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Decluttering: not only for closets!

I have written a lot about closet organization and thoughtful shopping on this blog, and only just realized how I have completely failed to mention how I try to incorporate the same thoughts and ideas into other parts of my life – the biggest part being my living space. In the same way that I try not to buy clothes and accessories that I don’t need, I try very hard not to buy useless junk for the apartment that The Boyfriend and I share. In a way I find it to be a lot easier to do this with my apartment that with my closet, seeing as I have never been an aspiring interior decorator in any way, shape or form, but there are still some traps that I tend to fall into.

A small timeline of my junk

I moved out from my childhood home at 18 and into a house that I shared with 5 other students. My room was small, but I still managed to fill it up with all kinds of student junk. After two years I moved into a small apartment with The Boyfriend – I took all my student junk with me, he brought his junk, and we bought new junk. Then we moved into the apartment where we live now, and the process was one of the most embarrassing things I have ever done. We moved with the help of a group of friends, as one often does, and they were completely floored by the amount of stuff that we had to move with us. It was ridiculous. Not in a “hoarders” kind of way, but still definitely excessive. When we had lugged everything from the moving van and into our new living room the space was completely full, and we realized that half the items there were things that we didn’t even care about in the first place. Thus started my endless war on stuff.

Beautiful white interior

Image source: interior stylist Lotta Agaton from Agent Bauer

Clean and serene

Whenever I visit places like the one pictured above I am driven half-mad with jealousy. So little stuff, so much space. You don’t need to point out that real apartments only look like this right after their spring cleanings (and probably a visit by the apartment stylist fairy as well), but that doesn’t mean I can’t aspire for something similar, right? Look at the lack of junk! Not a single junk in sight! The result of this is of course that I am always and eternally giving my stuff the stink-eye. Do I need this? Does it serve a purpose? Do I only ever notice its existence when I need to remove dust from it? So far I have had two rounds where I’ve either donated things to goodwill or stuffed a poor friend’s van full of things to be driven to the junkyard, but I am pretty sure I could do another few rounds without ever missing a single item.

Get down and dirty

It is strange how things just end up accumulating over the years. Thoughtless purchases, presents, freebies, family heirlooms – they all add up. Sometimes I get the bright idea to buy a bunch of pretty boxes from Ikea to put my useless crap into, but that’s not really helping – it isn’t cleaning after all, I’m only re-organizing my junk. So, how does one go about culling one’s apartment? These days I like to do the little-by-little approach where I’m always evaluating and re-evaluating the bits and bobs that I stumble across, but if you want a more gung-ho approach to the subject then you could go something like this:

1. Pick the right time. You are motivated, your favorite music is playing, and your living space is relatively neat. This is the time trooper, go go go!

2. Be realistic. Unless you’ve got a full day of uninterrupted enthusiasm on your hands you’re probably not able to go over your entire apartment – what about your bedroom, bathroom and hallway? Or if you’ve got a lot of mystery drawers, you know, the kind where all your nails and stickers and light bulbs and screws and malfunctioned pens go to die, then maybe one room a day is enough?

3. Be ruthless. That book that you bought for that one class years ago, you know, the one that makes you yawn at mere sight of it? Yeah, there’s no reason to hold on to that. Give it to Goodwill. Those whatchamacallits that you saved years ago because you might maybe find a use for them one day? You won’t find a use for them, ever. In fact, if there’s anything you haven’t used in the last 6 months you should give it a long, stern look. If it doesn’t serve a purpose, or add some kind of value to your home or make you deliriously happy then it should probably go.

4. Be thorough. Do it properly one room at a time instead of just skimming over all the rooms at once. It will feel so good when you’ve finished that one room, I promise you!

5. Be picky. Every time you find yourself in a store looking at a new gadget, candle holder, decorative doodad or other kind of thingamabob ask yourself this: Do I need this? Does it serve a purpose? Will it make me feel deliriously happy for more than the first 5 minutes? Will I feel okay about having to dust it 6 months from now? Do I feel good about exchanging my hard-earned money for this thing? If the answer is yes, go right ahead. If the answer is no then try to remember how much it sucked to go through steps 1-4. Find that feeling, hold on to it, cherish it. Then walk away.

Image source: interior stylist Lotta Agaton from Agent Bauer.

I am not in any way claiming to be some kind of apartment de-cluttering superhero, and our place is usually far from neat. You see, I really hate to clean. Honestly. Always have. There are so many things I would rather spend my time doing. But by following this immature string of logic you will find that less stuff owned equals less stuff to clean, dust, tidy and organize. If I don’t buy it then it can’t take up any of my space, and the more I cull the less I have to clean. The day will come where I too can kick back under my pretentious photo of Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg in my junk-free apartment. Until then, my garbage bags are at the ready.


19 thoughts on “Decluttering: not only for closets!

  1. Will bookmark this for when I move into some place of my own (or just for my bedroom, all my shelves and boxes are filled to the brim after all…).

