How to recycle and dispose of electronics in the Netherlands?

In the third part of my blog series on recycling and disposal in the Netherlands, we’ll have a look at one of the trickiest topics. ELECTRONICS!

As a professional organizer, I see an incredible amount of cables, batteries, lights, and electronic gadgets. Usually, it lies in one big box: dusty, entangled and forgotten. With the great speed technology is evolving nowadays, we seem to have a hard time catching up with the disposal of our old stuff.

Confused about what cable belongs to which gadget, we are afraid to throw away any of them. “Maybe I could use it/ I might need it” or “I will ask my husband” are the common answers for electronic clutter. Frankly, most of those cables never get used.

“I just don’t have the heart to throw it into a bin”

The getting-rid-of part gets tricky as most people’s instinct is to NOT throw away those cables and gadgets to a normal bin. And I sense that that is actually the number one reason for electrical clutter in our households. Luckily, you do have some nice and eco-friendlier options!

How to dispose of electronics in the Netherlands?

SELLING

Are your devices in working condition, and you think you can get worthwhile money for them? The value of old electronics is often a concern; hence I would encourage you to do some research. Check Marktplaats, FB, eBay, or any other platform where you wish to sell. Consider the condition of your offered piece and compare it with the same/similar products and their sold prices.

Feeling like you might make money on some vintage treasures? There are some impressive sums offered for old and original Apple products. For example, the original unopened 2007 iPhone model can be worth thousands of dollars (check the article)! The same might go for old pre-Millenial Apple computers. Of course, everything needs to be in working condition, so if you think of making money on vintage electronics, take them out of that dusty box and start researching.

APPLE TRADE-IN

As the company aims towards a more sustainable business model, Apple is offering a trade-in program. Owners of Apple products are encouraged to dispose of their old gadgets with the company itself to be refurbished or reused in parts for future products. The incentive is a credit for any new device you wish to buy. Check the trade-in prices on their web to see how much money you can save.

Since I am an Apple user, I only have experience with this type of trade-in. Do you wish to contribute to this article with other brands’ trade-in programs? I am more than happy to update this post!

DONATING

If selling isn’t worth your time, but you feel sad to throw away your old but functioning device, you can always donate it to Kringloopwinkels (=second-hand stores). Here’s a list of (presumably) all the kringloopwinkels in the Netherlands. Search for the one nearby your place, and drop your donations off at the back of the store. It couldn’t be simpler! Make sure that your device is functioning, complete, and clean.

ELECTRONIC RECYCLING

Finally, we’re coming to the point of responsibly disposing of the broken stuff that doesn’t make it to the categories above. So, where are those electronic bins?

1. In most shops such as AH, Jumbo, or Plus, there will be a bin for empty batteries and old lightbulbs. Most times, it will be by the entrance; sometimes, it is located next to a bottle return point.

2. For small electronic devices, go to your local hardware shop. Gamma, Karwei, or Praxis have proper recycling bins by their entrance to drop off cables, cameras, phones, LED lights, other lightbulbs, and batteries.

3. If you have large electronics such as TVs, computers, stereos, etc., you’ll have to make a trip to your local milleauplein. Your town hall website should have an ecology/waste disposal section and direct you to their recycling center/milleauplein.

RECYCLING COMPANIES

Many companies take care of the digital data shredding before disposing of your computers and laptops. Such companies are perfect if you have larger quantities and want to make sure all your data are destroyed before deciding to pass your devices into the re-cycle. Google “computer recycling + your local area,” and you will get plenty of companies competing over your device.

Lucie Krobova
Founder of Your SPACE by Lucie
Professional Organizer
Amsterdam, NL


Are you postponing decluttering because you don’t know where to start or how to go about it? Contact me for online guidance, and I will bring structure and accountability to your project!

For residents of Amsterdam and its
surroundings, you can hire me for in-person decluttering and organizing!

How to recycle and dispose of books in the Netherlands?

In my last blog post, I mentioned doing a whole series of articles on recycling and re-using stuff in the Netherlands. I encourage homeowners to declutter responsibly, hence I am trying my best to answering your question

“How to get rid of all of this stuff without contributing to landfills?

Today we’re going to have a look at books. As a professional organizer, I am hearing some of my clients say, “I just don’t have the heart to throw away books into a bin.” Well, I don’t have the heart either, and the great news is that you don’t have to! So let’s have a look at alternatives…

“MINIBIEBS” FOR DUTCH AND ENGLISH TITLES

Luckily for us, the Dutch are great at encouraging people to re-use books and get second-hand ones. If you live here, you couldn’t have missed all the mini-libraries on the streets. They are called a “minibieb” (from the Dutch word for library = de bibliotheek). It’s not exactly a library per se, rather a place where you bring your books if you no longer want them, with the option of taking something new. The good thing is that in the more international cities, you’ll find titles both in Dutch and English.

