My dream house isn’t a big house or a fancy house – it’s a tidy house. A home that exists without chaos staring me in the heart everytime I arrive home.
I’ve been clearing clutter for 21 years. It seems to make no difference – I’m still drowning in it.
The 1,600 sq ft or so bungalow we call home is neither huge nor tiny. Six of us live here, inhabiting a small fraction of the space compared to the objects, belongings and unbelongings that drift into the house, planned or unplanned and result in chaos several years on. I’m not the first or the last person who desperately wants to trade chaos for freedom and a calmer life.
In the course of research I looked at other peoples stories. Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying was a good read but an insight into someone else world rather than a blueprint for changing mine, though it did help me realise that nothing ‘sparks joy’ like space. I once started The Grit Doctors Get your Sh!t Together but dumped that a few pages in – call it a sense of humour failure but I don’t need anyone talking to me like that, no book, no Grit Doctor and certainly not myself. And while I would love to emulate The Minimalists Ryan Nicodemus ‘packing party’ and box up everything, retrieving items only as needed and offloading the rest after 21 days, I think my offspring wouldn’t quite go for that. I did however hear The Minimalists advice loud and clear, do it whatever way suits YOU, but do it – it will leave you with your life.
Mindful of the fact that success would depend on hard graft no matter what the approach taken, I set out to design a project with the following requirements as key:
- tangible progress from the very outset to maintain momentum
- a completion date in the near future to avoid boredom or procrastination
- flexibility to fit into the demands of a really busy family household.
I christened my project: 13 rooms, 13 weeks, and took a giant leap into action.
13 ROOMS because our home has 13 rooms. This includes bathroom, toilet and corridor areas but excludes sheds, garage and attic. Those can be another days work. I included the corridor areas, because those gather an alarming amount of clutter, and I broke an open area into 2 rooms, i.e. kitchen/dining is one area, the TV area is another.
13 WEEKS because a week is a nice window of time to clear a room. It delivers immediate term tangible results in daily mini-steps building up to an overall completion date in 13 weeks, i.e. the very close future. A year, for me, would be too long and invite boredom or procrastination.
Here are the few short rules I’m following:
- Clear 1 room entirely of clutter each week.
- Consider as clutter anything that’s not being used, is honestly unlikely to be used and isn’t needed.
- Responsibly rehome as much as is humanly possible but bite the bullet and dump anything that will end up at the dump anyway.
- Evict all charity, rubbish, recycling and items for rehousing as soon as they are ready and at the least by the end of the week.
- Visit dump every alternate week (yes, we have that much junk).
- No moving of stuff from room to room or back to completed rooms.
- Do NOT get sidetracked by repair or decoration.
- Only take rubbish out of other peoples rooms – their stuff is their stuff. Live in the hope they too will crave space.
- Be brutal in assessment and don’t get emotional, it’s just stuff.
- Just pick a starting day and start.
- Pick a day that will work week on week, Monday suits me.
- Do something the first day of each new room, even if it’s tiny.
- Do something more each following day of the week.
- Pick a small area for week 1 to guarantee completion and feel the success.
- Pick a haven area (I picked my bedroom) for week 2 and feel the progress forever.
- Leave a room at the end of the final day of its week. The task is a week long, and ends even if areas remain to be addressed.
- Make a list of the outstanding areas to clear in the room if necessary.
- Make a list of jobs and repairs needed in the room on the final day of the week.
- Move on to the next room even if there are outstanding jobs in the previous room.
- But first take a moment to acknowledge the achievement – breath in the space or light a candle.
I’ll be posting updates on this project along with some exploration of issues arising over the 13 weeks. Check them out here or subscribe below if you would like to receive updates into your inbox.