(This post is an excerpt from my upcoming book on decluttering our lives.)
Bedrooms and kitchens and desks and copier rooms get all cluttered up and messy.
We feel it when we walk through and it hinders our focus.
Whether the areas of neglect are due to: huge stashes of yarn, scrapbooking supplies, soccer equipment, bills, tools, toys, dishes, manuals, office supplies, photographs, coffee mugs or DVDs….they all have to be dealt with.
…and some ideas work for most everything.
So whether you’re decluttering a box of toys or your entire office, here are some ideas for a process to use.
1- Don’t do it all at once.
We sometimes get overwhelmed because the task feels too big! The piles are more than we think we can handle all at once. So don’t.
- Pick one drawer.
- One storage bin.
- One corner of the room.
- One desktop.
This you can do!
The little successes will benefit you immediately, but they will also encourage you to do greater things!
So take it in chunks.
2- Set aside a sufficient amount of time for the job at hand.
Whatever portion of the mess you decide to take on, you have to make sure you give yourself enough time. Otherwise, it will backfire and work against you. It can be very discouraging to run out of time on a declutter job and end with a bigger mess than you started with. Whether it will require 10 minutes or 3 hours, give yourself enough time.
3- Put everything in one spot.
Take everything in that space and put it in one spot. Depending on the sizes of the objects, you may put them in a box, a bin, a bag or just a large pile. It doesn’t matter. But put it all together in one space. This way, you get to see all the clear space around the pile immediately. It feels good. It also helps you see exactly what you have to work with.
4- Pick up the items one at a time, top to bottom, only touching them once.
Fight the temptation to just shuffle through the mess! Start at the top and work your way down.
When you pick them up, ask yourself these two questions:
“What is this?” and “What do I need to do with it?”
Be honest with yourself.
When was the last time you used it? Will that person who gave it to you really be offended if you don’t keep it? Can you take a picture of it and store the memory without letting it take up precious real estate?
5- Put each item into one of four piles.
Again, you may use boxes, bins, bags or other containers. The sorting is what’s important.
Everything will fit into one of the following four categories:
- Give away
Write the titles on a card or sheet of paper and place it in front of the corresponding pile.
If you struggle with deciding what to keep, consider making a 5th pile: “Decide later”. Then, pick a time to revisit it. That’s not cheating. At least you got it off of the floor! Giving yourself a little time may help you decide more clearly.
When you finish sorting, make sure each of the “Keeps” have a home and keep them there. Put the “Give aways” in the car and drop them off ASAP. Determine how and when you will sell your “Sells”. Put the “Trash” where it belongs. Put your “Decide laters” out of sight.
6- Put action items on your calendar or to-do list.
When you are processing, take note of “To-do” items that surface. Fight the temptation to leave the object out as a reminder to do something. We have to be very careful about this. In my opinion, there are few times when this is the best option. It works, sometimes, but it is a HUGE contributor to cluttered spaces. And, when there’s clutter, the reminders don’t work anyway, because you don’t notice the specific object.
7- Enjoy the freedom of your redeemed space!
No, seriously! Don’t forget that you are decluttering for a reason. It’s not and end in itself.
The most important thing isn’t cleaning up the mess. The most important thing is doing the most important things.
So use this newfound physical space and uncluttered mind to do something awesome!
- -Spend time with people you love.
- -Make something that people will read, watch, eat, enjoy.
- -Think about how you can change the world around you.
- -Take a nap or go for a walk.
What space do you have that needs to be decluttered?
What will you do with your newfound freedom and recently decluttered space?