Decluttering and Organizing: What I Did + Some Tips

Decluttering and Organizing: What I Did + Some Tips

About a month or so ago, I cleaned out my place big time. Not the wipe-the-floors, jharoo pocha kind. The get-rid-of-clutter kind. And it was amazing.

A few months ago, thanks to some self-reflection, I had decided I didn’t want to own too many things. I wasn’t planning on stripping down to the bare minimum (still a long way to go mentally for that to happen) but I also knew that there was a whole lot that I hadn’t used in a long time and it had to go to someone who could take care of it and love it more. I didn’t deserve half the things I had, someone else did.
Also, there was also a lot of stuff that just needed to be removed, because it was technically no longer alive (RIP).
So I started from one end of my apartment and went full ninja on the clutter. I went through my closet, I got rid of a hundred pieces that I no longer needed. A HUNDRED. Can you believe that? Some of them I’d worn a couple of times only, terrible. I donated the pieces in good condition. I threw away the bad ones. I also got rid of extra bedsheets, towels, dishes, anything else that was just lying around in boxes, thrown in corners, hiding in storage, taking up valuable visual, mental space.  

The hundred clothing pieces I donated (not including some ripped stuff I just threw out). Shameful, honestly.  
It took quite some time but 80% of my home is now absolute clutter free (the guest room is still currently filed under garbage).
A couple of issues I had before starting: I have cleaned out clutter before and organized things so life would look all set. But the clutter came back (as it does) and the organization wouldn’t last beyond a few weeks. This time, I cleaned up keeping those two issues in mind and a month down the lane, not a single thing has gone out of place.
I’m not a de-cluttering guru, so you’re not going to find anything organized magazine-style. But it’s all clear, there isn’t a single thing out of place, it’s all very mentally relaxing. So I’m sharing some tips/learnings/general comments for anyone who’s been planning on doing the same (we all are). Share yours with me too because it’s good to share.

Closet  – Before. Sorry about the bad lighting but I started this at night and at that time I had no plans of sharing this on the blog. There was no breathing space; while trying to take out one shirt, I’d pull out more. And ironing never lasted.

1. Lock down time in your calendar/life to do the cleanup. You have to block time, it cannot be a wild fantasy you have that magically comes true on its own some day. I blocked each organizing activity in my life, a couple of hours after work, every few days.
2. Turn it into tiny milestones. I didn’t decide to one day just clean my entire room. I broke it down into small projects split over different days like, clean out left side of the closet, then clean out right side of the closet, organize shoes, sort under the bed, clean the top of the cabinet, etc. Breaking it down into smaller pieces made it not just more doable but also gave small wins so I always felt like I had accomplished something that day.
3. Block enough time. A closet cleanout will take 4 hours on the average. Believe it (we’re talking about someone who hasn’t done it in months and has substantial crap on hand).  If you start to do it with the wrong time expectation, you’ll have a ginormous mess stalking you for the next time you can come back and finish it. Nothing wrong with that, if you can handle clothes being creepy on the floor. But better to start off with a big time chunk if you can. If you can’t then just mentally be prepared to do it over a couple of days. 
Closet – After. It may seem like I didn’t take out a lot but my ‘before’ picture doesn’t show all the clothes that were stuffed under the hanging clothes (again, hadn’t planned on sharing). And also took out lots from the closet on the left (which is not pictured).
4. When it comes to clothes (and any other style accessories), get rid of anything you haven’t worn or touched in the last one year. A year is honestly being super lenient because it should technically be 6 months. But to start off, you can go with a 1 year margin so you can include stuff that you touch seasonally like jackets. Anything beyond that, you’re never going to wear so dump it. Clothes you’ve been keeping to fit into after losing weight, get rid of them. You can buy new clothes when you do ditch the weight, don’t let these old ones pull you down because clutter has the power to do that.
A friend of mine just recently told me she tried to organize and reduce clutter like this, and she still kept everything because she felt the stuff was too nice to giveaway or some things she’d forgotten about and now wanted to wear – if it’s too nice to give away but you’re not wearing it, you’re depriving someone else of the pleasure of enjoying that piece and being selfish. Give it to someone who’ll love it and make use of it, don’t hoard. And if you’re forgetting things you own, you have too much. If you don’t give away things you’re not using, you’ll probably end up organizing but not reducing clutter (which is fine if that’s what you want but not if your goal is to minimise). If you feel the same happening to you, make a pile of stuff you feel like you should get rid of but don’t want to, sleep over it and come back and look at it the next day. If you didn’t remember them, then you don’t need it. I did this with a few décor knick knacks I didn’t want to let go of (but have no place for), the next day I didn’t remember them – meaning, I don’t need them.
5. Do the same for everything else in your house that you haven’t used in months. Dishware that you’re just keeping and never touching. Extra cushions. Extra plastic boxes. Extra tools in the storage (I had a bunch of paint cans that I was never going to use but still keeping).
6. Pick every item up, look at it and ask yourself, will I use this within the next two months. If the answer is no, give it away. Donate, gift to a friend, put up on Dubizzle for free (it gets picked up so fast you won’t even know what happened), throw away.

