As a professional organiser, part of my job is to encourage people not just to organise their possessions, but also to evaluate these items and consider what they really want and need in their homes, and in their lives. There are multitudes of philosophies on how to declutter your home of course, which may be helpful to you. Some methods ask that you be completely practical and objective in your approach, letting go of things now so that your children need not deal with your mess when you’re gone. Some methods are far more spiritually inclined, and ask you to look deeply at everything you own and find the emotions they evoke within you. Both these systems are excellent and do work with certain people. However, I do have many clients who insist every single thing they own sparks joy and that is the reason they are holding on to their possessions. I also have some clients (especially the older ones) who feel offended when I talk to them about death cleaning, even though it is a perfectly sensible method.
This led me to search for a more inclusive and flexible system – one that could truly work for each and every individual no matter how logical or spiritual, no matter which background or culture they have. One that takes into account the individual’s differences in fact, and customises the programme based on their personal needs, wants and lifestyle. I call it ‘Cleanage.’ Now the word ‘Cleanage,’ is probably new to you, as I coined it myself only recently, but I hope that it will remain in your repertoire of words and you will think about it and speak of it often.
This word is a combination of two words, CLEAN and AGE.
Firstly, let’s discuss the former part – to clean. Cleaning is more than just the wiping of a surface. It’s more than putting things in a neat fashion but then never finding it when you need it. If I were to define it, I would say that a clean home is a home that basically functions at its maximum efficiency, with the minimum amount of effort. Efficiency here means that all the items in the home are necessary, useful or otherwise wanted by at least one household member, and are all situated accessibly. And the effort put in should include the use of cleaning routines by the members of the household. Yet one of the biggest problems we face getting our routines formulated is that we have too many things lying around. Now does this mean we have too many belongings? Or does it mean we haven’t put them away? Why haven’t they been put away? Is it because you haven’t gotten around to it? Or you have no idea where to put it? If you want to go with the belief that you have too many belongings, then how many is too many, how much is too much?
The reason why most people feel that no matter how much they clean, their home never reaches that state of wanted or expected cleanliness is because they have not properly done their initial cleaning. So, the idea of cleaning is two fold. Firstly, the space has to be neat and tidy. Secondly, to spend only as much time and energy as absolutely necessary to achieve this degree of order. Initial cleaning involves decluttering items as well as finding suitable homes for each item as well. Decluttering is doing away with things you do not need. We know that in general terms, a cluttered space is usually an untidy or messy space. If a space is neat, regardless of how many things we have in that area, it is not defined as cluttered, but think about this. How much effort went into tidying the space? How many hours and organisation tools did it take to achieve the semblance of neatness? Is it difficult to get to things and then put them away? But decluttering is not limited to objects and possessions. It can and should include other facets of our lives including time, commitments and even our minds. In order to truly tidy our homes, we often have to take inventory of those other aspects of life as well.
If on the other hand, you feel you don’t have enough space to keep your belongings, then what is the solution? A bigger house or a better system? Or do you come back to questioning if you really need everything? Does it mean that if your house is smaller, you are allowed less items and if you are younger, you need to practise minimalism? Does everything that is not “fitting” into a cubbie in your home need to be ousted? Does having more than 15 pieces of clothing mean you are obligated to clean out? These are all questions, where usually answer is that you need to clean and organise. We all know that cleaning is something that needs doing at intervals. Some do it seasonally, some by zone, for others it is an ongoing task and of course there are those who don’t do it at all. “How do I clean and organise my home?” is of course the question I get asked most often. Each person, every family, different cultures would all have different needs and therefore different things. So then what is the universal guideline to cleaning and organisation?
My answer to that is in the second half of the word, Cleanage, which is -age. It’s pretty handy because the word ‘-age’ is a suffix to denote the noun ‘to clean,’ the word ‘age’ itself, and an acronym ‘A.G.E’ all rolled into one. ‘A.G.E.’ stands for the three main criteria for any one individual’s guide to decluttering their home. A is for Appropriate, G is for Goals and E is for the Essentials. In my system, this is the universal guideline. To determine what you need, you need to work with your age, your goals and the essentials for your lifestyle.
Let’s start with Appropriate. Appropriate can mean anything relating to gender, age, status etc. Gender applies to the gender you relate to. Age itself is just a number, and here is broadly defined as the stage of life you are currently in. For example, I am 53, and well established as a counsellor and home organiser, so I don’t need to hang on to my law books even though that was my first degree. For those of you who have watched my Cleanage video of my Dad’s study, you would have seen me donate all the unused business logs and journals because at 80, the likeliness of his starting or even participating in business is minimal. Another situation is if you are menopausal, you should consider letting go of your maternity clothes. I am sure you get the picture.
Then, you need to consider Goals. Goals can be time related, focus related and topic related but not necessarily exclusive to any one. Before getting into a detailed decluttering, it is a good idea to think of your goals related to all facets of your life including Personal (Marriage, Family & Friends etc.), Career, Finance, Spirituality, Health & Fitness and Home. If in 6 months, you will have completed a course in Spanish, then keeping the Spanish storybooks is a perfectly reasonable decision. Surprisingly sometimes, one of the objectives or steps towards achieving your goals maybe to simplify your home life in order to spending less time organising and cleaning.
And lastly, the Essentials. The essentials are requirements based on your lifestyle. These are literally your needs or tools. If you spend a great deal of time cooking, having many (within reason of course) pots and pans is understandable. And so forth. Paints for an artist, lighting for a photographer and books for young children are essentials. A range of winter jackets for someone in a tropical climate is not an essential.
These are simple examples to help you create your own checklist of what you need, want and are required to let go off.
So, create that checklist and reference it as you go through your things to help you through your decluttering.
I promise you, Cleanage will take your home to the next level of productivity and organisation.
Let me know your thoughts and if you need help, feel free to e-mail me.