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A Swiss Cheese approach to decluttering your home

After speaking with lots of people over the January period I found, as usual, many people had set about doing small fix-up jobs about the house. This year it was a revelation to me that it's a "clean up and throw out" period as well. I thought it would be great to pass on a few ideas on how to declutter, organize and cull all the things that have accumulated over the year.

The first big rule

When decluttering the first rule is use the Swiss Cheese approach. Don't look at the overwhelming entirety of decluttering your house. Look at it one area at a time. Make a mental list. For example the linen press, the kitchen, the boy's room.

Let's use the boys room as an example, my personal nightmare area.

Manageable chunks

Break the areas up into manageable chunks once again, for example clothes, toys and furniture. Look at these areas separately keeping in mind: will it fit them next season, does the furniture layout work efficiently with their maturing requirements and what needs to be on show and what does not.

Sort into 4 groups

Once you have reorganized the furniture and put aside what is no longer required you are ready to sort into four groups.

1. Garage sales/car boot sale items
2. Sell online
3. Family or friends
4. Charity store

Car boot sales

These are a great way to sell your items and is generally more successful than a stand-alone garage sale. Many communities have these events regularly, and they're great if you want a little cash for the things you might have given away.

Masses of people tend to converge on car boot sales so as a seller you get more bang for your buck compared to a private garage sale. Having experienced both garage sales and car boot sales, you stand to make about $200-$300 for a few hours work. The fact that someone else will be getting great use out of your pre-loved items is also satisfying.

Selling online is another way to get good money for your unwanted items, but be warned unless you have something that will sell for at least $200 it isn't worth doing. Out of a $200 sale you will need to take out postage ($20) and online sale fees($20), so your profit will be more like $160. Also factor into this the time spent taking photos and watching the online auction, and then preparing the item for postage.

If you haven't managed to sell your pre-loved items sort them into two groups: family/friends and charity store.

Friends and family are a great resource when you're decluttering. Drop in and have a coffee and chat about what you have that they may like.

The charity store is my last stop and it is reassuring that they will take most of want you haven't been able to get rid of at this point. Make sure that you take these items directly to a charity store, as clothing bins for example are owned by rag wholesalers, non-fabric items usually end up in landfill. Most charity stores cannot resell electrical items, for safety reasons, and even brand new items will not be accepted.

As outlined above decluttering and organizing doesn't need to be an overwhelming undertaking. It can provide you with extra mental clarity in an otherwise overwhelming day. To be able to open a cupboard that is organized, without items falling out everywhere, is a great gift to yourself that you will appreciate every time you open that cupboard.