Jewelry drawer – Before. Feel free to judge. I gave away half of this to my sweet house help lady.
7. Dumping clutter is so liberating. Even though everything is still inside closed cabinets/drawers, knowing that things are sorted and tailored to your actual needs and not just sitting there, makes you feel ridiculously light. You’ll think I’m shitting you, but I actually feel happier. Reducing things has made me feel more content and peaceful than when I had more. It’s like you were wearing ten shirts and ten pants at the same time and now you’re down to just one each. So freeing.
8. Organize things in the format you use them everyday. Whenever I organize, it goes back to disaster levels shortly. This time, I looked at everything I had and placed them according to my usage. And no two things on top of each other that had to be accessed everyday, even if it looks better, because that just means eventual destruction.
I put my everyday skincare stuff at the front, only those things were stacked that are accessed infrequently, it’s been a month and not a single thing has moved out of its place. Specifically for my jewelry, I wear hoops a LOT. They all get tangled up and everything’s a mess within days. This time instead of throwing all hoops together in one section, I separated each of them and gave them the most space in my drawer and it’s still all rainbows and parties in there. The same with bedsheets, I send mine to the laundry, so they come back folded in a certain way. I created space for them in my closet in exactly the same way they come back from the laundry. What this does for me is that I don’t just save myself from extra work like folding and shoving them in but also lets me put them in their right place as soon as they come back, instead of throwing them in a corner and stalling it because it needs an extra step. I did the same for the spice rack, dishware, laundry room, same for everything. Nothing has budged since.
Jewlery drawer – After. Please see hoops owning maximum real estate.
9. Don’t fold what should be hanged. Don’t stack what will be pulled everyday. You know it. You’ll fold and stack and organize and then you’ll pull and destroy and ruin your life. As a rule, I hang everything (even my pjs) except jeans, scarves and tank tops.

10. Keep things in sight. I had my bags shoved into a section of my closet that I couldn’t even see. I ended up not using 80% of my bags because I would keep forgetting to use them. When I organized, I gave away half of my bags that I hadn’t touched in months, and the ones I kept, I moved them to a different cabinet where they were visible and moving one bag didn’t impact others. Anything that you’re going to move out of sight (like clothes thrown at the back of your closet), you might as well donate them now, because you’re not going to use them, yes please.
11. Put things back when you use them. Threw a top on the bed that you pulled out but didn’t wear? Put it back there and then or on the same day. Wore earrings and took them off in the living room? Place them back in their original place. Used spices in the kitchen and put the bottles back in randomly? Fix them in their spots once you’re done using the kitchen (or just put them back exactly where you picked them up from as you use them). Shitty, clichéd advice but if you put things back after you’re done with them, you’re not going to ever have a mess.

Swapped locations for things based on usage. This cabinet used to have my bed linen which I swapped with bags.

12. Disguise some messes with baskets. I’m such a believer. Some things will just never get sorted and always be a pain. Tiny things here and there, chargers, USBs, cables, invoices, mail – use baskets and win at life. I have small baskets all over my apartment that sort stupid shit and make life easy. One under my coffee table to always keep the top clean, one on my TV console to hide N’s Xbox controllers, random dvds. One under N’s nightstand for his gazillions chargers. One on my desk for N’s tiny geeky contraptions (I’m seeing a pattern here). If you have kids with many, many toys, keep a basket in your living area and toss the toys in there. Baskets just bring structure and pull things together so even if the ugly stuff is still there, it suddenly looks good.    
13. Clean up a bit everyday. It’s a habit of mine and it works and it’s not at all a pain to execute. Before going to bed, I’ll do a quick 2 minute cleanup. I’ll fix the cushions on the couch, clean up the kitchen counter, put the remotes back in their place, pick up whatever’s on the coffee table that got used that day (book/nailpolish/cables/etc) and put them back. It takes two minutes and it reduces monumental pain on a daily basis.
Happy kitchen spices




