The Washington Post
Podcaster and author Allie Casazza on decluttering your life
Allie Casazza, author of “Declutter Like a Mother” and host of “The Purpose Show” podcast, joined staff writer Jura Koncius last week for our Home Front online chat. Here is an edited excerpt.
Q: Where is the best place to start decluttering?
A: Your bathroom. It’s such an easy yes or no area to begin with if you’re overwhelmed. Typically, there aren’t sentimental items stored in the bathroom; it’s mostly old toiletries and broken makeup brushes. Starting somewhere a bit easier gives you fast results and a boost in momentum, which you can use to do the rest of your house. There’s nothing like instant gratification after decluttering the space you start and end your day in.
Q: How do you handle Legos?
A: I tried every suggestion on the Internet, plus a few others my husband, Brian, and I thought up ourselves. The result was storing them by color. I store ours with thin bins in storage furniture that I purchased at Ikea. You can find great storage solutions for Legos online with a simple search.
Q: I gained some weight and my clothes don’t fit. I’m going back to the office and am trying to decide whether I should get a new work wardrobe, hold on to these clothes or something in between. Advice?
A: At every stage of life, your body is beautiful and deserves to be supported by your clothes. If you’re feeling as if you want to bring in some movement and foods that tend to cause a shift in your body so that the clothes may fit again, go ahead and keep them. Store them somewhere that’s out of the way, and purchase a few staples to wear to work in the meantime. If you feel good where you’re at, let the clothes go and start fresh.
Q: How do you simplify your holiday decor?
A: It’s all about choosing what is worth the storage space to you. Don’t just hold on to pieces of holiday decor because you have them. Keep your favorites, the ones you think are beautiful and the ones worth keeping.
Q: My daughter is attached to all of her toys. How can I include her and get her excited about decluttering her room and toys? A: In my book, I talk about five types of kids based on their personality and what motivates them. It sounds as if your daughter may be the emotional and attached type, and those kids need more time and say in what stays and goes. Release your timeline and any need to control her room. Give her space and lead by example. Declutter your own items and let her see you doing that. Make simplicity a part of your family culture rather than making it a task that needs to be done immediately. Controlling, stressing and rushing cause kids like this a lot of anxiety and won’t get you to your ultimate goal.
Q: I’ve decluttered so much already, but there’s always stuff everywhere, and there’s not much else I can get rid of. Should I organize better or get the kids to help?
A: We have to recognize the difference between clutter and mess. Clutter contains pieces that aren’t needed, and messes are made of items you love and use regularly that are left out. If it’s clutter, make decisions and get items out of the way. If it’s a mess, create rhythms for throughout the day to keep everything tidy, and create storage where pieces collect. You can involve your children in this. For example, items that belong upstairs in our house would always collect on or by the stairs. I bought a pretty basket and placed it against the wall next to the stairs and started charging the kids $1 for every item left on the stairs. It took a couple of weeks for everyone to form the habit, but charging them helped.
Q: What’s your advice on gifts? My family buys the entire store for Christmas.
A: One of my favorite tips is to register each of your kids online for the holidays. When loved ones ask what they want for Christmas, you can give them the link to a specific list your kids filled with items they would actually love and use, which makes bringing in new items much lighter for you. Start a fund for a cool experience, and ask family members to contribute to that rather than buying more physical pieces for your family. Remember: When someone gives you or your family a gift, you are not under any obligation to keep it. It’s your house, and you’re the one who has to maintain everything in it. If it’s not loved or used after the holidays, pass it on to someone else.
Q: What are your best tips for dealing with papers that children bring home from school?
A: Get yourself a physical “inbox,” a magazine bin or folder of some kind. Every time you check the mail or the kids bring home paperwork, it goes in your physical inbox. Set a reminder in your phone or on your calendar to check the inbox regularly. I do mine every Friday after lunch, but you can do it more often or whenever is good for you. Make decisions as you sort through the inbox. Put the school event in your calendar, RSVP to the party, order the canned food your child needs for the charity event, etc. Throw away the paper once it’s handled. If it’s something that can’t be handled immediately, keep it in the inbox until it’s done. Make sure you get the ball rolling first, though; send the email that needs to be sent or set a reminder in your phone to do whatever the next step is.
Q: How do I cut down on children’s clothes?
A: It’s common for parents to keep too much. Honestly, most of the people I work with end up decluttering at least half of their kids’ wardrobes, and they have never shared that they have regretted it. It’s going to cut down on laundry if kids have less to wear, which will save you time, and that’s a huge win. Make decisions and ask: Do they wear this regularly? Do they need it? Do they have anything similar that’s better? Is it torn or damaged? Is it their favorite? Cut down on visual clutter by storing out-of-season clothing in bins under the bed or in another part of the house.
Q: My junk drawer is overwhelming. What’s the best system?
A: Ditch the idea of having a junk drawer and think of it as a utility drawer. Once you decide on what should go in there, get simple trays to separate items, and keep everything easy to find. I’m not a fan of having a drawer that is for shoving and stuffing random items.
Q: How do I get my husband on SEE HOME CHAT ON