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Getting started to declutter: The FAST method

Many people tell me that they have a great desire to get themselves organised but feel like they can never have time to do it.
For that reason, I developed a system that helps people just get started. The idea here is to get a quick purge going and to get rid of as much of the surface clutter as possible. I call it the FAST method because not only is it quick but each letter of the word ‘FAST’ helps you remember a different step of the process.

Peter Walsh’s FAST method does not include sentimental clutter – just what’s simple and straightforward. Picture: Getty

Don’t worry if you’re not ready to deal with some of the really difficult sentimental clutter. This purge is all about what’s simple and straightforward. It’s a quick process to get you going and to help you on the road to success. Here’s how it works:

F: Fix a time

First, commit to a time when you’re going to tackle the clutter. Scheduling a time that suits all those involved is very important. This process is an inclusive one and anyone who is involved in it is far more likely to be committed to a positive outcome and some permanent change. Saturdays and Sundays are usually great days if the entire family is going to be involved. Otherwise, if it’s just you, fixing a timemay mean deciding you’ll do an hour’s worth of work every night this week after work at a specific time. Either way, get a time set and put it in your diaries.

Once the time is set it’s time to tackle three broad areas of clutter that I’ve found take over too many homes. It’s time for items in these categories to go.

Saturdays and Sundays are usually great days to declutter if the entire family is going to be involved. Picture: Getty

A: Anything not used for 12 months

Here’s the first rule I’m setting: Most items you haven’t used in the past 12 months don’t need to be kept. Of course, you can think of those items that don’t fit this rule, but by and large most things that you haven’t needed in the past year don’t need to be in your home. So, as you start going through things in your home, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do I use this regularly?
  2. If not, when was the last time I did use it?
  3. Is it worth the space it takes up in my home just for the chance that someday I might use it again?

If your closets are stuffed with clothes that don’t fit you today; if your kitchen cupboards are crammed tightly with appliances that no longer are being used regularly; if your garage is teeming with items from abandoned hobbies – then today’s the day to start purging those items and clearing some space.

Declutter your wardrobe

S: Someone else’s stuff

Okay, listen up – your home is not a storage facility, especially not for someone else’s clutter. If you’ve borrowed something, today’s the day to give it back. If your kids are keeping items in their childhood bedrooms or the garage (even though they’re now out of the house and living on their own) then today’s the day to write them a text saying their stuff is heading to a garage sale you’re planning the week after next if they don’t make arrangements to get it out.

If your family has entrusted you with family heirlooms (like Nan’s heavy Victorian furniture set) and those items are not sentimentally important to you, today’s the day to inform your family that you’ve come to a decision that these things have to go. Tell them that they’re welcome to them but they’ll be gone within a couple of weeks. The days of other people’s items taking over valuable living space in your home are over.

Your home is not a storage solution for everyone else’s stuff. Picture: Erinna Giblin

T: Trash

While I know that the we Australians use the word ‘rubbish’ rather than the more American term ‘trash’, it was easier to create the FAST method than the FASR method, wouldn’t you agree? So please hang with me while I use the word ‘trash’ here.

This step should be the easiest and most straightforward. Begin to think of the rubbish and recycling bins as your friends. Scour your home for anything that is out of date, broken, stained, or in other ways ruined. Mismatched cups, torn T-shirts, a stack of old takeaway containers – all of these things are just simply trash and need to go. Reward yourself for each bag of rubbish you’ve accumulated. Get each bag out of your home as soon as you’ve filled it.

How many plastic containers do you really need? Picture: Erinna Giblin

Just getting started can be tough but with these tips I hope you’re ready now. So, get going – FAST!


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