14. Remember that your everyday mess does not mean being unorganized. Having things out of place generally does not mean that you’re not organized. Everyone’s busy, people have kids in the mix, sometimes you’re rushing somewhere – those are daily messes made with things you’re using and need. You can fix them in under an hour, they are a part of living (busy parents, high-five to you). I don’t hate myself if things are messy on some days because its a product of stuff I used, but being clutter-free is not allowing yourself to live with things you don’t need and that pull you down without adding anything to your life.
Clearing up your place has nothing to do with OCD tendencies or being a neurotic jamadar inside. A decluttered space frees up your mental space, it makes you more relaxed and truly allows you to enjoy your home. You declutter your home and end up decluttering your life.  
That’s all I’ve got for now. Tell me your favorite hacks. I want to copy.

Note: I donated at a few places. 1) Donation boxes in Discovery Gardens. They’re in some clusters. Accept clothing, shoes, etc.  2) At Al Salam mosque in Barsha. 3) Gave dishes to a friend who gave to some charity place in Karama I think.

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+ My place got a tiny shoutout on Apartment Therapy once again, wanted to share with you guys. This time the bedroom. (I think this is my 5th time on the site, woohooo)
+ + There’s a giveaway running for a 14 mask goodie bag from 7th heaven on my Facebook right now, feel free to enter right here

15 Comments

  1. that was just what I needed to get started. Ive been putting this off for so long. as always your tips are so simple and well thought out. thank you.

  2. loved this post! ready to start this with my own room! I don't have a full apartment but my room at home is fulllllll of things I need to remove :/

    1. Author

      I know, I've done that. Even when I had just one room to myself, I cluttered it successfully :O

  3. Trying not to sound like a next-level creep, but i so wish I could receive a share of your pre-loved clothes cuz from what I've seen you own pretty nice stuff :p.
    Myself and hubby are the biggest hoarders on earth as well and declutter on a seasonal basis. Then give a lot of thought to fix our instinct of buying everything in sight while on shopping.
    So the whole declutter is a process of self-discovery and personal improvement as well ;).
    The hack that works for me is that organise things based on frequency of use like you did with your bags. Take out a couple of shoe pairs, bags, jackets, tops each season that you most definitely would use and organise them (preferably visually). Same goes for stuff in the kitchen, we realised the only way we eat more fruits on a daily basis is if we them out on an open kitchen trolley etc
    Another hack i read about a while ago (haven't applied it yet) when you buy one item, donate two old. This will eliminate the need of period decluttering. However i can see myself going piss broke if I did that 😀

    1. Author

      Oh my god, I love that buy one-donate two thing! I'm so going to do that the next time I buy something. I haven't bought clothes in months! But I'll do that for even the blogger stuff clothes I get. Thanks (Y)

  4. Omg. I did the exact same thing last month. My dresser has 2 drawers so my rule is to keep only makeup and jewellery stuff that I can fit in it. And I keep my winter stuff in a suitcase and sweaters in another small suit case. So my rule is only to keep stuff that I can fit in them. I donate all other stuff. I have been thinking of de cluttering my shoes also as I have a lot of them. Try to organize kitchen cabinets every 3 months and force my husband to clean his drawers too. He hates me for it at that time but later thanks me. Lol

  5. I declutter on a regular basis. Every three months that is. I started decluttering life three years ago and now I only have around 50 pieces of clothing (everything included) and I love them all. If I shop a new piece, I donate/throw away an existing one that I least like, it doesn't have to be the oldest, just the least likable and I get rid of it. And my life is amazing because of no clutter. Everything I own, I use at least once a month (usually more than that) and it truly frees me.

  6. WOW! I'll be starting with my jewelry drawer today inshallah! 😀

  7. Wow man this is exactly what I needed. I started this effort atleast with clothes and shoes and making slow but steady progress. I agree with the bins / baskets usage specially with kids as they seem to just have a million things at all ages -_-
    My biggest challenge has been all the million fancy clothes and bags accumulated/gifted at time of shaadi which dont fit and I love too much to part with 🙁

  8. color-coding your wardrobe would be a cherry on top of an already delicious cupcake! 😀

  9. Every time I decide (and start) to declutter my room, I just end up moving around things because all of a sudden I can think of a use for everything. I'm such a hoarder. I do agree with the baskets though, they give an impression of organisation.

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