So if you do have any books in these languages, just bring them there! Here is a great website that has a locator of many mini-libraries. Type your postcode, your street name, or allow to track your location. The map is full of minibiebs, but if you find one that’s missing on the web, you can add it (preferably with a photo) and contribute to the website.

You can also check with your local school to see if they have a similar going system. I know that the International School Haarlem has a minibieb at the upper primary campus just at the entrance (check if it’s still available due to the covid measurements).

OTHER LANGUAGES BOOKS

If you own and wish to declutter books in the less common languages, minibieb might not be the best home. *Although that depends a lot on the neighborhood. I’ve seen some places with German, Spanish, or Turkish books, so check first, and use your common sense.

What I advise is to turn to your mother tongue community on FB (or elsewhere). I am a part of at least five FB groups from the Czech and Slovakian nationalities, so I bet everyone will find some of their mother tongue groups there. Giving away your books to the same language community will higher the chances of them reading your books.

Of course, if you have friends, schools, or clubs that speak your language, FB isn’t your only option. 😉

SELL YOUR BOOKS

Just as with the clothing, you might want to consider the pros and cons of selling. How much are you going to earn vs. the time and energy you’re going to spend dealing with the sale. Whichever platform you want to choose, check for how much books are sold there. And I am saying sold, not offered! Make sure that when putting a price, you maximize your sale change and minimize the rude comments and insults for a “too expensive” offer.

I’ve seen many people selling books on FB or Marktplaats for friendly prices around 1-5€/book. Usually, it makes sense to offer a selection of books with the possibility of selling all at once to minimize your effort. You may sell a series ( like HP, LOTR, etc…), books of the same author, genre, or age group/ (reading level for kids). It’s going to be much easier to deal with 1 buyer and get rid of 7 books rather than 7 buyers selling 7 books. Time efficiency is everything!

Another alternative to selling your books is The Book Exchange – a second-hand bookshop focused on English literature and social sciences. They’re based in Amsterdam center and happy to buy books from people. So if you have a big and valuable collection of books, and don’t want to waste it on the internet hassle, get in touch with them. You can either bring your books in person or send them a picture first. After reviewing which titles they need, they’ll send you an offer.
I don’t have any personal experience with this shop. However, it sounds and looks wonderful as far as their website tells. I’d welcome to hear your experiences to add to this article if you have any comments to share 🙂

ANTIQUE BOOKS

I am happy I recently run into a FB post of someone asking about selling valuable antique books. The Netherlands is full of antique places and bookshops, so I can imagine the changes are quite high to sell something. I have no personal experience with antique books so far, but after researching the options for Amsterdammers, Antonbooks.com is buying old and rare books in good condition. Then they re-sell it online, shipping these rarities worldwide (with brilliant Google reviews).

If you have any personal experience with selling antique books (or other antiques), please comment below or message me to expand our common well of knowledge together.

MAGAZINES

Paper recycling will be obviously the simplest way to get rid of magazines, and yes, even if it has a slightly glossy cover, it’s said to be fine for recycling. (What you can not recycle in the paper container is photo paper, but magazine covers are good to go).

Don’t you have the heart to throw your magazines away? Could they be used by another pair of eyes? Sure! But first, let’s review what kind of magazine you have…

If you subscribe to the “latest news and gossips” kind of magazine, let’s face it. By the time you’d try passing it on, it’s mostly outdated. Try offering it to a friend or a neighbor, and if you’re not successful there, part with it by the recycling bin.

However, magazines with more “durable” information, interesting content, and beautiful images can have a second life! Many people still appreciate a year-old National Geographic, Vogue, House & Garden, and similar.

Here are few ideas on how to pass it on:
Kringloop – check with your local second-hand store if they have a magazine section because many of them do!
Waiting Rooms – when visiting a dentist, doctor, or waiting for a haircut, keep your eyes open for the collection of magazines lying around…start a conversation with the people at the desk and ask them if they’d be interested to get few of your latest numbers.
Shelters – there are many shelters in the Netherlands for victims of domestic abuse, refugees, or homeless people. If you know any of these, and have some Dutch inspiring magazines, try giving them away in there.
(Art) Schools – magazines with beautiful pictures are the best source of collage making, or fun colourful art. If you have magazines with child-appropriate content, ask your school whether they’re interested to take in some of your pieces as their crafts materials.

Lucie Krobova
Founder of Your SPACE by Lucie
Professional Organizer
Amsterdam, NL


Are you postponing decluttering because you don’t know where to start or how to go about it? Contact me for online guidance, and I will bring structure and accountability to your project!

For residents of Amsterdam and its
surroundings, you can hire me for in-person decluttering and organizing!

How to recycle and dispose of clothing in The Netherlands?

Perhaps you figured out that decluttering your house before any big spring cleaning is a good idea. It’s awesome if you feel the determination to clear out your life a little bit. But have you thought your plan all the way through, or is there still this pending question:

“How do I get rid of all of this stuff without contributing to landfills?”

