Decluttering Tips: Easy Ways to Clean Up Your Stuff
Decisions: How to Declutter Quickly and Easily
Most clutter experts will tell you to separate out each item into boxes. I'm sure you've heard of them, although each expert will have their own categories for the boxes. There's a "keep and use box," a "give away box," a "throw away box," a "sell box," a "recycling box," or such similar combination of boxes.
They feel proud of their expertise in having named the right number of boxes with just the right names, and leave it to you to pick up each item one by one and decide which box should house their precious item.
The Problem With Making Decisions
Even though most of us understand the expert box system, we have a hard time deciding which box is the appropriate fit since none of our items fit neatly into any of these neat boxes.
If it really was that easy, most people wouldn't have this problem.
Really, where do you put the stereo whose record player doesn't work, but the needle is probably worth something for people whose record players do work? And the radio part works for a few minutes, but then the dial seems to drift. The cassette tapes part works just fine, and since there are two tapes, you can record from one tape to the other without any problems. It can come in handy for when your current stereo goes on the fritz, or if we wanted to listen to a cassette tape.
It doesn't fit in the keep box, because it is too bothersome to use. It doesn't fit in the Giveaway box because it will be too bothersome for anyone else to use. It can't fit in the Sell box, because nobody is going to buy it as is. You have to figure out which parts can be sold, and who will give you the most money for it. You can't put it in the Throwaway or Recycle box, because there are valuable parts there, and you can't just get rid of it.
And if one stereo is giving us this many problems, imagine having to do this for each and every single item in the room or house. We can see that this process is going to take a very long time. It is simply overwhelming.
Choose Your Own System
When you try to fit your decisions around someone else's systems, there is the extra burden of understanding a new system on top of the burden of decluttering. Some people have trouble coming up with their own system, so it helps them to follow an expert's system. It is important that the person decluttering understands how to use the system and feels comfortable using it.
I think it is more useful for the person with the clutter to decide what works best for them. By coming up with their own system, they are more likely to be able to understand what item goes in each box. For example, when I declutter, I don't use boxes. I find that once things are in boxes, they look organized, and I don't have the motivation to process them further. By keeping them in piles or stacks, they look unfinished, thereby visually signaling to me that they still need further processing.
I think it is helpful if the expert examines first the needs and thought processes of their client, and customize the system based on the client's needs. Some people may be better able to handle the clutter by using their own system and having the expert guide them on how best to tweak it so it makes it a workable solution.
Put Like Things Together
One of the biggest problems with clutter I find is that it tends to include lots of unrelated things. By putting like items together, decisions about them can be made on a more global basis.
I initially separate my paper into the following five stacks: bills, coupons, reading, shredding, and trash. Whenever I get up from my sorting process, I know I can quickly handle the last two piles, and get rid of them. I can then focus on the first three piles. I pay the bill, make sure I have documented it on my software, and then it can either be shredded or filed. I clip and file the coupons for things I can use and throw away the rest. I scan or read the things in the reading pile and then throw them away. This system works for me. Telling me I should throw away the reading pile before I at least have a chance to scan it increases my anxiety and interrupts the process.
For some types of clutter, you may be able to separate the items in your mind without having to physically put them together, and process them as a group that way.
One thing that helped me tremendously in the process of cleaning out the clutter was to make decisions on a global scale. Instead of making a new decision each time I picked up an item, I decided the criteria before I started.
As I said, sometimes the like items do not need to be physically put together. For example, if you can identify that your clutter consists of many newspapers, you can decide on a global basis what should happen to them, even before you have picked up a single one.
When I was going through my pile of paper, for example, I decided that all newspapers need to leave my house. Sure, I would like to read them first, but with my allergies, the less I handle them, the better. My memory isn't that good that I would remember all the articles I read anyway, and I would be able to find information online when I need it. In this way, I didn't need to decide which box each newspaper fit in. If it was a newspaper, it goes in the Recycle Box. Having made the global decision first, there are fewer decisions to make later.
Not All or Nothing
The decision does not need to be all or nothing. I have decided that I will keep all of my quilting magazines, but any other magazines need to be recycled if they are more than a month old. By choosing the criteria first, the subsequent decision making is very simple.
Decide What to Keep
Another way to make global decisions is to decide what to keep instead of what to give away. Before I went through my clothes closet, I decide how many t-shirts are appropriate for me. I decided on 15, which is quite a lot. When I went through the t-shirts, I had many more than 15. I was able to give away all but 20 of them. If I hadn't made the decision first on how many t-shirts were appropriate to keep, I think I would have given away just a few, instead of half of them.
Once the clutter has been taken care of, in order to prevent further problems, action steps are necessary. Minimize the clutter that comes into the house in the first place. Cancelling magazines you don't have time to read, no matter how wonderful or how cheap they are.
Have a home for everything. Once I have designated a separate place for bills, and a separate place for coupons, these important things no longer get lost in a pile of paper. As soon as they come in, they get put into their own homes.
Instead of sticking each new thing into a "to decide later" pile of lots of incongruous things, I try to decide now what should happen to each item. I have found that taking a little bit of time every single day to remove clutter—even as little as fifteen minutes a day—you will be able to keep most of it from ever coming back.
I forgive myself for making an incorrect decision, knowing that I will learn with each mistake. A lot of people are afraid of throwing away something that they might need later. You might be able to make the process easier if you can think of a place you can get a replacement when you actually need it,
For example, I had a lot of empty cardboard boxes in the basement because they come in handy for gifts and holding stuff. I knew that if I recycled all these, I still had access to empty boxes by asking any store for them. I also knew that I would likely be getting more boxes the same way I got these. Knowing that these were not the last boxes I would ever see made it easier for me to get rid of them.
Getting Rid of Clutter
Getting rid of clutter is very satisfying. The house somehow feels lighter, as do you. You don't feel weighted down by all the things you have to do.
You have more space in your living environment, and there is less to clean up and around. You also have more time and energy to do the things that you want to do.