    I was wondering if you have gotten the chance to test the ipad mini properly yet? I have been looking to get an ipad for myself, but don’t know what to choose (obviously trying it in the shop will help me with that, but haven’t gotten that far yet). I am very curious to see what you think of it, mostly sizewise compared to a regular ipad – that is the only thing holding me back from finding my credit card and buying it right now.

    Have a great weekend :-)

    • You know Ida, I haven’t received mine yet! Estimated shipping for the WiFi + 3G version is between the 3rd and 10th of December, so it is still a week or two away :)

      However, I have visited the local Apple retailer and played around with the WiFi only version, and I absolutely loved it. It is so ridiculously light compared to the regular sized iPad, and the size is perfect for surfing, emails, gaming and taking notes. When I got to compare the two sizes there wasn’t a shred of doubt about whether or not the mini was right for me, it is perfect. The size and weight makes it ultra-portable, and I could type very comfortably on it :)

      But if portability isn’t an issue then I have no problem seeing why someone would go for the larger version. It has a better display and more juice overall, but to me it would be more of a sofa tablet than something I could see myself carrying to work and meetings. I carry so much stuff around in my bag already, so adding a full-sized iPad to the mix would be out of the question.

      Hope that helped!

      • It really did! Thank you :-) I am very much leaning towards the ipad mini now. Hopefully it will be an ok substitute for a laptop on short trips abroad as well. You see, my dilemma at the moment is whether to get “just” a smartphone or an ipad + cheapy phone in stead. If I always carry the ipad with me (which I would if it is the mini version), then it doesn’t seem like there is a lot of need for a smartphone. The winning argument, I think, is that an ipad + cheap phone is heaps less expensive than a quality smartphone. You (and possibly also my own arguments) have totally convinced me now, cheers! ;-)

        • Johanna says:

          I have an iPod touch (works with wifi) and a cheap phone and I would rather have an iPhone to be honest. It’s one more thing to carry and as my entire life is in iCal I can never be without the iPod. I’m getting an iPhone after christmas because it’s just not practical for me to have two separate devices.

  2. I started reading a number of books on minimalism earlier this year, and it inspired me to get rid of a whole bunch of things I didn’t need. I still have way more clutter than I would like, but it helped me to cut down on it a bit you know?

    I am always so envious like you whenever I see those really minimalistic looking spaces. One day… x

    • One day indeed! Our problem is the kitchen, there’s always a little thingamabob that you need just often enough that you can’t get rid of it. Plus The Boyfriend has a weakness for cooking gadgets!

  3. Kristin says:

    Hi from the blog-reader who said hello :)

    Good to know I didn’t make you feel awkward! Thought about it when you left – maybe this totally freaked her out a bit… ;)

  4. Ya i feel so hypocritical by being kind of a rat pack in real life. i really need to declutter my dorm room. so much shit accumulated from living in the dorms so far!!

  5. Julianne says:

    Hear, hear! I’ve been in the process of decluttering for some time now, and the more crap leaves my flat, the better I feel. The hard part is not bringing stuff back in… :)

  6. Great post! It’s true that when we start culling an area of our lives it usually spills on the rest. Regarding the home things, I find the most difficult is to get rid of all these things that somehow accumulated themselves over the years.

    When I moved to Paris is a small one bedroom apartment, I decided it was a second chance and only moved what I really needed. A technique I have found on a dedicated tumblr is to start small and do only a little at a time, for example: today is my kitchen drawer, next week my bathroom cabinet… It really helps not being invaded again over time.

    • Yeah, starting small is a very good idea indeed :)
      Moving is such a great, clean start – although I am always amazed at how little time it takes to fill the place right back up again! Good job if you’ve managed to keep your space clutter-free!

      Would you mind sharing the link to that Tumblr? I’d love to read it for inspiration :)

      • It is called “Unfuck Your Habitat”. Their principle is to clean through “20/10” 20 minutes of cleaning and 10 minutes of break. They use it to clean or sort a place that has become too messy but I do it to regularly cull my place too. In their main tumblr page you can look for the “challenges” tag and there are a lot of ideas to take inspiration from (even though a lot of them are cleaning related)

        There is another one, not updated anymore but its archives are great, it’s called “freeyourstuff”. This one is dedicated to culling the extra junk a little at a time.

        I hope these two help!!

  7. Ja, ja, ja! Dette er jo knallbra, og veldig nødvendig for enkelte å få en påminnelse på. To tomler opp – dette skal jeg lese igjen før jeg setter i gang en liten ryddings i morgen. Takk Maja. :)

    • Bare hyggelig frøken! Siden dette blogginnlegget ble publisert har jeg levert med 5 poser med klær til Fretex og fylt opp to poser til med greier og dikkerdarier som jeg skal ta med ved en senere anledning. Har også kastet en masse greier som ingen i hele verden har bruk for. Det er kjempedeilig! :)

  8. Pingback: The Problem with de-cluttering | Maja Huse

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