Declutter with responsibility. Ecological awareness is often high on the list for us living in the Netherlands and hence a common reason for hesitation regarding decluttering.

Photo by EVG Culture from Pexels

As a professional, I try my best to give items a second life. And the good news is, there’re just so many other options besides landfils!

I’ve been searching for alternative options nearby Amsterdam and Haarlem and will cover my findings in this and many other following articles.

This is only the first part of my blog series, “How to recycle in the Netherlands.” I will be covering books, electronics, toys, and many other topics in the coming weeks.

(If you’re from the rest of the Netherlands, you can still find beneficial information universal to the NL).

REUSE AND RECYCLE

Reuse and recycle companies are my favorite option for giving your wardrobe a new life. And your stuff doesn’t necessarily need to be in great condition! Strange? Keep reading 😉

There’re clothing containers all over Amsterdam (except the very center around Dam Square and de Wallen) from sympany.nl. I just love how accessible and simple they made things for any busy declutterer. Simply enter your postcode on their website, and you get a map of all their containers. They’re big and green, and once you start paying attention, you’ll see them everywhere!

Make sure to protect your donation from damp and dirt by securing it in a tied bin bag. Sympany unpacks your donation and decides what’s sellable and what isn’t. They’ll sell your clothing in second-hand shops and pour their earnings back to the company to fuel their bigger goal.

The goal is textile sustainability and upcycling. Even if you have damaged clothing, it can still be used and recycled into a raw textile material! It can further serve as heat or sound insulation and carry on its reincarnation in another form. So add your ripped jeans and shirts in without a worry. The only condition is cleanliness.

If you wish to get rid of your jewelry, shoes, bedsheets, or other textiles, Sympany takes everything textile-related such as curtains or even teddy-bears!

For Haarlemmers, there are no Sympany containers as the town hall has its own textile recycling system. To find where’s your nearest container, fill in your postcode on this website. Shoes, curtains, bedsheets, and most other textiles are also allowed in. However, don’t waste your trip going there with pillows and duvets as they don’t take these.

In case you’re outside of the Amsterdam and Haarlem area, don’t worry. There’s another company doing their best in providing residents of the Netherlands with textile containers. Visit Reshare.nl to find a nearby container if you live in Den Haag, Rotterdam, or other Dutch cities. Because I focus on the Amsterdam area, I can’t tell exactly what’s happening with the clothing, but I am sure you can find out! Please, let me know if you do.

KID’S CLOTHING

Kid’s clothing is often slightly harder to get rid of as there’s so much emotion connected to it. Besides, kids grow up so fast that most of their outgrown pieces are still in great shape.
I get to see a lot of stashed kiddie clothes around my client’s houses just because the parents are worried that it’s not going to find “the right home.”

I’d advise you to find a community of parents in your local area (usually on FB groups) and try giving it or selling it in there.

Tip: sell or donate things in bulk rather than as individual items. You’ll rarely earn back your effort by selling just single pieces! Bulk your clothing in small packages of the same size, gender, season, quality, and condition. Now it’s easier to put a nice round price on it. Make sure that when photographing the bundle, it’s still visible what items you’re selling and what’s the condition.

RESELL YOUR CLOTHING

For more expensive clothing that is just too hard to donate, you can try selling it on platforms designed for this purpose. There’re apps like Vinted.nl that will allow you to list your items fast and simple.

If you’re Amsterdammer and live nearby the Pijp, there’s a great shop, ReLoveExchange, that can re-sell any clothing that’s still in great shape. You can choose to get cash or store credit in exchange. They’re currently (March 2021) not accepting donations for the corona regulations and slow sales, but it’s worth keeping their web in your bookmarks for future opportunities.

If you own high-end designer items in pristine condition, you might be interested in selling your items on Lampoo.com. A company for luxurious pre-loved items operating from Italy and buying in from the whole of EU.

SELL REALISTICALLY

I know it can be hard to part with things while not getting anything back (right…except for more space and peace of mind!). Thus I see people trying to sell as many things as possible without a more holistic look. So let me remind you something!

How important is it to really earn few euros versus spending time with your family, enjoying your free time, or doing some extra work? Everyone needs to ask themselves whether it’s actually worth it in their unique life circumstances. I am in no way trying to discourage you from selling things, but you should consider few things:

“How much extra time do you have in your day?
What obligations you have to fulfill daily?
What’s your financial situation (is it going to make a difference?)?
How valuable is the item you’re selling (look at the second-hand price, not the original one!)
How much time does it take to take care of the selling process from A-Z?”

The answer will be unique to each one of us. If you have the time, the energy, and the item you wish to sell is valuable enough to make a difference in your bank account, go for it!

For more discussion on this topic, watch my older video and engage in the comments below.

Lucie Krobova
Founder of Your SPACE by Lucie
Professional Organizer
Amsterdam, NL


Are you postponing decluttering because you don’t know where to start or how to go about it? Contact me for online guidance, and I will bring structure and accountability to your project!

