True organization means less stuff

March 8, 2010

Is anyone else in a constant state of trying to get organized? Have you also come to the realization that no amount of organizational do-dads are going to help the process?

I’ve been on an organization mission for the past year. Something about having a baby in the house made me realize that though I appear organized on the surface, I am in fact very disorganized underneath. The solution has been simple but not painless: less stuff. If I get rid of all the stuff that I don’t use then organization becomes much more feasible.

Purging is simple if you follow a basic plan:

1. Determine to be resolute in your decisions. This is not going to work if you are going to waffle or err on the side of keeping something “just in case.”

2. Decide which area to tackle first. I recommend a small area like the coat closet, bathroom cabinets or linen closet.

3. Bring along two sets of boxes or bags. One is for items to be donated, the other is for items to be trashed. You may want another box for items to be sold,only if your stuff is valuable and you have the time and inclination to bother with selling. Personally I find that selling is time-consuming and adds another layer of complication to my life. I don’t bother for items that are worth less than $20 or so.

4. As you look at the items in this space, ask yourself: How long have I had this? When have I last used this? If you’ve had it for a year or more and you haven’t used it, then it must go. Does this still fit? Do I ever wear this? It’s really hard to get rid of “skinny clothes.” For now give yourself permission to hold on to the items that you really liked, but get rid of the rest. If there are items that you never wear then these too must go. Do I even like this? Sometimes I find that I hold onto something even though I have never liked it – maybe it was a gift or maybe I got a deal on it. These items too must go.

5. It is inevitable that there will be a few items that you just can’t decide on. There may be a shirt or shoes that you haven’t worn in years but you think you will wear someday. If you are really torn between keeping and tossing/donating an item, then I recommend placing these items in a “donate later” box. Pack the items in the box and then push it to the back of the closet. If you don’t miss these items in the next six months, then go ahead and get rid of them.

6. Once you have conquered the easy areas like the linen closet, move on to the harder areas such as your own closet, the kitchen, the basement, the garage. Once you experience a small taste of success you will hopefully become an efficient (and ruthless!) purger.

7. After you have acquired a decent sized donation pile, drive it to the nearest Goodwill, or schedule a free pickup using the VVA or the Salvation Army.

8. Wait a few months… and then repeat the exercise all over again. If you’re anything like me, you will continue to find items that must go. Purging must be performed on an ongoing basis.

I am fortunate in that I am not sentimental at all when it comes to things. This makes purging really easy for me. I am unfortunate in that my husband is extremely sentimental – to the point where we are storing the boxes and manuals for every computer program he has ever purchased… including old copies of Windows.

I have been doing this for a while and I have found that I have no regrets about the items that I have purged. (Well, I’ll take that back just a bit – there was one time when I was stripping diapers that I regretted getting rid of a very large stock pot. But I have two other stock pots so this was by no means a monumental regret.) What I do regret is that I’ve let stuff clutter up my home and my life. I regret the money I’ve spent on acquiring junk. I regret the fact that I have moved items from house to house without ever using said items.

Live and learn. The process has not only made my house much less cluttered, but I’ve become a more savvy shopper. I’m much more critical of evaluating an item to see if it is junk that I will someday toss or an item that I truly need. If there is any chance that it is the former, then I am likely to save my money for something more meaningful.


One Response to “True organization means less stuff”

  1. James Says:

    Don’t forget – that stuff your husband is so sentimental about should probably go in the “for sale” pile and could be surprisingly valuable to a collector.

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