I am in a totally different stage in my life. I’ve finished university and am working full-time in addition to carrying on hobbies like YouTube, blogging, writing, and art journaling. And while the Inkwell Press organization challenge was a fantastic resource, it is more of a starting point rather than a deep dive.

Last year after watching the Gilmore Girls revival with me, my mom was inspired by Emily Gilmore clearing out everything that “didn’t bring her joy” and began going through her own things. Half as a joke, I got her Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” which the “spark joy” method stems from. The other day I decided to pick it up and read it for myself.

While I originally was just going to improve upon the original format of the IWP “Get Organized” Challenge to better suit me, after reading more about the KonMari method I decided to incorporate some of those techniques as well!

Unfortunately, the “Get Organized” Challenge was a time sensitive opt-in for mailing list subscribers. The resources are no longer on the website and I don’t want to include the actual calendar/ schedule that came when signing up for the challenge because there’s bound to be some copyright issues there. I will be incorporating a lot of the same ideas though, so even if you don’t own or don’t want a Inkwell Press planner, I 100% recommend subscribing to their mailing list. It’s full of organizational goodies as well as monthly desktop/ mobile background graphics which I personally use and adore.

So, instead of the original layout of the IWP challenge that followed a calendar where each week had a overarching focus area (closet, bathroom, etc.) with a weekly video rundown and each day was dedicated to a specific category (jewelry, makeup, shirts, etc.) that works within the theme. It’s designed to be done in thirty minutes each day and follow a prep/ sort/ purge/ organize ideology.

However, as I can wholeheartedly admit, I am a full blown procrastinator and totally the kind of person who does the whole project/ paper/ assignment the night before it’s due. It’s the sprint instead of the marathon mentality. The little bit every day does not appeal to me and even when I was “following” the IWP challenge, I ended up basically doing it at my own pace and combining weeks into days as I’d rather spend a whole day sorting my entire closet rather than do shirts one day, pants the next, then dresses and so on.

So with all this in mind I set up a list-style schedule. Instead of a day-by-day “do this on this specific day and that on the next day”, it’s moreso the order I want to do everything. And I’m going to do as much (or as little) each day as I want/ can.


A few pointers before getting started:

  • The KonMari litmus test of “does it bring me joy?” is a great way to delve into the process and something I definitely use, but I think it should be the first question, followed by “is it necessary or useful?”. While my raincoat does not bring me much joy, I live in Vancouver and it is a necessity. But with that said, I am on the lookout for a new waterproof coat that truly thrills me. You know, as much as one can.
  • I have found that removing everything and making giant piles for each category works best rather than looking in the shelf/ closet/ cupboard and just taking out what you think you can part with. Not only is it extremely satisfying to see your spaces completely gutted, I also find it more helpful to start with a blank slate. Plus theres something about seeing every piece of clothing you own on the floor that just… does something to ya.
  • This is pretty standard but for each category I sort everything into three categories: ‘keep’, ‘toss’, and ‘pass’. ‘Keep’ is self explanatory, the things I ‘toss’ get thrown away or recycled if they are used up, broken, or cannot be utilized by another person. To “pass” is a broader way of saying pass on to another person, whether it be to donate it or give it to another specific individual.
  • I’m not going to do significant physical cleaning. Obviously I’ll wipe down all the surfaces, especially ones that are usually covered by stuff, dust when needed, and sweep. But I’m not washing walls or waxing floors or anything too Monica Geller-y like that. You can if that’s your thing… but beyond a cloth, broom, and maybe a Magic Eraser, I’m not pulling out any cleaning supplies.

I feel like this goes without saying but I should probably put it in here anyway… I’m not a professional organizer. This is just coming from a place of what worked for me and hoping that through sharing it, that it helps you too! I hope this is beneficial and if you’re feeling like you could (or should) organize and purge your living space, that this is a helpful resource for you. With that said, just as neither the IWP or KonMari methods fit my lifestyle perfectly, your living situation is likely different than mine and thus, you’ll have different things to sort and organize. Not everyone has an IKEA shelf full of scrapbook paper or a stack of Sims 2 expansion packs beside another one of Archie Comics. The best way to organize and purge and make your living space the best place for you is to make it unique to your own situation. I wanted to share what I’m doing for my personal challenge and I hope my steps can help as a framework for your own, but I definitely encourage you to personalize it. For instance, I have a shared living space so I won’t be touching a linen closet or laundry room… so if that’s something you need, I know there are plenty of resources out there focusing on those spaces.

