Vail Design at Altitude column: Clean up, sort out, be free
July 31, 2016
The book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" encourages getting rid of items that don't bring joy in thoughtful and almost reverent way. It suggests you donate the pants that never fit — or haven't fit in a few years; pitch the knife set from grandma that doesn't cut it. But relish the book that holds a special memory. Author Marie Kondo instructs readers keep only what inspires joy, helping create a calmness that leads to a peaceful, loving life.
It's hard, though. Bills, paperwork and to-do lists all pile up continually. So here are a few simple solutions for keeping piles from overwhelming your life. In a world where more is often the norm, it takes patience and determination to want, need and have less.
Get rid of what you don't use
Kondo suggests decluttering by category. Instead of tackling the bedroom and then the living room, focus on one area: clothes, books or even glassware or dishes and plates. With our busy lives, we tend not to really see what we have and use the same items daily. Donate, sell or get rid of what you don't use and love.
Yvonne Jacobs reminisced about a home she was helping update. It was hard to get a feel for the space because there was so much stuff in the room — much of it left from year to year and nothing that really spoke to the homeowners. By working with the clients to declutter, the home immediately felt and looked better.
This happens with many second-home owners who are here frequently enough to need everything from hiking boots to cozy throws. However, sometimes new wares come in without replacing the old. Purge the dusty faux ferns, the overused Tupperware and unloved winter hats from 1989. This makes room for what's used and helps keeps homes feeling like a vacation retreat instead of a to-do list. Decluttering is especially good advice if you're downsizing your home, adds Yvonne.
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Decluttering with kids
Senior designer Kellye O'Kelly, in the midst of raising young children, suggested organizing kids' toys into bins and keeping an eye on them.
"Designate a place for children's toys, and keep them organized by types. Go through the toys at least every three to six months to donate or trash unused or broken toys," she said.
Another little secret: Keep your decluttering under wraps. Sort, bag and drop the neglected items in a timely manner. Similarly, don't let the past define you: In other words, don't get caught up in reading notes from your high school besties or letters from your Great Aunt Gertrude. Stay focused on your task at hand, and be diligent.
Designer Kelsey Cole agreed.
"Evaluate everything in your house — if it doesn't bring you joy when you look at it, toss it," she said. "I also hate to dust, so the less to dust around, the better!"
Don't necessarily be ruthless, but be thoughtful. Once you've sorted and purged, next step is to organize. Hang clothes neatly so they are not crammed in the closet. Use drawer organizers; the dreaded junk drawer can be neat and tidy with a simple plan.
Still have a few items you can't bear to part with but don't necessarily need on display? Find furniture that is beautiful, simple and can hold your collection of patterned fabrics or wrapping paper. But don't continually add to your storage bins. If your clutter is out of sight but still in the house, the knowledge will weigh on you.
Kellye added that it makes sense to stick to the basics of what is needed in a room. In a bedroom, have a bed, nightstands, dresser and maybe a lounge chair. Every wall in the room does not need a piece of furniture.
"Sometimes I walk into a bedroom and every inch of the room is filled with furniture," she said. "It makes the room feel smaller, and most of the time it stores clutter that should probably be donated or removed."
Now that you've finished the arduous process, sit back and enjoy the (tidy) fruits of your labor.
Yvonne Jacobs is the president of Slifer Designs; Kellye O'Kelly is senior designer and just celebrated her 12th anniversary with Slifer Designs; Kelsey Cole has been in the design industry for more than a decade. All three love a room with clean lines and no clutter.