For residents of Amsterdam and its
surroundings, you can hire me for in-person decluttering and organizing!

REDFIN’s blog tips to organize your winter gear

I’ve been asked to contribute to Redfin.com/blog regarding storage tips for winter gear. Just appeared in the article this week, and excited to share it with you! I love to see that the article is written based on tips not only from professional organizers but also from ski resort owners, gear producers, etc…

logo taken from www.redfin.com/blog

Go straight to the SOURCE or read the article below…


Whether you’re in Hillburn or Portland, winter weather brings fun outdoor activities like skiing, snowboarding and sledding but what follows is an abundance of wet winter gear that can oftentimes be too much to store. If your winter gear storage is lacking this season take an idea from one of these expert tips to help optimize your winter gear storage.

Don’t underestimate the value of a bonus ski room

Property owners located near ski resorts are at a major advantage when they include a ski room as an amenity. This can be a separate small room dedicated entirely to the storage of ski boots, sports apparel, and other gear, equipped with racks, dryers, and hooks. Another feature could be a stable base for waxing cross-country skis. Where possible, this ski room would have direct access from the garage or the outdoors to keep the wet mess far from the kitchen table! And while we’re at it, there’s no harm done in decorating and bringing in a cozy ambiance with design touches (like retro and vintage equipment!). – Cuddlynest

Take advantage of adjustable shelving

Create shelves in the closet you store your ski gear that fit the height of the ski bag you use so that each person has a separate space for their bag.  Use adjustable shelving so they can be moved with the change of gear and bag sizes.  During an off-season, your individual bags are in place, and with them on shelves, you can optimize the storage from the ceiling down. – Rocky Mountain Resort Management

Incorporate locker space

Storing winter gear usually boils down (pun intended) to two things. Securing the gear and organizing your space! We love lockers as a simple and secure way to store your items without causing too much clutter. Some gear like large jackets and pants don’t fold well and an all-metal locker can be just the trick for hanging these items! – Lockers Unlimited

A great space/time-saving trick for homeowners in winter climates is to dedicate a locker-sized space for winter gear to each family member. Preferably, in the mud/gear room. Organize your locker like this. At the very top is a small cubby where all the headwear and your gloves are kept. This includes items such as a beanie, gator, facemask, gloves, goggles, etc. Mount a hook underneath the cubby to the wall. Hang your snow pants and coat on the hook. Put your snow boots underneath your snow pants. After every adventure put your winter gear back in this way and this will save a huge amount of time, especially for families with young ones. Not only will your gear room be tidy and inviting, but you will also no longer spend 10 minutes looking for a missing boot or glove your kiddos have lost! – Mountain Luxury Lodging

winter trees (photo supplied by redfin.com)

Don’t sacrifice your ski boots (or feet) in the name of optimization

Never, ever, ever store your ski boots in your garage, attic, or shed. You’re going to want your boots toasty warm, or at least at room temp when you wear them in the winter, so don’t store them someplace that’s unheated. And if you’ve had your boots stretched out to customize them to your feet, the heat in your garage, attic, and shed during the summer can alter the shape of your boots. Regardless of the season, you don’t want a varmint to take up residence in your spendy ski boots. – Ski Idaho

Keep it dry

Upstate New York is home to some of the most loved winter sports.  Storing winter sports gear in upright positions and spaced appropriately in a dry location is highly recommended by winter sports professionals.  Many of our vacation rental homeowners have created custom spaces to store cold-weather items for their guests. Designated areas in a garage or mudroom that includes storage bins, wall racks (monkey bars), shoe racks for sports boots, and hooks specifically designed for winter sports equipment storage.   It’s a great way to optimize and organize your winter gear so that it’s dry and ready for the next day’s adventure. – New York Rental By Owner

Take “dead space” into consideration

Homeowners can maximize storage space for their winter gear by taking advantage of “dead space” in their garages or sheds by installing hooks, racks, and shelves wherever possible. Use vertical and overhead racks to organize and store oversized items, including hockey sticks, snowboards, and skis. Use sturdy plastic bins to store boots, repair kits, and camping gear. Extra shelves are always useful for storing everything from paint, cleaning supplies, tools, and bulk items, including paper towels and toilet paper. – Box & Co

Sell what you don’t use

Most people are tempted to store their kids’ outgrown sports gear because they still have a lot of use left in them. If there are no younger children to “grow into them,” it makes no sense to store them for sale when they are back in season. Don’t wait. Sell now! People looking to buy used equipment don’t want outdated gear; they want the latest technology. If you want to be a successful seller, post your sports gear now while it is still marketable. Go online to craigslist, eBay, or Facebook Marketplace; you can also sell your equipment to specialty stores like Play It Again Sports, to a local consignment shop, or at a yard sale. – Transitions Liquidation

Kids playing in snow (photo supplied by redfin.com)

