By Amanda Addey-Jibb
Welcome to Part 2 of this season’s spring cleaning series. Today we will try to tackle the most time consuming of spring cleaning chores: de-cluttering. Sorry, it’s a long one. With golden week having just begun, maybe you’ll find the time to put these tips to use! Or maybe you are travelling and enjoying life. You do you.
Before we begin, take a look at the clutter in your home. If all of your junk is located in one particular room, great! You’re already one step ahead. If not, it’s best to tackle each room one at a time. Don’t try to start all your rooms at once, because you will get discouraged and push everything into a corner and cry.
I’m sure we all have a ridiculous amount of junk just hanging out on our coffee table, on the floor, and under more junk. This could mean work files, receipts, toys, unused stuff you brought from home, etc. The best way to solve this is to not let it accumulate in the first place, but the next best thing you can do is dedicate a solid few hours to organizing and disposing of this stuff.
First, pile everything into one big heap. By removing clutter from shelves and tables, you can see the end result ahead of time and decide how much you are willing to put back. You can also see exactly how much junk you have to deal with in this pile. If you think that something from another room belongs in the same pile (for example, bills on the kitchen table or mail in the genkan), add them.
Now that you have one pile of junk, it’s time to sort. We will do this TLC hoarding style. Prepare three large boxes if you can, or just use sections of the floor.
The first box will be the keep box. In this box goes ONLY those things which you look at and instantly know its worth keeping. No thinking involved, you pick it up and you know you want/need it so you put it in the box.
The second box is the toss box. In this box goes things like old bills and forms, objects you haven’t used for more than 6 months, and actual trash. You may need to do some thinking with this box, as there will be objects you are not sure if you will need later. Ask yourself this: Have you thought about this object even once in the past week? The past month? If the answer is no, you can probably live without it. If you are still unsure, move to box number three.
The last box is the hard part. Let’s call this box the maybe box. In this box goes things you don’t know if you need or things you know you don’t need but have an attachment to. There should be no other reason to put things in this box. If you are worried about tossing something you could need in the future, ask yourself if the object is readily available elsewhere. If something is useless but holds sentimental value, ask yourself if you will still cherish it in 5 years.
Once you’ve done the initial sorting, go through the maybe box and separate everything again. The goal at the end of this exercise is to have nothing left in the maybe box, so you might have to go through it two or three times. It gets easier the more you do it as you start becoming used to prioritizing. I like to go through my keep pile again too, just for good measure. For mail and other things that you don’t understand because of your limited Japanese, just do what I do and bug your neighbors and/or supervisor.
Going forward, choose one spot for all paper (bills, forms, mail) and stick to it. Maybe buy a cute desk organizer. Then, once a month go through it and throw out the useless stuff.
As a side note, I use this same routine for organizing my wardrobe. Now that we’re switching from winter to summer gear, it’s a good time to do that too!
While it’s not exactly de-cluttering, take this opportunity to look behind furniture for dropped objects. Spring cleaning is probably the best time to move stuff around and sweep/vacuum under sofas, bed frames, and bookshelves that haven’t been moved in over a year. You will feel better for saying goodbye to those dust-bunnies.
Consider this a bonus section for those who like to keep a full bathroom. If you have a makeup collection, make sure to go through it and throw out anything that’s expired. Same goes for skin care products. Again, if you can’t remember when you bought it, or you never use it, let it go. It’s better for your skin.
If you have any medication stored, such as painkillers or stomach meds (especially if brought from home!), check those expiration dates. This is very important for your health and safety.
If you managed to get through all that, congrats! It’s really not as painful as it sounds. It’s also totally okay to hang onto stuff for a bit longer if you can’t bring yourself to toss it all. Putting in the time and thinking about it is what matters. Everyone prioritizes different things!