Over the summer, after a very long pause due to writing my last book, we finally got going on the unfunness of remodeling. We had our popcorn ceilings scraped and repainted, our floors replaced, and most of our rooms repainted.
It’s not even what I consider “real” remodeling (knocking down walls and such), but it was stressful.
The biggest stress factor was moving every last thing out of a room (or several rooms) so the remodeling could happen.
For someone who struggles with clutter more than the average person, this makes my heart palpitate. Just the thought of moving every last thing makes me short of breath.
I was determined to use what I’ve learned about decluttering to make this process as doable and profitable as possible.
Doable = least likely to drive me into Crazy Town.
Profitable = if I’m going to do all that work anyway, I might as well declutter, too.
Get the Duhs Out First
What are Duhs? Things that, at a glance, I know need to be donated.
I focused on opening up as much space as possible within my home, as quickly as I possibly could.
Open space is like gold when you need to empty one room into another room.
I cleared my Donation Spot in the garage. That box/pile-of-boxes is always there, as I’m forever decluttering. It was first to go because it was easy and obvious.
Then, my perspective turned ruthless and Duhs I hadn’t noticed before revealed themselves.
The end table I hated and had been meaning (for years) to replace.
The ottoman that doubled as uncomfortable seating during a party, but which we tripped over every other day of the year.
The humongous, life-threatening yoga ball that was shoved in a corner after an in-the-dark trip to the restroom when I ran into it and was rolled/thrust/launched onto the floor, barely missing a collision between my face and the bedpost. I never used it anyway.
Those items leaving freed up square footage I needed for this process. In those first bursts of expended energy, I took stuff straight to the car. It never had to be touched or thought of or lugged again. There’s something incredibly satisfying in that.
Take It There Now
Unless you’re brand spankin’ new around here, you know this phrase/mantra/game-changer well. It’s the decision/concept/mindset that has changed my home and allowed me to make real decluttering progress after years of Stuff Shifting (moving things around, thinking I was decluttering, but not actually making sustainable progress because stuff wasn’t actually leaving my house).
I’ve eliminated Keep Boxes and Keep Piles and all sorts of other Procrastination Stations. With my personality, temporary homes are my enemies.
And this is where the remodeling process is extra difficult. Moving everything out of one room means everything has to go to a temporary home. There’s no avoiding this reality. It’s the ultimate Stuff Shifting.
But my goal, as I was forced to touch every last thing in there anyway, was to not touch anything twice that did not absolutely have to be touched twice.
The first three steps in my decluttering process helped me do this, though not necessarily in order. They were just easy ways to eliminate anything I could possibly eliminate on first touch.
Step One: Trash. Step Two: Easy Stuff (anything with an already established home). Step Three: Stick Duhs in the Donate Box.
It wasn’t a situation for decluttering questions since we were on a deadline, but there was no reason NOT to use the work I was doing anyway to make decluttering progress.
As I worked, I always had my essential, minimal decluttering supplies by my side.
Anything that needed to go in the trash went straight in the black trashbag. (There’s nothing more frustrating than things that should have been trashed taking up precious space and “waiting” to be moved back into the room.)
As I came across things that were easy (in this space for whatever reason even though they had an established home somewhere else), I made a conscious decision to take them to their rightful home immediately.
This one was hard. I was in a hurry. There was so much to do and a deadline looming. Wouldn’t it be easier to scoop? To shove it all in a box?
Temporarily? Maybe. Except that I’d need more boxes and more space in the temporary home.
And I’ve changed over the course of my deslobification process.
The thing that has finally given me hope, helped me make real and lasting progress, and cured the decluttering-ends-up-causing-a-bigger-mess issue is taking things where they go immediately.
If I touched something that was easy, I looked around for anything else in the space that needed to go to the same general area of the house, and I took all those things to their homes immediately.
I also had my donatable Donate Box with me at all times. Touching every last thing reveals A LOT of Duhs. If something could go into the Donate Box without any analysis needed, it did.
I’m definitely not claiming to have done the moving process perfectly, but eliminating clutter as I packed instead of assuming it would be easier to deal with it on the other end helped me make a lot of progress and reduced the amount of space I needed to temporarily store things.
Put Things Back Thoughtfully
As much as possible, I took my time putting things back. Instead of shoving it all back in, I spent an entire day on each of my kids’ rooms, placing each item in its final resting place. Instead of letting myself think, “That would look great on the wall in my daughter’s room!” and then shoving it into a cabinet (like I’d done before), I acted on that thought. I put it on the wall. If it didn’t look good on the wall, it went in the Donate Box.
Taking my time on this part also helped our brains adjust to open space. My daughter decided she didn’t want several large things to come back into her room. “I just really like having the space, Mom.”
I wasn’t going to argue with that.
My cautionary preaching break
I am not advising that you pull everything out of a room as a decluttering strategy. That’s the traditional decluttering strategy that got me in way too much trouble. It’s the exact opposite of the Decluttering Without Making a Bigger Mess method I use and teach.
Life happens and the stuff ends up in No Man’s Land indefinitely.
I am taking full advantage of the pull-everything-out situation that is happening whether I take full advantage of it or not. I’m making the best of an unfun experience.
But being forced to do things this way has also been a reminder of why I shouldn’t do things this way. I plan to write a post on that soon.
I know so many of you have lived through real remodels and intense home improvement projects. I’d love to hear your hard-learned advice!
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