The post you’ve all been waiting for is finally here: the summary of my experience with attempting to “Unclutter (My) Life in One Week.”

I’m sure the first question you all have is: Can you really, truly unclutter your life in one week?  Answer: It depends.

It depends on how big your house/apartment is, who you live with, whether you work full time, whether you have kids, how early you are willing to wake up, how late you are willing to stay up…  The list goes on, but here’s the thing I discovered: It doesn’t really matter.  I promise you, if you commit one full week to the process of uncluttering your life and follow through with everything you start that week, you will be thrilled with the results.  If you don’t finish, you will feel like what is left over is manageable.  You will feel lighter, looser, and freer.  You will feel like a rock star.  You will be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.  (Okay, maybe not that last one, but you get the idea).

Here are my stats:  The reception area, desk, master closet, master bathroom, filing, kitchen and master bedroom are all completed.  I am almost finished organizing my photos (just one small box left to sort through).  I did not even start the living areas, the home office, or any of the “productivity and planning” exercises (scheduling strategies for work and chores, email and Internet strategies, increasing work output and productivity, etc.).  I plan to finish all of those by the end of May, which is when school is out.  In the fall, I will tackle the kids’ rooms, bathroom and playroom (which isn’t even in the book).

Should you decide to take this mission on for yourself, here is some advice and a few tidbits from me, now that I am a seasoned organizer/declutterer – HA!

1. The book, Unclutter Your Life in One Week, is really, really helpful. Not only does it provide the structure and the process for the decluttering, but it also breaks down the tasks throughout the week in a very logical way.  For example, Day One is dedicated to the bedroom closet, the desk, and the “reception area.”  This grouping makes sense because some items in the reception area closet should really go in the bedroom closet and vice-versa.  Many papers, pens, LIP BALM, and other detritus from the reception area would be better off in the desk, your purse, etc.

2.    Set aside your “regular” chores. Before you start, make sure you make a big grocery store run, get the laundry under control and have take-out menus for all your favorite restaurants handy.  You will not have the time or the energy to do any of your standard household chores this week, and you will not feel like cooking.

3.    Get help. Not necessarily help with the organizing, but help with the other stuff like childcare, running errands, meal preparation and cleanup.  If your spouse, significant other or roommate wants to help and would actually be helpful – great.  My husband’s way of “helping” is to follow me and ask, “You’re not going to throw that away are you?”  So it was easier for me to fly solo on the actual decluttering. 🙂
4.    Do the task(s) that are most important to you first. Yes, the task groupings make sense, but you don’t have to do them in the order the book suggests.  On Day One, the suggested order was closet, then desk, and then reception area.  I did them in the exact reverse order because our “reception area” was, by far, the biggest problem of the three.  Likewise, during the prep weekend, I spent all my time organizing my pictures, because I care a great deal about getting those in order and not so much about all my cards, letters and other “sentimental clutter.”  By working this way, you put your best energy into the most important projects, and if you don’t make it all the way through the tasks, it’s not the end of the world.

5.    Clean as you go.  Finish what you start. I found it was more satisfying to get one area done completely and done well than to move forward faster and cut corners.  When I emptied the kitchen cabinets and drawers, I dusted them and wiped them down before returning items.  When I emptied the bedroom furniture, I dusted and polished the furniture, vacuumed behind them and underneath them and cleaned the baseboards.  Trust me when I tell you that you will not “go back” to clean that dusty corner after you’ve put everything away.

6.    Be ruthless. If you spend more than one minute analyzing whether or not you will wear/use something again, you probably won’t.  A big benefit of this process is to reduce the amount of crap that’s weighing you down so that life can be simpler.  The more stuff you have, the more you have to clean, move, organize, and take care of that stuff.  Let go of as much as you can.

7.    Keep pen and paper with you. I promised myself I would not buy any organizing gear until after I finished the decluttering.  I was able to repurpose a lot of things I already had to “contain” the things I did keep.  Still, you will most likely need to get some new things for organizing and storage and/or to replace things like old medications, lotions, etc. that get tossed in the process.  It’s good to write them down as you go because you will not remember everything when the week is done.

8.    Plan time each day for yourself. This program is physically exhausting and a tad overwhelming at times.  The results are rewarding, but the process is tiring and tedious.  Make sure you schedule in a little time at the end of the day to relax.  For me, I made sure I took a hot bath with a magazine and a glass of wine each day, even if spending that extra hour meant getting to bed at midnight.  (Note on reading material: this is not the week to tackle War and Peace.  I barely had the concentration for my “O” magazines.  Light reading is better.  Catching up on my magazines also gave me the added bonus of being able to recycle them after – contributing to the declutter cause.)

9.    Reduce, Reuse, Recycle… This adage applies perfectly to this process.  Just by going through the decluttering process, you’ll be reducing your pile of “stuff.”  The key is to make that reduction permanent and not to go out and replace it with all new stuff.  Along the way, you’ll probably find new uses for things you already have.  I’m using a tea tin as a pen and pencil holder, plastic shoeboxes to hold rarely used kitchen items such as butter warmers and corn on the cob holders, and my old childhood jewelry box to contain excess costume jewelry.  No doubt you’ll come across things you can use in the organizing process so you don’t have to buy everything new.  If I no longer had the need or use for an item, I made every attempt to recycle it in some way.  I took four lawn & leaf bags full of clothes and household items to the Sister Carmen Community Center; I filled my 96-gallon cart plus a computer box full of single-stream recycling.  I have another big box filled with hard-to-recycle items like sneakers, hard plastics and electronics that are waiting to go to Eco-cycle.  I did have to throw some things away, but I made an effort to keep as much out of the landfill as I could.

10.    … Rejoice! At the end of it all – rejoice!  Twirl around your newly organized space.  Pop the cork on that champagne you’ve been saving for a special occasion, or do something fun and frivolous.  Find some way to celebrate the achievement, because you’ll deserve it!!

If you missed the earlier posts in this series, here they are, in chronological order:

Operation De-Clutter the House – How and why I decided to embark on this journey.

ODH Prep Weekend: Photo Finish – In which I attempt to get my photos organized.

Closets and Cabinets and Drawers, Oh My! – Detailing the process of organizing the reception area, desk and master bedroom closet.

Unintended Consequences – My focus on the decluttering process causes me to flub up as the tooth fairy.

Kitchen Confidential – The kitchen tries to break me, but I won’t let it!

Bedroom Talk – I share the glory of the newly organized kitchen and move on to the bedroom.

The Crown Jewel – The bedroom (and the bane of my organizing project) is completed.

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3 Comments

  1. sounds so well worth it! i’ve been slowly working on my decluttering, though i would love to blitz it over a week I know it would be impossible to do right now. Very inspiring!

  2. Okay…it looks like I’m actually going to have to pick up and read this book (which I already own)!

  3. OMG.. I may have to go buy the book now, sounds wonderful and terrifyingly like a major time commitment, which I know would pay off later!
    Cool.. and thanks. This is my first visit here, and I will be back.

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