Conquering your clutter

During our COVID confinement we’ve all been staring at our excess “stuff,” wondering how that happened. In this occasional series, Martha Tobin will answer some of your organization and decluttering questions and provide some tips and tricks for making the process easier. Send your questions to (confidentiality guaranteed and no names mentioned).

Conquering your clutter

By Martha Tobin

Photo albums and kitchen chaos

Dear Martha,

My mom, stepdad and brother passed away all within a few years of one another and I now have all of their family photo albums, slides, VHS and CamCorder tapes, etc. So many boxes and I have a small home.

I don’t want to throw these memories out but honestly no one ever looks through the photo albums, and I’m not sure any of us have the technology to play the tapes or watch the slides anymore so they’ll just continue to sit in lots of dusty boxes in our basement. What can I do with them all?

– Fed Up With Photos

Dear Fed Up,

Consider reaching out to a digital transformation company which can transfer all photos, slides, negatives and tapes to digital format and put it on a USB. Not only does this preserve the images and tapes (as older formats can degrade over time with images fading and tapes breaking), but they will often enhance the image and sound quality when they do the transfer.

All the space that the older formats took up is now reduced to a USB smaller than your thumb. As well you can make copies of the USB and give them to other family members. This compact format also makes it easy to store these precious memories in a personal safe or firebox.

Doing a google search or asking at a camera store will result in some options. Try and stay local so that you don’t have to send your memories in the mail and have them potentially lost in transit. You may also want to confirm the digital transformation services are performed in-house as opposed to being sent out to a third party.

Dear Martha,

We are desperately in need of some decluttering and organizing in our kitchen. It’s gotten to the point where we no longer really cook and certainly no one even pretends to put items away anymore. There are piles everywhere, and our countertops are completely covered with items. What can I do to get my teens and husband on board to help get this situation under control?

– Desperate

Dear Desperate,

Have everyone agree on a time to meet in the kitchen. Get a large folding table and place it in the middle of the kitchen. Also get heavy duty garbage bags and some boxes –label them either “garbage” and “donation.”

Start with your countertops. Pull everything off and put it all on the folding table. Determine what items you use every day and then place those items back on the counter, considering a new location if it makes more sense.

For all other items, determine how often you use each of them. Occasional items can be tucked close by but out of sight. Determine that location, and then tuck that item to the side of the kitchen for now (no need to put it away yet as I’m guessing that spot is probably maxed out at the moment).

Now is a great time to get rid of those rarely used items; if you must hold on to them, then store them in your pantry or a top cupboard.

Now go through the rest of the kitchen and pull out every item cupboard by cupboard, drawer by drawer. Consider the status of these items (i.e., used every day, occasionally or rarely). Be brutal. Rooms only have a finite amount of space and once they have hit their max, the piles start. Letting go of everything you no longer need guarantees more space.

Once this purge is done, look at the items you are keeping and create “zones” in your kitchen, always putting “like with like” (i.e. bakeware zone, tupperware zone). Try not to mix your zones. This method of organizing is logical; it not only ensures everyone knows where items can be found but, equally important, where they should be returned.

Devoting an afternoon to this kitchen organizing and decluttering will pay huge dividends in the long run. And soon you’ll all be enjoying cooking in the kitchen again. Bon appetit!

Martha Tobin, owner of Room2Breathe – Organizing & Decluttering, will happily answer your organizing and decluttering questions in the pages of the Glebe Report. Please send them along to (confidentiality guaranteed and no names mentioned).

What can I do to get this kitchen under control?

The “after” picture shows the dividends of an afternoon of decluttering. Photos: Martha Tobin

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