Let go and start fresh

Kitchen And Living Area In Luxury HomeWith a New Year come resolutions, and Ottawa residents like Vicky Chaumont are making 2016 the year to start fresh and downsize.

“There were many toys in our living room that my son had outgrown or that no longer provided stimulation for him,” said Chaumont, who took time around New Year’s to declutter in order to accommodate all the gifts their toddler received over the holidays.

“I feel that keeping items to a minimum will also help him to grow up understanding that lots of things aren’t what keep us happy.”

The rising popularity of books like Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Spark Joy, as well as websites such as theminimalists.com and becomingminimalist. com, have people all over the world jumping aboard the minimalist bandwagon.

A follower of Kondo’s “KonMari” method – in which the author tells readers to discard anything that doesn’t bring them joy – Miranda Dulmage began decluttering her family’s 2,000-square-foot home last year. Although the best time to get organized is always the present, she said there’s something inspirational about the New Year.

And this is a time of year where items can really build up in our homes, said Heather Cameron, a professional organizer and owner of Edited Interiors.

“People need to understand that decluttering and getting organized doesn’t happen overnight – and that’s perfectly OK. It’s a process and it takes time and practice. And every little step will eventually add up to a very big result.”

Like many couples, Dulmage and her husband combined two full households when they moved in together. Each had parents who passed items onto them, and combined with their wedding gifts and the birth of their son, Aidric, their Kanata South home filled up fast.

She started following the KonMari method to help her day-to-day life run more smoothly. Although she didn’t miss a single article of clothing out of the seven bags that she purged, other areas proved more difficult.

“For years I even kept all the notes from my university classes just in case I needed to reference them,” she said.

“We all change a great deal as we progress through life, and it is hard not to be sentimental and hold very tightly to every item that we accumulated along the journey, no matter how much we have outgrown them.”

For Ottawa’s Lidia Romeo, those clutter challenges include sentimental items like her daughter’s baby things. Already, the box she’s started for her 20-monthold’s drawings, hand prints and crafts is overflowing, and tossing things can be hard. Still, it’s worth the effort, she said.

“I think less physical clutter leads to less mental clutter,” she said.

It’s harder for families to stay organized, as decluttering is complicated by sharing a home with others, said Kanata resident and mother of two Jasmin Mallory.

“You’re dealing with several people’s belongings instead of just your own. Just because I don’t use something doesn’t mean it isn’t being used, and just because I don’t value something doesn’t mean it isn’t valued by someone else,” she said.

There are also financial and practical considerations. “Things like maternity clothes and breast pumps can be expensive,” said Mallory, “so if you’re planning on having more children, it would be wise to hang on to these items if you have the space.”

Before organizing, Mallory said the possessions in the home she shared with her husband and their two young children were enough to cause them stress. “It was difficult to find things, easy to lose things, and we often ended up buying duplicates of things simply because we’d forgotten we had something in the first place,” she said.

“Things that didn’t have a dedicated spot were neatly stacked in piles against the wall, in baskets and bins or on top of desks, which created a lot of visual clutter.

“The basement slowly became a dumping ground for anything we didn’t quite have room for in the rest of the house.”

Joanie Ouellette faced a similar situation in her basement, but when she and her husband learned they were expecting a baby, they did a huge cleanup, donating and throwing out 10 carloads of items.

“Since then, we’ve change the way we consume,” she said. When they do make a purchase, they donate something else, and they tend to favour quality over quantity. “When you have good stuff, you appreciate it way more,” she said.

An attitude of gratitude is just one of the benefits of decluttering. Teacher and mother of two Kristen Perneel said there is more room in her home, it’s easier to clean, and her life feels less chaotic.

And getting organized, said Dulmage, has paid off financially. “I found that now when I shop I do so with much more awareness of what I already have, and I do not buy extras, which means that I don’t waste money,” she said.

“Focusing on how you really feel about an item, rather than its monetary value or who it came from, or how long you have had it, allows you to get rid of things without regret.

“I have been able to let go of items that I inherited from my mom, but that were never displayed because they don’t match my style, art projects from my childhood, and things that I have bought with the best of intentions, fully intending to use them but never finding time for. “It’s been incredibly freeing.”

Get organized, room by room

Three Ottawa organizers share their best tips
Playroom – “Donate or sell any toys that are not being used, and rotate some of the ones you are keeping. Children tend to always play with their favourite ones and will love when you bring out the toys they have not seen for a while. Use plastic bins and put picture labels on them to encourage children to put the toys away in the right bins.”
– Kathy McEwan, A Second Set of Hands

Kitchen – “Keep your kitchen counters cleared as much as possible. It is OK to leave one or two small appliances on the counter if you have the space, but put everything else away to keep it looking clean and tidy. Go through your plastic food containers, pots and pans, baking pans, plastic bowls, mismatched dinnerware and mugs, etc., and let go of items you no longer use or need.” – Kathy McEwan

Paperwork – “Digitize and automate billing so you don’t have to deal with paper. Take all bills out of envelopes and fold flat (they take up less room).”
– Carolyn Kotva, PackRat’s Professional Organizing

Clothing and closets – “If you haven’t worn the clothes for over a year, then let them go. Hang your clothes in your closet by items (blouses, tops, skirts, etc.) and hang the same colour items together. Use the same style and colour of hangers throughout your closet. Drawer organizers keep all your items together and it is so easy to grab what you need when you need them. Rather than stacking T-shirts or tank tops one of top of the other in a drawer, I recommend putting them one in front of the other. That way they do not get as messy and you can fit more items in the drawer.” – Kathy McEwan

Books and magazines – “Libraries are a great way to rotate books and magazines so you don’t have to spend the money and space on their purchase. They also offer the opportunity for you to find out what books have special meaning to your children so, if you wish, you can purchase a copy for your home.”
– Heather Cameron, Edited Interiors

Children’s rooms – “A quick tip for providing more play area in a child’s room is to use the closet space not only for hanging clothes, but also to store toys. Use a storage bin organizer and label the bins with names or pictures of each item and put it in the closet.” – Kathy McEwan

Living room – “Look for double-duty furniture – a coffee table with a lower shelf, an entertainment unit with adjustable shelves, an ottoman with storage inside. Living rooms and family rooms can host a lot of family life, so choose furniture that is comfortable and functional.” – Heather Cameron

Garage – “Use vertical space for storage. Decide if you want your garage for storage or for your car – consciously making the decision helps keep it a reality.” – Carolyn Kotva

Basement storage area – “I call basements the place of indecision. If an item no longer warrants a home in our main living areas, does it warrant a home in our basement? Shelves and lidded bins are super important in a basement. The temperature and humidity can really vary in basements, so you want to keep items well protected. Choose high shelving to maximize your vertical space but anchor it to the wall if you think your children will be in the space.” – Heather Cameron

Sports equipment – “Look for mesh bags that can store equipment on the walls of the garage.” – Carolyn Kotva Photo: bigstockphoto