Get creative with your organization

One of the most creative, clever, and inexpensive options I have seen for property owners to organize an entryway for winter gear is with upcycling old paint cans. This option can provide an artistic touch to any entryway. Property owners can drill a gallon or pint-size paint can into a symmetrical pattern along a wall to provide an excellent source of storage for hats and gloves, as well as to hang coats and scarves. – Rendezvous Mountain Rentals

Make use of those big suitcases you have in the attic or the storage room. Instead of letting them sit empty and waiting for their once-a-year big vacation opportunity, they can serve you as great storage for those rarely used items. Especially with our current pandemic situation, let’s give them some purpose and fill them with ice-skates, snow boots, and all the bulky winter clothing. When your big travel moment does come, don’t panic, and simply empty their content into a huge bag to give the stuff a temporary home. – Your Space by Lucie

For smaller pieces of gear like ski or snowboard boots, place a shoe rack in an area that will help them dry out fast. A custom closet in a mudroom or entryway is a handy place to store snow pants and jackets so you can quickly grab the items and go. – Top Villas LLC

Prep your gear for storage

Before I store my snowboard away for the dry high desert months in Colorado, I remove the Bindings and Hardware and clean off the top sheet with soap and water. Then I wax the base, without scraping off the excess wax. Finally, I tune the edges. Nothing worse than reaching for your board when the snow starts falling and finding it in bad shape. – Surf Snow Promo

Originally published on Redfin

DECLUTTERING AND SELF-CONFRONTATION

In my last post, I talked about a strategy for decluttering. As mentioned, sometimes it’s pretty easy to declutter some old stuff. Sometimes we hold onto it for a sentimental reason. And sometimes it’s just impossibly difficult to let go – with no rational explanation.

Well… let me try giving you one. You feel regret that you’re not yet willing to face.

So you’re sitting there in the middle of your decluttering session trying to let go of this bag, book, or blender that you never use. You don’t really like that thing and it’s definitely not sentimental. But when I ask you to let go, you try to persuade me that you need to keep it. With a clear pity in your voice, you’re giving me reasoning like:

“It was just so expensive”
“But it is so pretty”
“I have worn it only once”
“I haven’t used it ever since I bought it”

I feel you. What you’re probably trying to say is, that you kind of regret this purchase although it’s hard to roll that off of your tongue. I don’t judge you. But let me shine some objectivity to the situation that we all experience.

The “not wearing it enough” prevents us from letting it go in hope that one day we’ll start liking it. All we wish for is a justification for that purchase. We’ll keep it in promise, that we’ll force ourselves to wear it, even though it just doesn’t feel right. So we set ourselves to fail our promise or spend an uncomfortable day wearing something out of obligation. All the complications just to feel better about the ownership of that thing.

The same goes for the “pretty”. We’re feeling a bit bad that this pretty thing is sitting unused in our home for so long. We will hold onto it so the one-day-in-the-future, that thing can be appreciated and used. What we’re forgetting is, that by letting it go and passing it on, it could have its moments of shine much earlier than we’re willing to grant to it.

The “expensive” is often the reason number one for keeping things. We have paid so much money for this, and now it’s to be given away for free? Well, that’s unfair, isn’t it? However, if we could get all the money back, we’d happily get rid of it. But it’s hard to sell things for the same value, not even talking about finding the time to sell stuff at all. Yes, it was a bad buy for its price and its uselessness. But we will rather let this thing clutter our house forever than giving it away for cheap. The true reason for keeping it is the “unfairness” of the whole situation…which is, of course, not improving our financial situation, but somehow the stubborn decision makes us feel better.

Whatever the reasoning, in short, we wish we had found the return receipt before it was too late.

Are you recognizing yourself in those sentences?
Does this feeling strike a chord with you?
Then you should continue reading…

it’s only one moment of confrontation


First of all, holding onto something for the fact that you don’t want to feel guilt is a recipe for clutter. The ignorance of the problem also allows for the mistake to be repeated. And that doesn’t contribute to your emotional wellbeing either so you might as well choose the first confronting option.

When facing our mistakes and confronting the guilt feeling, we become more aware of our doings. And of course, it’s only with awareness that we can change things.

Going through the confronting moment, you’re not only decluttering the object itself but also the accompanying feeling of regret. Once you get over this “painful” moment, you can finally let go fully and (for the most part) forever.

Lastly, the whole denial thing doesn’t really work. Yes, by ignoring your bad purchase, you avoid direct self-confrontation. But the object is still there, silently cluttering not only your house but also your mind. You get a mild reminder of regret every time you come across it anyways. Or, you hide it deep down in your storage complaining, that you don’t have enough space in your home. In either case, the ignorance solution is not a sustainable one.

Confront yourself, let go of both the purchase and the regret, and remember this moment the next time you’re one-click away from another impulsive purchase! The whole point of this exercise is not to waste materials in the buy-throw away-repeat fashion, but to bring more mindfulness to your shopping habits and learn how to be more critical and more resourceful. I wish you good luck.

