Decluttering Your Life Series, Part I
Decluttering! One of the most challenging things I do with my clients is helping them edit their belongings to make their spaces more organized, functional and beautiful. There are just so many questions to ask when making the decision to let go:
Do I use it?
Do I need it?
Do I like it?
Was it expensive and am I keeping it out of guilt?
Was it a gift and am I keeping it out of guilt?
Is it sentimental and hard to let go?
Am I keeping it “just in case?”
Am I keeping it because I may use it “someday?”
And so on…
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could wave a wand and make it all go away without having to make these decisions, and then wave a wand when you wanted just some of it to come back? Wouldn’t it be nice to be free from making these kinds of decisions at all?
I’d like to propose an alternative strategy. Let’s approach the decluttering process from a different angle: why are you decluttering? To get to your “why,” let’s look at the bigger picture that has inspired you to get organized:
Who are you decluttering?
As an organizer, I would emphatically say the only person you should be organizing is yourself. If you are sharing the space with another person (a co-worker, significant other or your family), are they on board with your plan to get organized if it may affect them in any way? Often, family members are reticent to jump on the organizing bandwagon — it can seem daunting at first. So be a role model and serve as an inspiration for the people in your life. Once they see how happy you are and how “freeing” the experience has been, there’s a good chance they’ll want the same thing.
What do you need to declutter?
Again, you should only declutter your own items — not those of your Husband The Collector or your Child The Treasure Hunter. Clearly define what items or categories of items you’d like to declutter and make sure everyone is on the same page. Also, identifying the items that can be flagged for review and possible removal will make the process much easier. For example, “I’m not knitting any more so I can donate all the yarn and needles to a local senior citizens community center.” “My skiing days are behind me, so all ski gear is out of here!” Or, “I want to shred and/or relocate archival paperwork out of my office to another space.” Having in mind what items are immediately up for editing will jump-start the process and make you feel like you are already accomplishing something. And you are!
When is the best time to declutter?
You can begin at any time. But let’s be honest: the thought that you’ll need to dedicate a significant amount of time (e.g. 2-3 days or more) will keep you from ever scheduling that time to declutter. Start easy and start slowly. If it’s a kitchen, begin with the junk drawer (a 15-minute task) or choose to review the growing number of serving trays (when you probably only need 2-3). If it’s a garage, why not take all those old cans of paint to your paint recycling/disposal center? If it’s your closet, start with an easy category like your belts or hats. And boom! You’ve started. I always say that you can’t climb Mt. Everest in a day (not that organizing your kitchen, garage or closet is near as difficult as climbing Mt. Everest!), and that it all starts with that first step. Once you’ve taken this first step, the second, third and all those following are that much easier.
Where do I declutter?
You probably have already decided what space you want to declutter before you get to this question. But if you have many rooms in your home to organize, which one is driving you craziest? What space, once decluttered and organized, will deliver the greatest satisfaction? Which area will make the most powerful visual impact? Where will you be able to immediately enjoy the fruits of your labor? Once you have organized that first space, it will be easier — and almost contagious! — to organize the other areas as well.
Why am I decluttering?
And now we have arrived at the most important question of all: why am I decluttering? What is the most important goal you want to achieve? What are the benefits you hope to gain? Is it to serve holiday dinners on the dining room table? To have an inviting living room to entertain family and friends? To work in a clean office so you can focus and be more productive? To clear out the garage so you can park your car inside it? Those are the kinds of questions you need to ask yourself, and it’s essential to formulate and visualize your desired outcome before you begin the decluttering and organizing process.
How do I declutter?
The “How” is the next question that naturally follows when a client calls me, and there are tried-and-true methods out there from organizers like Julie Morgenstern (S.P.A.C.E.) and Marie Kondo (KonMari) or even a post I wrote called “The Prince-iples of Organizing: 5 Easy Steps to Organize Your Space.” The organizing process is pretty straightforward once you start….it’s getting started that holds most people back.
So, in order to stop the procrastination and finally get started, put intention into your decision to get organized. Keep the vision in sight and the rest becomes manageable. You’ll be able to make decisions based on that goal you want to achieve.
I’d like to close with the following quote that I often repeat to my clients to keep them focused and on track. It really says it all:
“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” — William Morris
Does this approach inspire you to get started, or do you have a strategy that worked for you that you’d like to share with others? Please leave a comment below — I’d love to hear!
Next, catch the Decluttering Your Life Series, Part II, where we focus on how to Declutter Your Mind through productivity strategies!