Clutter happens. One of my colleagues, Elizabeth Hagen, defines clutter as "anything you own or do that does not enrich your life on a regular basis."1
Piles of clutter are one of the top reasons I hear from people wanting to get organized. Things that you don't love or use on a regular basis take up valuable space and make it harder to find the things you need. That is why once clutter is cleared, organizing the things you do use and need is so much easier! These are three baby steps to take toward your well-organized home.
1. An easy first step to reducing clutter is to go on a Trash Hunt. Grab a black plastic trash bag and look for things that are obviously garbage. You may find candy wrappers, a sock with a hole, an empty drink cup from Taco Bell, announcements and coupons past the due dates, the kitty food that got scattered, pizza boxes that don't fit in the kitchen trash, empty spray cans, the shampoo that smells horrible. Just getting that stuff out of there can be a great feeling. This clutter-free idea is very liberating!
2. Next, choose one specific pocket of bulging clutter - the junk drawer, desk drawer, one closet shelf, or under the kitchen sink. Take everything out and sort the items into the following categories: Keep (it stays here), Move (goes somewhere else), Give away, Sell, Trash (missed it before.) As you are sorting be honest with yourself about about what should stay. Ask yourself these questions:
If NO is the answer all these questions, let go of it. Donate the item or give it to a friend. If it is obviously broken or outdated, put it in the trash bag. One last question that may help if you are still struggling is, "What is the worst possible thing that could happen if I let go of this?" If you think you can live with those consequences, let go.
Box up and deliver the Give and Donate items to their new owners within the week. Move the things that are needed elsewhere to their new homes.
Put only the Keep pile back into the drawer or closet. Use appropriate containers to corral smaller items so they stay together. Now that you know where these things live, you can quickly put them back after use.
3. The most important step is to schedule a time to maintain your new found order. Spending fifteen minutes a day on clutter control will make a profound difference in your home! Set aside a pocket of time either morning or night. When do you check your e-mail, brush your teeth? Use a regular activity as an anchor until you have a new habit. Set a timer so you will know when to stop. You can always keep going if you want to. Having an end in sight will help you keep going strong for that small window of time.
I'm sure you have heard the saying, "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time." You can create a serene oasis in your home. For women, the rooms we spend the most time in are our kitchen and our bedroom. Start to de-clutter in those vital areas and soon you will have more freedom, more time for the ones you love, and feel great about yourself! You can do it!
Coming up: Gaining From Letting Go - Part 2 of 3
1 Hagen, Elizabeth, Organize With Confidence, 2008.