Lucie Krobova
Founder of Your SPACE by Lucie
Professional Organizer
Amsterdam, NL

WOULD YOU BUY THIS AGAIN?

Let’s talk decluttering strategies today. How do you declutter? What’s your method? Do you follow “Does it spark joy” from Marie Kondo, or think about the practical “Do I need it? Do I use it?” of the minimalism advocates? There seems to be no one method that works for everyone. And even the methods that do seem to work for you won’t work in all areas of your life/house.

That is why when people ask me what method I follow my usual reply is “none and all“. I find it important not to stay in the dogma of one approach, but to keep a flexible and intuitive approach based on listening.

However, there has been one question that seems to work for a good portion of my clients! And even though it won’t work with the sentimental category, it tends to answer both the practical and the aesthetical questions you might ponder.

“Am I buying it again?

To ask this question means to reverse the process of losing into the process of gaining. If you hate getting rid of stuff and love shopping, this might work especially for you.

Just as all the books recommend, we pull out everything from the area we’re decluttering. Why is that? Because it lets you have a fresh look at things! When you have your book on the shelf for ages, you won’t even see it. That’s how automatically it’s built into your environment. That’s why pulling it all out is a very important step (and a practical one as it allows you to dust off the unattended years).

Once all is out of its home, the fun part can start. I get you to imagine you’re in a shop. A clothes shop, a book shop, a cooking utensils shop…where everything has no label and you can buy as much as you want.

Go through the shop pile piece by piece and see for yourself which items you wish to re-buy because they’re handy, pretty, awesome, or something you always use. You don’t have to feel cruel for getting rid of the rest. Just the way you wouldn’t feel sad for the pieces you left behind in a usual shop. If you dispose of your decluttered stuff responsibly, it will get another life and perhaps become the very favorite piece of its new owner.

The magic of this approach lies in the fact that you’re doing a positive activity (=gaining) in the now. Basing your decisions on who you are now, what you like now, and where would you like to go in life from now. It lets you reset all previous hopes, ideas, plans, and identities and create a fresh base for your future steps.

This question eliminates the pieces which were part of your environment just because:

– Someone gave them to you (and you politely accepted it)
– You won them or got them for free (as a special present with your purchase, extra offer, loyalty reward, etc..)
– You used to pursue a certain identity, hobby, look, or career (and needed the accompanying stuff for that)
– You used to love it at the time of purchase (when it was fashionable)
– You were in a bad mood and needed a shopping fix (even though it was a bad purchase)
– You got tricked by an advertisement (yet the product is just not for you)
– You used to use it (in a different house, different country, different situation, …)

The sentimental category

As I said, this process doesn’t work for sentimental items because we hold onto them not because we like them for what they are, but because we keep them for what they represent. When you come across a sentimental object, just set it aside and come back to it after you go through your “shopping”.

For storing sentimentals, it’s important to realize their purpose. Are they just sentimental, or do they still serve a practical function? If they can be both sentimental and functional, that’s wonderful! However, that doesn’t happen all the time so make sure if they are purely sentimental, they’re not in a way of your practical life, but get displayed or stored in their appropriate manner – with care.

Watch my video to have a better idea on separating sentimentals from the rest of your stuff.
The “can’t get rid of it” category

It might happen, that with some objects that you don’t want to re-buy, you’ll still feel like you want to keep them. You don’t like it, you don’t use it, it’s not sentimental. But there’s still something pulling you back from letting go.

Here we come to the realization, that decluttering is an emotional and mentally confronting process as well. For now, I am just going to tell you, that the most probable reason you keep this piece is GUILT. Try investigating a bit deeper into your reasoning and see if you can find that familiar feeling within.

I wish to keep this article short and on point. Hence I will end it right here, and invite you to read on guilt and self-confrontation in my next blog post coming out in two weeks’ time.

CATEGORIZATION GOES FIRST

It is January, and most of Europe is yet on another strict lockdown. As household owners, we seem to be divided, depending on our life and family situation, into two basic groups (and much more, but for this article, let’s keep it simple).

The ones who have no time to spare as their kids are home and need to be given both education and attention. While household still needs to be run and work needs to get done.

The other group finds themselves with some extra time, on the other hand. Spending more or most time at home and without kids, I have seen people picking up new hobbies, starting on house projects, or reading more books…and perhaps watching Netflix.

If you belong to the first group, save your ambitions. You are already doing enough now, so safe your house organization for another time. However, if you do have 10mins left in your day and desperately want to lessen the chaos around, watch this simple video. It comes from the time I was helping a family to homeschool myself and could feel the load of the combined environment (household + office + school). If you don’t want to lose this article about decluttering, save my blog to your bookmarks, or subscribe to my newsletter for monthly tips. And come back to it when you have a bit more time.

