Create a Clutter-Free 2015, Part 1: Organizing, Clothing, Kitchen and Documents

Michelle Hopkins
January 23, 2015

This year you’ve sworn to rid your home of clutter. What’s more, it’s the very first task on’s 2015 monthly home maintenance task calendar.

But where to start? The idea is a good one in principle but when you start thinking about the task at hand it’s simply too overwhelming. All of a sudden, you begin to feel anxious and defeated before you even commence. We asked Kimberly Watt-Senner, a professional organizer and founder of Everything Organized, for some words of decluttering wisdom.

“I encourage my clients to envision the way they would like to see their space before they start,” she says, adding studies show that 80 per cent of us are chronically disorganized. “We don’t travel without first choosing a destination … it’s the same with de-cluttering.”

Another way to de-clutter is to examine your buying habits.

“Unless you collect certain items, get rid of those knick-knacks and other collectibles that have been collecting dust for years,” she adds.

Slow down: Start with baby steps and don’t tackle too much at once.  By setting reasonable goals, you are more apt to stay on track and get the task done.

Common Organizing Problems

As with any decluttering, you need to be prepared and ready for battle, adds Watt-Senner.

Start with a plan and set up a certain amount of time free of distractions, such as the phone or friends popping over. Then, go through your home room by room and make a list of what needs to be done.

“Then, use the three bin system; one for garbage, one for recycling and another for charity,” says Watt-Senner.

Clothing: Purge, Purge and Purge Some More

“Eighty per cent of the time, we wear only 20 per cent of our wardrobe,” says the veteran organizer.

When it comes to clothing, a good rule of thumb is, if you haven’t worn it for six months or for a season, get rid of it. Most of us have to change the way we think, we tend to hold onto to things for emotional reasons.

“For example, that sweater grandma gave you five years ago that you have never worn … place it in the charity bin,” she adds.

Purge everything from clothing/shoes/outdoor gear. Anything that is ripped, torn, passé or unused should be tossed out. “Gently used” items can be donated to the Salvation Army. The rest can be stored.

You can also take your castaways to your nearest consignment store – they will take your gently used clothing, shoes, boots and accessories.

Since you are already upstairs in the bedrooms, check out the linen closet.  Pull everything out, vacuum and then dust the shelves. Now, go through and dispose of any old, torn or thread-bare sheets, blankets, towels and washcloths.

Kitchen and Bathroom Cleanse

There is something really refreshing and soothing about a clean, uncluttered kitchen. Kitchen counters that are minimalist set the mood for the rest of your home – It conveys to family and friends that your home is calm and orderly. 

So head into your pantry, kitchen cabinets, freezer and refrigerator to review expiry dates and throw out anything that is stale, old or unusable. Remove the unnecessary “stuff.”

Do you really need five frying pans or all those utensils you seldom use?

Kitchens are also notorious for being home to various odds and ends. You know what I’m taking about – your kids’ papers, keys and probably 90 per cent of what’s in your junk drawer. Find new homes for those items you do wish to keep.

In the bathroom, what you don’t use, lose! How many of us have bought expensive cosmetics that somehow drifted to the recesses of our cabinets? You know that lipstick you thought was the perfect shade but you discover it was totally wrong on you, or the pricey product that promised instant results. Well, time to be brutal and toss out any trashed, broken, dried-out brushes, frayed toothbrushes or unused /dated cosmetics into the garbage can or recycle bin.

“Mascara should never be kept longer than six months,” says Watt-Senner. “Expired cosmetics can harbor bacteria.” 

P.S. don’t forget to toss out any expired medicines as well.

Eliminate Paper Clutter

Many of us are fighting the paper clutter battle and losing badly! The first plan of attack is to go through your home and pick up any paper clutter that is in full view. Many of us hoard magazines, books and newspapers. Recycle or take those magazines and books to a hospital or other charitable organization that could put them to good use.

Then go through your office’s filing cabinets/closets and purge yourself of unwanted junk mail, old cards and shred old bills, receipts or other personal papers that you don’t need anymore.

“According to Revenue Canada you must keep any taxation paperwork for at least eight years,” she adds.

In the end, the former police officer says it really doesn’t matter what you choose to do that helps you along your decluttering journey – whether you adopt a plan to spend a few hours a week or a whole weekend – the goal is to take that first step.

Part two next week: Solutions for High-Traffic and Living Spaces

Michelle Hopkins
Michelle Hopkins is a Vancouver-based freelance writer with extensive magazine, newspaper and online writing experience in home décor, new home developments, culinary adventures, wine, travel and more. Michelle writes for many notable publications including Real Estate Weekly and other Glacier Media Group publications, Western Living Magazine, Vancouver Magazine, Home Décor & Renovations, to name just a few. Michelle is passionate about anything to do with real estate.