Today's mission is to declutter the stairs in your home, for safety, as well as to clear the clutter from under the stairs storage areas.
This Declutter 365 mission has two parts to it, and you should do whichever parts of the mission apply to your home.
In the first part of the mission I want you to clear the clutter off the stairs themselves.
If you've got more than one set of steps in your home, such as ones that lead upstairs and another that lead to the basement, make sure do both sets, but focus on one set at a time.
This is typically a relatively quick and easy part of the mission, because no matter how much clutter is on the steps it's a relatively small area so it still can't take too long.
When doing this mission you may find things to get out of your home that have been sitting on the steps, but in addition, you'll most likely also need to put a bunch of items away that have been on the steps but that really should be placed back where they're stored for later use within your home.
The two reasons that this portion of the mission is so important is that first, removing visible clutter makes your house looks nicer, and second is for safety.
Too much stuff on your steps, especially where people are actually walking, usually the middle of the staircase, is a tripping hazard. And while tripping anywhere in your home can be dangerous, it's especially true on the stairs themselves.
That's why it's important to do this mission today, but also to focus on making sure you get into the habit that clutter doesn't accumulate on your steps from now on, and if it gets onto your steps that it is removed, regularly.
A lot of people (me included, so I'm waving my hand in solidarity) place things on the side of the steps that needs to be taken upstairs, if it's currently downstairs, or vice versa.
Doing this is actually part of the tidying process I do daily in my home, because I come across items that need to be put away upstairs but I'm focused right that second on tidying downstairs, and I don't want to walk up the stairs at that exact moment to put them away. The stairs is like a holding spot that removes the items that don't belong from the area I'm tidying, and also a visual reminder to later put those things away when I head up the stairs.
That's typically OK to do, if you make a couple of rules for yourself or other members of your household in regard to what can be left on the steps, where it can be placed on the steps, and how long it can stay there.
Rule 1: Always place such items that you'll be carrying up or down on the side of the step, where someone is less likely to trip on them, instead of in the middle where people normally step.
Rule 2: When something is placed on the stairs to be taken up or down later, when you next are going up or down the steps, if you've got free hands, you need to take it down right then. No excuses.
This second rule, when followed, means that nothing stays on the steps for very long, which keeps clutter from accumulating and also lessens the total amount of time stuff is on the stairs that could cause someone to trip.
If you or other family members tend to do what I do, and place things on your stairs in the same manner, so they can be carried up or down as part of the tidying process, then one idea to help you contain this type of stuff is to use a stair basket, such as the one pictured below.
Stair baskets make sure everything is contained and doesn't allow tripping hazards to overflow the baskets boundaries, and can look neater and more tidy than just stacking stuff on the stairs themselves.
I will caution that stair baskets only work if you make it a habit to regularly clear them out, and put away the stuff that is placed within them. Otherwise, they become another place to accumulate clutter, which isn't the point of what we're trying to accomplish here!
Here are photos from a Declutter 365 participant who has already decluttered her stairs, down to her basement, as part of this mission. I hope photos like this will show you how doable this mission is, and get you inspired to tackle this task for yourself today.
The photos above were sent in by a reader, Coralie, who said, "We have a set of stairs going into the basement. I love the fact that they are nice and wide and not steep like in our previous house! My hubby placed stuff along the edges of the stairs, which I removed, along with various cat toys! It was pretty dusty/hairy so it got a good cleaning. As for the stairs themselves, I do keep the occasional pair of footwear (dry) on the steps (out of the way)."
As I mentioned above, another part of this mission is to declutter your under stairs storage areas.
Of the two parts of the mission this is the one which is going to, most likely, take up more of your time.
Depending on how large this under stairs storage space is, and how much stuff you've got in there, it will most likely take you more than 15 minutes to do this task. So, instead, I want you to work on this area 15 minutes at a time.
It's helpful to be rather methodical when decluttering storage areas of any variety, so you force yourself to make tough decisions when you come across items, instead of putting them off for later, and also so you follow a pattern of actions that allow you to make progress without pulling out too much at once, exhausting yourself, or making a huge mess that you're too tired to clean up.
Make sure to check out my instructions for how to declutter storage closets and other storage rooms in your home here, so you work on your under stairs storage area in a similar manner.
Several readers have also sent in photos showing their results when they decluttered underneath their stairs, and just like with the other reader photos, I'm hoping these will show you the amazing results you can accomplish, and also get you motivated to do this task for yourself.
The first of these photos was sent in by a reader, Nicole, who had at that time of these photos only done one decluttering session in this storage area.
Nicole said of the before photo, "It's just that one d^&%N cupboard, it gives me nightmares. Literally, I am not exaggerating, that space creeps me out. My dryer and steam mop live there, the big bag contains the "good cushions and table cloth etc." for the dining room, so that is fairly neat but behind there, everyone dumped everything in there. Sob." She continued, "When we moved here I think everyone just dumped whatever they didn't want in there and somehow it got all pushed to the back further and further in."
Then, Nicole did one decluttering session, and showed the stuff she pulled from the space and decided to get rid of. Of that after photo she said, "I pulled out another one of those fabulous Ikea bags full of clutter from the understairs cupboard. Plus I threw the same amount out and I'm still not even making a dent (which is ludicrous as the space is tiny). Feeling a bit disheartened by that one area :( ."
Although Nicole herself felt like she hadn't made a dent, I know I can definitely see progress being made. That's a lot of stuff she pulled out of there to get rid of, and as she does that a few more times the space will really begin to clear out and feel less cluttered and stuffed.
Honestly, this is how it always feels at first, when working on cluttered storage areas. It doesn't seem like it made any difference and then, if you keep . going, all of a sudden it does. I promise! Great job Nicole!
Here's another set of photos, this one from a reader, Kari, who shows what a big difference decluttering eventually makes to this storage space.
As you can see, when Kari started, the space was a dumping ground, with things piled into the area, and by the time she'd finished she'd both decluttered and organized the area to make it a functional storage area. Wonderful job Kari!
Finally, here's a photo from a reader, Rachele, who decluttered this area and reclaimed it for a new purpose, as a play area for her kids. She said, "Decluttered under our stairs and now have an amazing new den for our girls. They love it!!!!"
If you got rid of the cluttered and cleared out all that space how would you use it? The beauty is, you can decide! So what are you waiting for?
I hope seeing these pictures and instructions have inspired you to declutter under your stairs, if you've got a storage area there, and/or to also clear the stairs of clutter in your home.
When you begin to declutter the feeling you get is contagious, so if you're loving the results you're getting I would encourage you to keep going.
I've got a whole series of 15 minute decluttering missions (eventually 365 of them!) that you can do.
Just pick and choose the ones you want to do, that will make a big impact in your home. But if you want someone else to tell you the order you can also grab the 15 minute daily decluttering mission calendars and follow along as we all get our homes clutter free together!
Top image courtesy of Crown Molding, on Flickr CC
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