If you belong to the second group, however, and want to spend your extra time on decluttering and organizing your house, you’re on the right page. This article is about how to start decluttering and not get lost in the process. The secret lies in good preparation: Categorize first!

why should you categorize first?

Just as Marie Kondo suggests, decluttering based on categories is more efficient and I usually go with that strategy as well. In her book ‘The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying Up’ she invites to declutter in categories as opposed to rooms. It’s because many times you have the same stuff in multiple places in your house and while you declutter and organize one room/section, you might need to reorganize it again, as you find more of the same stuff elsewhere in your house later on.

I would add, that it is also important for time efficiency and energy preservation, as well as for having a clear plan of what you are doing. I am writing more on this below.

Her 5 famous categories are clothes, books, papers, komono (miscellaneous), and sentimental items. Those categories are a good starting point, however, they’re quite brought and I like to further subdivide most of it.

So first thing first, think about what categories you’re dealing with in your process! Good preparation is the most important aspect of following your project through without getting lost. And for that reason, you might hire a professional organizer who will bring that plan of execution to your project and make sure you don’t derail. If you wish to do it on your own, take some time aside to plan your sessions. If you don’t have much free time, schedule which categories you do and when.

how to categorize?

If you want to set on a whole-house decluttering project, clothing and textiles are usually a good way to start, as they are more clearly distinguished. I often follow with books, bathroom, and kitchen. For the rest, it tends to be harder as the categories collide, overlap, and take over different spaces in the house (and I will write another article about that complexity later).

But even if you set to declutter and organize only one room, have a clear category as a starting point. Because starting from a corner will quickly exhaust you as you try to combine two different tasks: Categorizing and decluttering at the same time (don’t even think about organizing at this point!). So for example, the “everything” room (formerly named as a guest room) will probably have some electronics, some papers, lots of memories, outdoor equipment, old clothes, etc. Get clear on the categories you are dealing with and declutter them one by one. Either day by day, or hour by hour – depending on your situation, your time, and your stamina.

4 benefits of categorizing before decluttering

1)Time-saving
Just as mentioned in the video, once you proceed to the actual decluttering after you have categorized, there’s a simple task for you. Declutter. You don’t need to put any energy switching your focus from different unrelated objects (and where do these objects belong in my life). You can simply make the decisions to keep it or to let it go. Decluttering is a draining process and you want to make it as easy as possible for yourself. Approach each pile one by one and just get those decisions done.

2) Single focus
Especially for those who are more likely to get distracted (like ADHD for example) by the interesting objects one finds, it’s helpful to make your tasks smaller and simpler.
Tasks like “Now I am doing just one thing, collecting all the papers in this room to one pile”. When you do get distracted, you still had that one task to come back to and to complete instead of coming to a more complex categorize/declutter/organize project. “Right, I was just collecting all the papers to one pile”. Such tasks can be as short as 10 minutes.

3) End procrastination
Tacking a mountain is an overwhelming task. And that is exactly how it might feel if you approach your project as one big thing. The bigger and more overwhelming projects feel, the less likely they will get done. Especially if there’s no urgency to them (like, you can live like this for another year)! Divide your project into chunks of categories and you will find out it’ s not as bad as you thought.

4) Double check-in
This whole process means, that you’ll most likely touch some objects more times. Once when categorizing, once when decluttering, and once again when organizing. Even though this might seem as a waste of time, touching things multiple times has its benefits. First of all, you’ll remember you actually own this thing! And secondly, it can help you with your decision making when decluttering.

When we come across something we haven’t seen for a long time or we even forgot we own it, it might jump out as a surprise and trigger an emotional reaction. Perhaps a nostalgia or curiosity. At such point, we might not be ready to let that item go. However, once we acknowledge that it’s there, and get used to that fact (as we carry on categorizing), its existence won’t be such a surprise once we come to declutter it. That momentarily emotion we felt the first time we touched that object might be gone and we can rely better on our final decision to keep it or to leave it.

WHAT’S STEALING YOUR FOCUS?

Through many years of experimenting with meditation, mindfulness, and conscious living, I couldn’t not notice how busy our mind is. And every external input stirs it over and over again (that’s why when beginning with a meditation practice you have your eyes closed to eliminate distractions- and yet it will jump onto sounds, smells, sensations, etc.)

After studying somatics and the connection our body-mind has to our environment through the nervous system, I started noticing how much are we actually affected by what’s around us. The need for safety is so primal, that it never stops. And so we take in all the sensory cues available to determine how we feel about our environment (which then impacts the body reaction in terms of holding, tension, posture, etc.).

Bringing it back to the practical – creating a well-intentioned and safe environment is crucial for living and achieving what you want! I am gonna give you two examples of how your environment supports your productivity and efficiency through the lens of time and emotion.

Eliminating distractions supports your focus which in turn uses your time more efficiently. It always takes time to refocus! So if you wonder where has your time gone, it’s a good practice to look at where has your focus gone as well. Have you been distracted by frustration? Memory? Or another to-do?