To avoid making this post outrageously long, I’m going to share the list of what I do and the order in which I do it (anyone who says the order IS EXTREMELY important needs to do some deep breathing exercises. The world is not going to implode if you sort through your jewelry before your makeup. Do it in the order that makes sense to you). As I go through my own decluttering process, I will link each individual post with more information and pictures (or videos) showing my process, which I hope helps more than just a long chunk of text.  So here it goes:

Prep

  1. Make the list. This means basically what I’m doing now… figure out what all needs to be done and write it out. Whether it be a blog post, on your notes app, or on a piece of paper- make it a visible, interactable list.
  2. Clean your space. By this I mean just the daily/ weekly clean up that you normally (well, ideally normally) do. Make your bed, do your laundry, make sure everything is more or less where it should be. There’s nothing worse than doing a whole purge/ tidy/ organization session only to find you have a whole load of colours in the dryer and your runners and rubber boots are by the back door.
  3. Hydrate. Get some water, tea, or whatever beverage you need to help you get the job done. No judgement.
  4. GET TURNT! Just kidding. Light candles/ turn on defusers and put on some music. Marie Kondo says it’s best to play classical music or soothing noises like rainfall. I personally like to take a more radio/ iPod/ Spotify-esque route but do whatever you need to in order to make it a pleasant, relaxing, joyful space.

Satellite Spaces

I like to do everything outside of my main space first. Throughout my whole life, I have always been really big on keeping all of my stuff in my bedroom. It’s only been the last couple years where I have branched out and keep some things in the bathroom and kitchen. Baby steps, people.

  1. Bathroom. Sort through everything in the drawers and cabinets, from skincare and personal hygiene items to cleaning supplies and the TP stash.  Marie Kondo recommends not storing anything in the shower/ bath, which I don’t (but mostly because as a teenager I got sick of my brothers using my stuff). It makes sense, as the humidity and dampness can’t be good for the ingredients in your products.
  2. Kitchen. For me this means cups, travel mugs, and tea. I have gotten an assortment of drinkware, mostly from Starbucks or free-with-purchase from Victoria Secret Pink. Do I need all of them? Nope. When David’s Tea opened in our mall, it became the go-to gift for everyone. Meaning I have a lot of tea. Most of which I haven’t tried. It’s time to part with some overused cups and underused tea.

Update: I have completed my declutter of Satellite Spaces and the individual post is available to check out HERE.

Beauty Wearables

  1. Beauty. Makeup, hair products, perfume, nail care… basically all things that could, in theory, go in the bathroom but don’t. The things you sort through at the same time will vary based on the quantities you have. If you have an IKEA drawer set full of eyeshadow palettes… it’s probably best to do that separately. While I have more makeup than I reasonably need, I’m still able to do it all in one go.
  2. Accessories. From jewelry and purses to scarves and toques, all the things you add to an outfit go here. I’m also including makeup bags and pouches because it just fits here best.
  3. Clothes. This is a big one, if not the biggest. Clothes is the most daunting task and while there are so many ways to split clothes up, I usually do my closet first and then my drawers. I don’t find it makes a difference to tackle certain types of clothing in any sort of order, just do what you feel. Generally it’s better to start with the more daunting things first, so I typically begin with shirts.

Update: I have finished decluttering my makeup! The individual post (and video) is available HERE.

