Getting rid of clutter is not that hard, it just requires a system — a plan of attack, a set of guidelines for what to keep and what to toss, and a more organized way of storing everything that’s left.
Here are 7 steps that will help you lighten the load.
1. A Plan of Attack
- Start with the area of your life that causes you the greatest pain — what annoys you the most every day?
- Create a list of the areas you want to work on in order of priority — with a deadline for completing each space
- Try to tackle one small area at a time — a drawer, a cabinet, a shelf, etc.
- Set aside time each week to work on a different area — even a few minutes can make a difference
- Move systematically throughout your home, completely finishing one area before beginning another
- Find the organizing style and pace that suit you
- Recruit some organizing “assistants” — friends, family, neighbors who will work for pizza
- If you can’t find any volunteers, consider hiring a professional organizer to help
2. Asking the Hard Questions
- When was the last time you used it?
- When will you (realistically) need it again?
- Why would you need it again?
- Who might ask for it?
- What would you need it for?
- Is it easily replaceable?
- What’s the worst thing that would happen if you got rid of it?
- Is it beautiful, useful or loved?
3. Before You Start
- Know what you want from your storage before beginning
- Is your goal to maximize space? See everything you own? Cut down on cleaning?
- Make sure each storage decision meets these goals
- Gather up everything that needs to be stored together before starting to organize
- Inventory your storage spaces and know how much room you have available
- Do a quick sweep of your spaces, cleaning out obvious clutter and trash first
4. Letting Go of Clutter Excuses
- Excuse — “It was expensive and I can’t stand to see it go to waste.”
- Reality — if you don’t use it, it’s still being wasted, even if you keep it
- Excuse — “I might need it someday.”
- Reality — if you haven’t used it in a year, will you use it in the next?
- Excuse — “It was a gift.”
- Reality — once you receive a gift, it’s yours to do with as you see fit
5. Sorting Through it All
- Set up several cardboard boxes or trash bags as you go through each storage area
- Label the first one “keep” — for items you know you love and use
- Sort your “keeps” into different boxes for each area of the house so they are ready to put back when you are done
- Label the second box “get rid of” — for items you know you don’t use and don’t want
- Throw any items that can’t be repaired or used by others in the trash or recycle bin
- Put valuable items into a “sell” box to consign, put in a yard sale or sell online
- Label another box “not sure” — for items that you’re not sure if you want, but aren’t ready to let go of
- Tape up the “not sure” box, label with the date and contents, and put in the garage or basement
- Make a note in your calendar to check back with your “not sure” box in 6-12 months
- If you haven’t needed anything in the box in that time, get rid of it
- Label a box “need to buy” — for items that are missing parts, but you would use if you had them
- Label a box “need to repair” — for items that require some work before they can be used
- Label a box “to return” — for items that don’t belong to you and need to go back to the owner
6. Storage Solutions
- Create a set home for everything you own — no halfway spots or “I’ll just put it here for now”
- Store like items together according to purpose — sporting goods in one spot, luggage all together, etc.
- Don’t forget accessories and related items — travel alarm, A/C adapter and toiletry bag with luggage
- Store items nearest the point where you use them
- Store items you use most often in accessible spaces — items you use less in harder-to-reach areas
- Pay attention to climate — heat, cold, moisture and insects
- Don’t store things in an attic or garage if they will be damaged in any way
- Leave 15% of your space free for future additions — when you bring in a new item, something must be removed from the space
- Plan to go through your spaces and “purge” once a year
- Have a good reason for storing an item in a certain place — your storage should make sense
7. The Right Organizing Paraphernalia
- Use see-through containers whenever possible
- Label every container so you know what’s in it without opening the lid
- Use drawer dividers, baskets and shelves to subdivide larger spaces
- Make use of hanging space on walls and doors with hooks and racks
- Make use of low space under furniture and on the floor of closets with small boxes
- Choose modular components that can adjust as your needs change
If you need help getting organized, we have resources to help you get started.