If your intention and action go hand in hand, you achieve flow. On the contrary, if your action is work, yet your intention is to fix your environment, your flow is hindered and you get less done (a very simplified version of a long rant about this fascinating topic).

Now with emotions, it’s even more complex. Feeling good and safe is essential for creativity and productivity. And trust me, everything that’s around you doesn’t come unnoticed.

If you surround yourself with clutter that has no longer a purpose, your “monkey mind” will get reminded of all the underlying stories that go with it. The postponed decisions, the yet to-dos, the rather forgotten impulsive buys, and so on… And it doesn’t even have to be a clutter. Sometimes we might be surrounding ourselves with items we used to like, while later on coming to realize this stuff stirs emotions such as nostalgia or sadness.

By creating a supportive environment, we can regulate the emotional baseline we start our day with. So make sure, that what you have in your environment brings your emotional baseline up rather than down. Surround yourself with inspiration, happy memories, warmth, etc. Try having fewer to-dos, fewer ambitions, and fewer items stirring shame (the common emotion I encounter as a reason for holding onto unneeded stuff).

To expand this topic, I am adding my old video I created to play around with this concept.

So what can you do now? Bring your attention to what’s around you! I know, it’s been there for so long, that you don’t even notice it anymore (which is another brain phenomenon that I am going to discuss later), yet it’s still there and it’s being subconsciously processed.

Stay with your items in full awareness and inquire into how they make you feel. Is it a feeling of urgency to act, of shame, procrastination…? Know that this feeling is subconsciously there for as long as the item stays in your line of vision.

Act! Take the time to deal with the items that distract you or bring you down and watch whether you feel lighter, and gained some extra time to do the things you love. If you feel stuck and can’t seem to take the action needed, talk to a professional organizer.

Your SPACE by Lucie logo

P.S. To create this post, I have drawn from knowledge accumulated over years of inquiring and studying these topics. There’re no particular links or sources to refer to. Although if you’re curious, message me and we can discuss this topic and its sources deeper.

CREATE A SUPPORTIVE ENVIRONMENT FOR THE TIMES SPENT AT HOME

Here’s a video I made back in March when the first wave of the pandemic hit the Netherlands. And now, again, we’re strongly advised to work from home, eat from home, and socialize (on small scale) at home. Perhaps it’s a good time to repost this video, in case you missed it before…

With more time spent closed at home, it’s more critical than ever to create an environment that’s supportive: Spacious, helpful, and filled with the objects you love, yet still fit for a home-based work routine.

Find my organizing tips below, and watch this video for a visual demonstration:

Pick a room that’s the most painful, or most important to remake and follow these simple tips on how to re-organize your home space in few minutes:

HORIZONTAL SPACES – How many trinkets, sentimental objects, or doesn’t-live-here stuff do you regularly accumulate on shelves, window sills, tables, and counters? Can you cut down to just a few consciously picked objects? Such change will make your cleaning and dusting much faster, plus having less stuff in your line of vision will allow more space and less distraction in your mental space.

OUTDATED STUFF – Do you have any expired vouchers, outdated to-do notes, or old projects lying around? Have a fresh look at what’s in your environment and don’t burden yourself with anything that’s not relevant anymore! It’s also a good opportunity to question some projects you wanted to start or finish…does it take more than it gives? Perhaps it’s time to drop that ambition if you feel overwhelmed and put it away for the time being.

HIDE YOUR TREASURES FOR JOYFUL REMINDER – In order to create less distracting and more focused space, you might want to consider removing some cards, photos, or even paintings from your walls. That doesn’t mean you need to get rid of them or store them in your attic though! As Marie Kondo advises, make use of the inner doors of your cabinets and rejoice every time you open it! This is my favorite trick, and it worked very well for many of my clients. On top of it, not seeing your photo/painting all the time also makes you appreciate it more in the times you do glimpse it. 🙂

“I WAS TAUGHT TO KEEP STUFF”

A lot of us have been taught by our parents (and especially grandparents) to hold onto stuff because “you never know when you need it”. Their mindset is right…most members of the older generations (depending on the geography) have experienced much more scarcity in their lives than we can imagine.

The way of life was different back then:

1. the dangers of war or political turbulence were more present

2. goods were much more expensive and it took longer to acquire them

3. goods were of better quality and longer lasting

Those and other reasons resulted in people keeping a lot of (possibly) useful stuff. We need to realize, that there wasn’t too much stuff, to begin with. But that’s not the case nowadays.

And yet, though in different circumstances, we were brought up by the same mindset.

Goods are so easily, so cheaply available to us all the time (at least in the 1st world countries and also in a lot of the 2nd world with a bit of higher price) .. the paste of life is changing and with one-click orders from Amazon and “free” second purchases, we don’t even realize how much stuff we have around us.

Decluttering is part of living in a consumeristic society. If you have trouble decluttering because of those old sayings of your grandmother, have a look first whether you live the same life she did.