Furniture and Surfaces

  1. Knick Knacks. I find this one of the most difficult categories. If you took a look at my room, all the knick knacks would probably be one of the first things you’d see. Believe it or not, there’s actually only a tiny fraction of what there used to be. But I still try to get the amount down: from figurines and candles to pictures and… so, so many mugs, we’ll see how that goes. Anything you keep on your dresser or other big spaces for aesthetic or sentimental reasons probably fits here.
  2. Bookshelves. I actually have three bookshelves in my room right now. Do any of them solely contain books, though? That’s a hard no. My goal is to try and migrate all my books into one shelf and keep my… non-books on the other two. Non-books for me means movies, games, toys, and just… so much stuff.
  3. Nightstand. I have two nightstands because my desire for symmetry was stronger than the knowledge that I only sleep on one side of the bed. While one is filled with actual bedside table things, the other is holding… paper and books mostly. Probably not what should be there.
  4. Under the Bed. This is another daunting task and when people ask me why I have a king bed, I like to respond that I have a king-sized amount of stuff that needs to be stored underneath it. While there’s a lot of overlap with the stuff I personally keep under here, from bags which should be sorted with accessories and scrapbooking supplies which comes up in the next category, I like to sort this stuff separately and integrate it with the aforementioned categories as necessary.
  5. Floor Space. AKA anything that kind of just lives on the floor. I try to have everything in or on some kind of furniture because the reason I’m in this room is because my old room started to flood in the same corner I keep my scrapbooking supplies in. See: lots of expensive, highly dissolvable, paper. So, elevation is key to my plan.

Workspace

  1. Desk. This could go in the last category but is a good bridge between the two. My desk is not only my mini-office but also a craft table and a planning station and therefore there’s a lot of stuff kept inside and on top.
  2. Art and Scrapbook Supplies. The supplies I don’t keep in my desk are kept in random locations around my room. One of those three bookshelves I mentioned is filled with solid colour scrapbook paper, while I have another unit for patterned paper, organized by the pattern in  question. I also have bins of stuff for my Silhouette machine and three under-bed totes of potential scrapbook fodder. Then we have photos, stamps, tape, paper punches, five boxes of Project Life cards, and all my painting supplies. Don’t even get me started on the trunk at the base of my bed. Without a doubt this is the number one most difficult category out of everything for me and takes the longest to do.
  3. Paper. Notebooks, old schoolwork, a lifetime’s worth of birthday/ Christmas cards, six different drafts of the novel you wrote in grade eight, and paystubs from every job you’ve ever had… this is where all that gets looked at (and if it goes, make sure to recycle as much as you can!).
  4. Electronics. Next is physical electronics. This includes wires, cords, headphones, and basically anything that seems electrical and hasn’t been sorted yet. My weakness is CD-ROMs: from games that won’t run on anything newer than Windows 98 to the discs included with now-obsolete phones. A weird thing to be sentimental about, but here we are.
  5. Digital Detox. This isn’t really a necessary step for the purpose of spring cleaning but I personally feel like since we live in such a digital age, our lives are contained within many technological devices and thus they should be treated as we would any other feature in our living space. Clear old icons from computers, sort files on external storage into folders, upload memory cards, and clear the notes, photos, and unnecessary apps off of all of your devices. Go through your email and delete (or file) everything until you have an empty inbox. I find it satisfying to unsubscribe to all the mailing lists I’ve found myself on, because not only do I get fewer emails (that I never read) every day, but I also don’t find myself as tempted to spend money because I don’t get the sale notification delivered right to my inbox.

Final Touches

  1. Change It Up! Moving around furniture pieces can help refresh your space. It can be daunting to do this when the bookshelf is jam packed and you’re afraid to move the bed and be face-to-face with the unknown underneath. After purging everything, it becomes physically and mentally easier to move things around!
  2. Wall Decor. It’s also a great time to put up or change out any wall decor you may have. Change the pictures in your frames, put up the poster than has been rolled up under your bed, finally DIY some canvas art… but you can also decide to go the minimalist route now that you’ve decluttered so much. Maybe it’s time that the wall-hangings have to go too!
  3. Boring Adult Things. I mean we’re here. We might as well. This is a good opportunity to change out bedding, rotate the mattress, and put away seasonal blankets. I also like to buy new pillowcases.

I hope this is useful (with a few tweaks to make it work for your own situation!) and provides some starting points to help propel you into the majorly cathartic process of doing a huge organizational purge!

These are the resources I mentioned, if you would like to check them out:

Thanks so much for reading this post. If you have any thoughts or questions, I’d love to hear them. Good luck if you choose to begin your own major declutter and I hope you have an amazing day!

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