A cluttered home can not only be frustrating, it can be very stressful. Decluttering your home can seem overwhelming, but by using these basic principles you can immediately to make your organization efforts fall into place. These tips are not only great for decluttering a drawer, a cabinet, a closet, a whole room—or your entire house!—they are also keys to creating new habits.
Pick one small area to begin. Don’t try to do anything too big. It can overwhelm you and then you’re back to square one. If you can, pick an area that supports your highest priorities. Key areas would be a corner of your bedroom (to ensure a peaceful night’s sleep) or maybe a drawer or cabinet in the kitchen (the hub of the house).
Next, you will need four boxes. Label them as follows:
Also, have a big trash can nearby and recycling bins, if you have a recycling program in your area.
The first thing to do is to take everything out of the space you are decluttering. If it’s a drawer, dump everything in a box or container. If it’s a closet or cabinet you’ve targeted for your first organizing project, find a staging area where you can spread things out, see what you have, and sort easily.
Once you’ve cleared everything out of the space, give it a good cleaning.
Now you’re ready to start sorting all of your stuff and making decisions about what to keep and what to let go. You’re going to repeat this step twice. This first time you’re going to trash as much as you can in 15 minutes.
Challenge yourself to cut the amount of stuff you have in the particular space you’ve chosen by a third or half. Try to touch each item only once during this first quick sort and make a decision as to which box it goes into—or if it should be tossed—as quickly as possible. Ask yourself these questions:
When your first 15 minutes is up, it’s time to do a more detailed sort of the Keep box and go through the process again.
Set aside some more time when you can carefully consider each item and challenge yourself to reduce the stuff you have in the Keep box. Another 15 or 30 minutes is probably a good objective. Don’t try to do too much in any one decluttering session.
Think about the space you have available and what your goals are for that space. Go through the Keep items now and do a more detailed sort through anything that needed it during your 15-minute blitz purge. Anything that fell into the mystery category during that first purge needs to be decided on during this second pass. Make a determination; if you can’t make a determination, get rid of it. Take your time, but don’t labor over this second sort too much.
Now that everything is sorted, it’s time to put it away. Here’s how you do it.
First things first: anything you put in the trash, recycling bin, or Pass On box needs to go. Take the trash and recycling out of the house to go in the next pickup. Put those books that need to go back to the library and the videos that should be returned to the video store into the car now. Designate a tote bag for these items that you’ll use from now on. Bag up the items earmarked for charity and put them in the car, too. The important thing is to get it out of your space pronto.
The next step is to sort your stuff so it’s easy to find, easy to use, and easy to put back where it belongs. One way to do this is to store like things together. You may need to set up additional boxes or containers, depending on how much you have for your fine sort. Look for ways to group similar things in one place, and make their final resting place a logical one.
While you’re working through this step, note whether the categories you’re coming up with fit the room and the function of the room.
In this step, you work with your Put Away/Return and Keep boxes. If you have a lot of stuff in your Put Away/Return box, it means that stuff that belongs somewhere else is finding its way into the wrong space. Remember, putting stuff away is a habit. Start today.
Now grab your Keep box. What’s in that box should meet three criteria:
Next put away your Keep items. If you don’t have a place for it yet you’ll need to plan for that. But instead of thinking “Where can I store this?” I want you to think “Where do I use this?” Be sure the place you store the item makes it easy to get to with the least amount of motion.
You’ve done your first decluttering session! Now don’t you feel better?
From The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Organizing Your Life, Fifth Edition by Georgene Lockwood