It’s time again to spring-clean your entire home and get it ready for the festive period. This can seem like a daunting task, so it’s important to have a game plan to ease the load. Georgina Wong, a member of the Australasian Association of Professional Organisers (AAPO), says you have to first be mentally prepared to cut the clutter.
And don’t begin by arming yourself with lots of new storage boxes, no matter how pretty they look, says Nathalie Ricaud, a professional organiser, founder of Get Organised & Beyond, and fellow AAPO member. Instead, she suggests grabbing a large garbage bag for trash, and large boxes to store things to donate and sell.
Here are some extremely handy tips on decluttering each room in your home, just in time for Chinese New Year.
1. Have deadlines for newspapers and magazines, then recycle them, says Nathalie.
2. Let go of travel guides that are older than five years. You can find more accurate information online, or simply borrow guides from friends or the library when needed.
3. Keep only your favourite decorations and photographs. It’s impossible to appreciate them when there’re too many of them. Hang photographs on the wall instead of taking space on shelves and tables.
4. An ottoman or footstool with storage is a must-have, insists Georgina. It provides storage for throws or magazines and doubles up as extra seating when guests come around.
5. Little things like remote controls can create unnecessary clutter. Keep your controllers handy and in one place with a nifty caddy that you can get from places like Ikea and Daiso.
6. Keep small items grouped together in open boxes or baskets.
Tip: Before putting on shelves, adjust the racks so there’s minimal space between the top of the container and the shelf, to prevent dust from getting in.
7. Go through your fridge, pantry and cupboards, throwing away anything that’s expired, says Nathalie. Go ahead and toss anything you haven’t used in months.
8. Keep everything within reach of where it will be used, says Georgina. Hang items like pots, pans and utensils from a rack above the hob using butcher hooks. A word of caution – the rack has a load limit, so be sure to stick to it.
9. Tossing take-out containers may seem wasteful, but you really have no use for containers without lids, or lids without containers, advises Nathalie.
10. Don’t keep utensils that only serve one purpose, like egg separators and avocado slicers. A lot can be done with a knife and chopping board.
11. Revolving or slide-out shelves work well in tight corners to make use of otherwise wasted space.
12. Fully utilise deep drawers by placing shelf inserts of different depths, or getting stackable shelving for tall cabinets from stores like Japan Home.
13. Don’t make your store room a dumping ground for things you don’t want. For occasional items you have to keep, like winter wear, camping gear or festive decorations, store them on predetermined levels of your storage rack so they’re easy to find later on.
14. Storage tubs are great for grouping items together. For example, things like washing accessories and detergents can go in one tubs. It’s also a good idea to keep your containers labelled so they can be clearly identified.
15. If you don’t have space for bedside tables, install a picture rail above head-height for your reading materials, glasses, phone and more, says Georgina. Alternatively, if one side of the bed is against a window, buy a kid’s bathtub net that you can attach with rubber suction cups to the glass. Consider getting a bed frame with hidden storage behind and under the frame.
16. Even if you don’t have a lot of space under the bed, get a storage box to stow away things.
17. Ditch anything that’s mouldy or too troublesome to repair, and toss anything that doesn’t fit or makes you uncomfortable, advises Nathalie.
18. Stacking clothes on top of each other means you can only see what’s on the top layers. Slot them sideways into drawers so you can see everything easily, advises Georgina.
19. Take down all those bulky wooden or plastic hangers. Instead, invest in velvet-covered ones with hooks, shares Georgina. These prevent clothes from slipping and are much slimmer. You can also use special holders that allow you to cascade the hangers so they don’t take up horizontal space on the closet rail. Try the aluminium three-tier hanger, $16.90 from Muji (pictured).
20. Put up individual or over-the-door hooks for draping jewellery and belts that can otherwise sit in a tangled mess in your drawers or countertops. Also great for keeping clothes and towels off the floor.
21. Pocket organisers are good for storing tiny toys and figurines, but if your kid has outgrown these, use them to store your child’s sports gear instead. The clear compartments are handy for holding socks, guards, laces, foldable bags and much more.
Your closet should be made up of clothes that are in good condition, that fit you now, that you love and make you feel good. Donate the rest.
22.Keep your desktop free from clutter – it should be a workspace rather than a storage space. Get rid of cables and chargers to devices you no longer own, or forgot you owned, shares Nathalie.
23. Recycle non-essential paper documents (check to make sure they don’t contain personal or sensitive information first!), and for those you need to keep, sort them in folders labelled health, education, finances and so on. Moving forward, minimise paper mess by avoiding picking up unnecessary brochures, and opting to have bills and newsletters sent electronically.
24. This space often has little in it other than a table and chairs, but it’s also one of the most versatile rooms and can be used for doing homework, sorting bills and hobbies, says Georgina. Consider getting a folding or extendable table with drawers underneath to stretch this limited space. Alternatively, adding a banquette seat can provide hidden storage for bulky items and seldom-used equipment like party serveware and tablecloths.
25. If space here is so tight that you can barely walk around the table, install a single shelf around the wall about 30 cm from the ceiling. This creates a display area for storing books, glassware and other decorative items, says Georgina.
26. Keep clutter hidden and off countertops by installing a mirrored medicine cabinet. Store away everything, except cosmetics, which get affected by heat and humidity, says Georgia. Those should go on your dressing table and only brought to the bathroom when needed.
27. Empty containers or expired products go in the bin. For makeup and skincare, an icon depicting a jar with an open lid lists the number of months a product can keep for once open. For medication, the expiry date should be stamped on pill packs or clearly printed on the label. When in doubt, throw the item away.
28. If you store towels in the bathroom, roll them up, suggests Georgina. This keeps them handy and takes up less space than storing them folded flat.
29. Make mornings calmer by having everything neatly sorted. Hoe Kee’s ROZ 2-tier corner caddy (pictured), from $66, helps you maximise the corners in your shower area and holds all your bathing needs for easy access.
30. Install as many hooks as possible, advises Georgina. Garbath wall hooks, $18.90, from RedMart, come four in a row and are mounted with suction cups, letting you determine your most conducive layout.
A version of this story first appeared in Singapore Women’s Weekly.