As I mentioned last week, I’ve been decluttering like crazy. But the wonderful thing is, I haven’t driven myself crazy doing it. Instead, I’ve embraced the Flylady tenet that you can do a lot in a little bit of time, and that you don’t need to be perfect. Here are some concrete tips that I’ve been following that have helped me get a lot done:
1. Start small, and keep it small. I want to declutter my house from top to bottom, but that’s an overwhelming task. What’s manageable is decluttering one shelf, one box or one drawer at a time. Even one file at a time, which is how I’ve been going through my filing cabinet. It also means that I can declutter even when I have only five minutes to kill before I leave the house.
2. Plan ahead on how to re-organize. Planning ahead will help you figure out what to keep, what to toss, and how to arrange the space as you purge.
3. But don’t get caught up in perfectionism. Sometimes you just can’t figure out what the space should look like, or how it should function as you’re working on it. And that’s okay. I’ve been decluttering boxes by pulling out the things that I know I can get rid of. Since I don’t yet know what I’m going to do with the stuff that’s left, I just put it back in the box and stick the box back where it was. Eventually, I’ll figure out what to do with that stuff and it will be easier to put away because there won’t be unnecessary extras that I have to weed out.
4. Use three groups: Keep, Donate, Toss. As you purge, separate your things into three piles: Keep, Donate and Toss. The Keep pile should be put away as soon as you’re done purging, even if, as I just said, it goes right back into the space. Keep it out of the way for now and find a permanent home for it later if you need to. The Toss pile should find its way into the trash bin immediately. For the Donate pile, you’ll need to find a system that works for you.
5. Don’t procrastinate on the donating and tossing. As mentioned above, the Toss pile should leave your home immediately. I keep the Donate pile around for a while until I can create an itemized list for tax purposes, but I’ve learned not to wait too long or the Donate pile itself becomes an energy drain. If possible, plan a regular monthly or weekly run to Goodwill, or schedule a pick up so you have a deadline.
6. Set boundaries on what you’re going to keep. Before you start purging, decide on the reasons something makes it into the Keep pile. Among the questions I ask are: Do I need this for legal reasons? (E.g., tax documents should be kept for at least seven years.) How likely will I need this? (I have a bunch of kitchen gadgets that I may not use often but will definitely use again, which makes them keepers.) Can I get another one? (I keep only a few extra towels and sheets, on the theory that it’s easy to get more if I end up needing them.) How many do I need? (I finally realized that I don’t need a hundred unmatched card envelopes!)
7. Do little projects when inspiration strikes. On the spur of the moment, I have taken fifteen minutes to clean out dresser drawers, a box on my desk, a book shelf, etc. And I felt great afterwards.
8. Shred as you go, or have a place for paper clutter. I am purging a lot of paper clutter, much of which needs to be shredded because it contains personal information. After Alex was born, I started keeping my shredder in a closet for safety reasons, so now I have a box under my desk for papers that need to be shredded. Every so often – preferably when the kids aren’t home – I plug in the shredder and shred a bunch of papers at once. It’s not a particularly fun task, but I can do it while watching TV, and it feels good to get all of those papers out of the house.
9. Reward yourself. It always helps to have something to look forward to, so whether it’s sitting down with a cup of tea and a magazine, or buying something you love for your newly decluttered closet, plan to reward yourself when you’re done.
10. Keep the end in mind. Having less stuff means your house is easier to clean, you can bless others with what you no longer want, you have less stress, your house is more comfortable and cleaner for your family, etc. I’m also finding that it makes me think twice about buying more things – even things that we will eventually use, like toiletries. I have a good stockpile thanks to The Drugstore Game, so I’ve decided that I can wait for absolute rock bottom prices (which often means free) on just about everything.