Many of us spend a lot of time working on clutter clearing, but when we prepare to go through our stuff, we still have trouble letting go. We have a weakness for saving. We have a problem with storing. Sometimes we may even run out of storage space if we don’t figure it out.
This spring, before you begin clutter clearing, repeat these mantras to yourself:
Sometimes I am afraid to toss stuff. When I finally weed out a few things, the familiar refrain "But I might need it someday…" plays over and over in my head. My weak spots include books, clothing, children’s toys and art, stuff someone else gave me, kitchen gadgets, and knick-knacks.
Maybe my children will want this stuff someday. Maybe I’ll finally organize those photos. Maybe I’ll finally reread those books Maybe I’ll be that size again and then that outfit will magically fit and be in style too. …Hah!
Here are three basic clutter control methods I turn to again and again. Decide if any of them fits your time frame and personal style. There is no one right way to do it.
The 1-2-3-4(?) Box Method:
A standard method to weed out clutter is the three box method. It takes a full day or even a weekend to complete. Get three large boxes and work your way systematically from room to room. Place trash in the first box. Put items in decent enough condition to donate into the second box. Use the third box for things you find in one room that belong elsewhere. Items remain in the third box until you reach the room where they belong.
Maybe you wonder why you need the third box. Why not just put things back right away? This is why: When I find socks stuffed in the cracks of our family room sofa, I put them in the third box. If I were to take them to the laundry room, I would find a load of clothes needing to go from the washer to the dryer. Next, I would spy baskets of clean clothes needing to go upstairs. Finally, you would find me up in a bedroom folding laundry while my three boxes sat alone back in the family room. As funny as it sounds, the third box will help you keep on task (unless I’m the only person who ever wanders into a room and then forgets the original reason for going there).
For the faint of heart, there is a fourth box. It’s a "maybe" box. Put items you aren’t sure you are ready to part with in this box. When the box is full, seal it up. Write today’s date on the box. Now decide how long you will keep the box before you donate it. After you have survived without your "maybes" for three or six or nine months, donate the box. (Please do not peek in the box and fall back in love with its precious contents!)
The Piece Method
The next technique is called the piece method. It’s a more realistic approach for those of us whose schedules don’t allow a large block of time to control clutter. You do one small piece of clutter control at a time, or you use smaller blocks of time, as little as ten or fifteen minutes at a crack. Work on a drawer, a section of cupboard, or part of one closet per day. In a week, a crowded dresser or a messy closet could be simplified and organized.
The As-You-Go Method
My last technique is the as-you-go method. This method helps you get into the habit of donating extra stuff and throwing away any garbage. Weed out stuff as you spy it in your daily rounds at home. For example, when you open your kitchen cupboard tomorrow, count the ceramic mugs inside. Over twenty, perhaps? Maybe some match your current dishes, a few are left over from a previously owned set, and several are gifts you received over the years. When was the last time you used all twenty? If twenty people came over, wouldn’t you probably use disposables? Weed out the dustiest five or six in the back by taking them immediately to your donation box.
When you are in your bathroom, toss expired medicines and dated products. In your bedroom, be alert for clothing that isn’t being worn, and take it immediately to your donation box. The as-you-go method could quickly become a life habit that helps control clutter on an ongoing basis and it requires little extra time.
Clutter is basically an accumulation of unmade or postponed decisions. We haven’t decided where to store things or even whether to keep them, so this stuff just sort of floats around on our tables, counters, and in our crowded closets and drawers. Use the techniques above to become a better clutter decision-maker. This will keep the walls from closing in and free up space, time, and energy for important things.
Barbara Tako is a clutter clearing motivational speaker and author of "Clutter Clearing Choices: Clear Clutter, Organize Your Home, & Reclaim Your Life" (O Books, 2010), a seasonally organized book of clutter clearing tips that readers can pick and choose from to fit their personal style and needs. Sign up for her free monthly clutter clearing tips newsletter at http://www.clutterclearingchoices.com.