Easy Ways to Declutter From Your Decluttering Coach
Maybe you have a big mess in your home or a bunch of little ones, or maybe you just need to figure out a way to make cleaning more of a “family affair.” Whatever the reason is we thought it would be helpful to ask the advice of a professional.
Enter Wendy Zanders! Known also Your Declutter Coach. Wendy and I sat down for a fun video interview where we gave her some real life scenarios and she gave us her real world advice! But first we thought it might be nice for Wendy to shares, in her own words, how she became Your Declutter Coach
My name is Wendy Zanders. I am a declutter coach and I say your declutter coach actually because when I’m working with my clients, I want them to know that I’m fully invested in their process, along with them.
I am a United States Army veteran I joined the military when I was 17 and scored really high for logistics. I was able to maintain those (supplies) for our unit to make sure that we were mission ready for deployments or for field exercises.
I have undiagnosed ADHD. So growing up, I really struggled in school, but I was able to create systems for myself that helped me stay organized and make honor roll and get A’s and B’s in school. And that was doing the Pomodoro Method (A time management method where a timer is used to break down work into intervals, separated by short breaks… Wikipedia).
Stress used to be very high in high school, maintaining and trying to memorize and all those things. To distress, I would clean my room. I was vacuuming. I was dusting my furniture. I was doing laundry, cleaning my room as a way to really distress from the week.
I also struggle with PTSD, depression, ADHD, and anxiety. And my business is my therapy. I can come alongside you because I’ve been where you’ve been. And I’m able to just help them “zen.”
Let the decluttering begin….
You reach into your child’s backpack, and you feel a wrinkled piece of paper. And as you pull it out and flatten it against the table, you realize it’s a notice from the school about your child’s progress. You check the date and you see that you still have some time to respond and you walk over to your work area to find a place for it. You know you need to remember it, so you put it on top of another form. One you’re sure that you already dealt with. Well, you’re almost sure you did. While you think, as you see your work area, there are so many piles of things. You see mail and reports from school, IEP papers, progress reports, and papers from a long while ago. All right. So how can I begin to organize or tame this mess and what do I do first?
Wendy: You Are Not Alone:
A lot of times I always tell parents, “I’ve been where you’ve been.” People think that they are in this struggle themselves. You are not alone. And this was a real scenario. You walk in and realize, oh my goodness, I haven’t done this. It’s been at the bottom of the backpack. My son didn’t give it to me, and I still have time.
About the Note:
- Don’t just drop it on that table. If it isn’t late, put it inside of
your paper calendar, or if you have your Google Calendar, make the
note to do it if you’re not able to do it right then and there.
- Just stop and get it done if it is late or due the next day. Sign it
right then and there and then put it back into the kid’s backpack!
- Send a little note to the teacher and say,”I am so sorry, it’s coming
back tomorrow.” Just “quick and to the point” because sometimes the
teachers are like, where’s that paper? (It’s always great to stay in
connection with your teachers, as well.)
What Kind of Calendar Do You Use?
- Do you work off of a paper calendar or do you have a Google Calendar
or both? I work on both because my family sees the Google Calendar.
So I have that, but when I’m focusing on what I need to do, I have my
About That Desk
- Figure out what those piles are because you were in the middle of
something before you got distracted.
- Binder clip the IEP paper pile that you were working on.
- Binder clip the mail.
- Binder clip the piles that you already have so you don’t undo your
- Get a container and put everything in there.
- Then just take one pile back out at a time and start processing it.
So, it starts with a few blankets thrown around. After all, it’s a pandemic and we are home all the time. You comfort yourself by saying that, but then you look at the empty boxes in the pantry and the pantry does need cleaning. And, not to mention you look at the food you bought a while ago and you just wonder if it’s time to pitch it? Hmmm, the silverware drawer looks like your “helpers” airdropped the clean silverware into the drawer instead of putting it away into their slots. The more you look around, the more you see the signs of the life in a pandemic and you rationalize that it’s been one heck of a year and that soothes you for a bit, until you take a look at your windows. The windows you could once see clearly out of, and now aren’t quite so clear. And the issue is clear, how can I clean during a pandemic? What are the tips and tricks for cleaning 101? How do I get my helpers to help? Let’s start there; how can I spring clean during a pandemic? How do I start?
- I’m going to take you back to when I was battling my bout with
depression. This was my version of a pandemic. My home falling apart
was not a priority for me. But once I was able to get under control
with my therapist, I told my therapist “By the time we come back for
the next session, I want to have my kitchen done.” At the time, I
wasn’t able to cook in my kitchen. And I was able to tackle that. I
had somebody hold me accountable.
- If you’re not able to hire a cleaner, or you’re not able to hire a
professional organizer to come in to get this under control, you
still need to hold yourself accountable.
- Maybe reach out to a friend and say,”Hey, can you hold me accountable
to do X?”
Getting Family Involved for Good
- We really have to sit down with our family and say, I need everybody
to get on board, especially if your kids are of age. Teaching these
life skills to our kids is very important!. It may not be exactly how
I want it done, but it’s a life skill that they will be able to carry
on for a lifetime.
- Sit with your family and tell them this is something that I’m
teaching you guys for a lifetime. This is not just me nagging you:
This is how you load a dishwasher, this is how you do laundry, this
is how you put things back in the drawer. Make it a teaching moment
- If you have a couple of kids, different ages, maybe you say, “Child
number one, you load the dishwasher on a Sunday night this week”….
you’re making sure that these are teaching moments.
Make a List and a Plan
- I went through the house and I list every single thing in my home. I
went into the kitchen and I list the pantry, cabinets, and every
- We have yard work… maybe you have a basement…maybe you have an
attic….maybe even a garage. List them all.
- I wrote it down, like each step (of what needs done).
- By the end of the year, we want to have the whole house done. I
think if the kids are invested, if they are part of making the home
clean, more than likely, they’re going to want to keep it clean
Perfect Isn’t the Goal
- It isn’t about trying to get the whole house spotless in one day.
- It’s not about being perfect. Sometimes I pause because I’d rather do a dance party
- with my daughter and watch a movie than do X. My house is not
- We need to be okay with our house not being perfect
- We “talk” in our house, and we do charts, but I think the verbal
repetition is more effective. Consistently reinforcing!
My daughter, first thing in the morning, she’ll come in and say, “Hey, can I use the tablet?” And I say, “Did you brush your teeth? Did you make your bed? Did you clean your room?”
Teach Everyone to Make Lists
- With the pantry, if something is out, then have a list on the fridge
or maybe share a note. Certain phones allow you to share a note and
mark it groceries, for example.
- When (an item) is getting low, put it on the list. So, whoever’s
doing the grocery shopping can replenish that.
- Make those things teaching moments for those kids!
You can reach Wendy at www.wendyzanders.com she offers a free 20 minute consultation initially to get a sense of where each family is.
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This post originally appeared on our March/April 2021 Magazine