Click "Embed" to display an article on your own website or blog. If you’ve caught the urge to declutter and organize, it can be challenging if your family members aren’t on board. After all, how can you declutter a whole house when your partner or children won’t participate and their belongings are part of the clutter?
Actually, there are plenty of steps that you can take even as the sole member of your household interested in decluttering and organizing. Here are my five tips for creating an organized space and way of life for yourself, even when your family isn’t up for the challenge.
1. Focus on Your Own BelongingsAs a professional home organizer, I find that it helps my clients to keep this reality in mind: The only thing you have control over is your own belongings. So start there. Even if you can’t reach your goal of a fully organized home, decluttering your own items can still bring you the peace that you’re looking for.
Given that you may be working around a large quantity of family members’ items, I recommend tackling small categories of your own items and organizing them from start to finish. For example, pull out all of your T-shirts and completely sort them, and then find a place for the ones that you’re keeping. Then move through other categories: shorts, pajamas, books, office supplies.I am still amazed at how much a small closet or pantry or office cabinet can hold and how overwhelming it can be to pull all those items out for sorting. I find that it’s less chaotic to review, declutter and organize each small category at a time. This method also won’t leave your home scattered with unmanageable piles of random categories.
In addition to your own items, you can also take this approach with uncontroversial family goods — things like party serving pieces and canned goods that your family isn’t likely to mind you decluttering and organizing.
2. Organize, but Don’t Declutter, Your Family’s ThingsIf your family members are open to some gentle rearranging, you can address their belongings to create a more organized home. The key may be to promise them that you won’t get rid of anything. With their blessing, you can then move on to sort their belongings into groups of like items and store those items together. This may help you feel a greater sense of order even if you’re not getting rid of anything.
As you handle a family member’s things, try to put yourself in that person’s shoes. Consider which items the person needs easy access to versus which items are seasonal, sentimental or rarely used, and then arrange his or her space accordingly. If you’re lucky, your family members may appreciate your work, especially if you’ve made their lives easier and given their spaces a more natural flow. They may even see duplicates or excess among their organized items and be inspired to eliminate some — but don’t be too disappointed if this doesn’t happen.You know your family members. If handling and rearranging their items would induce too much stress, this approach may not be right for you.
3. Find Out Why Your Family Is HesitantDo you know what it is about decluttering and organizing that your family members oppose? One possibility is that they just don’t feel they have the time or energy to devote to making decisions about what to keep and what to pass along. If decision-making is your family member’s hang-up, perhaps you can help by providing encouragement that makes the process a little less overwhelming. I’ve found that my clients often get stuck considering whether an item will be useful in the future, and whether they should keep sentimental items and those they dislike but feel guilt about getting rid of. Decision-making can indeed be mentally exhausting. Sometimes just having another person validate a decision makes it easier to let things go.
To help support family members willing to tackle their excess items, I recommend starting with belongings that don’t mean much to the individual. For example, you might toss socks with irreparable holes or get rid of Post-it notes that have lost their stickiness. Work in very small batches and chip away at decluttering in short amounts of time, such as a single 30-minute session each week. It’s important to avoid making judgmental comments as family members decide what to keep or toss. The final decision needs to be theirs so that they don’t resent you in the future. If your family members are struggling with sentimental items that never get used, you might help them decide to pack up and store these items in a less accessible location, such as a high shelf. This can help clear space in prime spots while removing pressure on your family members to toss items before they are ready. Another possible reason your family member may not be interested in organizing is that the person is not bothered by disorganization and doesn’t see a need for decluttering. My daughter falls into this category. She is involved in every kind of craft you can think of: sewing, painting, jewelry-making, knitting, paper crafts and more. As a result, she has a million necessary small parts and supplies throughout her room, available as needed when artistic inspiration strikes. I was able to help her organize her supplies by type of craft and eliminate unusable items like dried markers and paints, wrinkled papers and unfinished projects. This probably satisfied me more than her, and I did feel better looking into an organized room even though I didn’t get rid of that much. She was glad to have dedicated storage spots for each craft so that finding tools and materials is now quicker. 4. Make Putting Things Away FoolproofOnce you declutter and organize — even if just in part of your home — a key to maintaining neater spaces is to find a dedicated place for everything to go. It’s critical to be mindful of daily routines. Keep your most frequently used items close at hand for maximum efficiency. Create routines for putting things away (at least for yourself).
If you can keep your space organized, your family members may be more likely to follow suit. Again, even if they’re not, you will at least be able to keep up your own organized habits. 5. Be Compassionate and RespectfulFinally, be compassionate and respectful if you are dealing with other people’s belongings. Everyone has a different relationship with their things, and what may not appear important to you may have great meaning to someone else. Be patient if your family members are not ready to declutter. The organizing process can be overwhelming, and one must be ready for it both physically and mentally.
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Decluttering and Organizing When Your Family Is Not On Board (7 photos)