A stack of mail on the foyer table, your son’s gym bag and jacket draped over the couch. The tchotchke collection your grandmother started for you ages ago that seems to be taking over the living room. The china cabinet full of dishes you never use, practically adjacent to a kitchen sink full of dirty dishes. “I’ll get to it,” you tell yourself. Last week’s clean laundry is still in the dryer while this week’s dirty laundry overflows out of a dingy hamper that’s seen better days. Several unmade beds. That chair in your bedroom covered in clothing that never made it into your closet that you can’t quite remember whether it’s time to wash them or if they can be “worn again”. Those random scrap items in the garage: the lampshade, reclaimed wood, rickety chair, antique armoire, that your spouse promises will be the “next great project” that they just haven’t had the chance to finish. The kayak collecting dust, the broken down motorcycle that will be “up and running” soon, the tennis balls and racket for the lessons you have yet to take, the hiking boots for the mountain you keep planning to climb and darn it, you just tripped over that pile of shoes at the door, again.
Enough is enough.
Clutter = procrastination.
Clear your space, clear your mind, and make room for new experiences.
Your home is supposed to be a refuge, a place brimming with inspiration; a reflection of you, your life, and the goals that you are moving towards. This is supposed to be a place where you can be your most authentic self. Instead, it’s become a dumping ground for all of the things that are holding you back from the life you want to lead.
Have you ever noticed how much we conform to our environment when we have the power to customize our environment to work for us?
I want to live more life, with less stuff, but how do I get started?
Step 1: Sort & Purge
Choose a category to begin organizing such as “Clothing”, “Kitchen items” or “Paperwork”.
Start with whichever category you use most often. Then choose the area of your home that most reflects that category to use as “command central” for this project.
For the “Clothing” category the best place to start might be your Master Bedroom, or more specifically, your Master Closet. For “Kitchen items” you might choose the dining room, so that the kitchen remains available for others to use during the project.
Next, bring all of the items that fit within that category into the “command center” space and start grouping like items together such as shoes, or dresses, utensils and/or canned goods, or receipts vs. office supplies depending on the category you are working on that day.
Now, it’s decision time.
Once you have grouped like items together, it will be easy to see how many duplicates you have: 3 pairs of black slacks all in different sizes, 17 coffee mugs when only 4 people live in your home, 6 boxes of staples and only one stapler, or a never ending supply of Post-it notes and paper clips...
Ditch the duplicates.
Keep items that you can find an immediate use for and start living in the present.
Discard items that are no longer functioning with their intended purpose or have broken parts/sharp edges that may be dangerous to others. Don’t forget to recycle!
At this point, you may be feeling overwhelmed. It’s ok; I totally get it. Here is an advanced tip for Sorting and Purging to stop you from biting off more than you can chew:
Break each project into 30-minute “mini” challenges.
That’s right, just 30 minutes. This way you will feel accomplished, instead of sitting surrounded by piles of “categories” that you’re too tired or just couldn’t be bothered to put away.
Put on your calendar “ Organizing Kitchen” as this month’s “Get Your Life Together” activity and then assign yourself mini challenges for that category to complete twice a week (or more depending on the size of the category) that can be accomplished in 30 minutes or less. In this kitchen scenario you may choose “kitchen drawers” as mini challenge one day, “refrigerator” or “upper cabinets” on another. I’m sure you can find 30 minutes to tackle just one of those sub categories and once you are finished, you’ll be able to show off your amazing handiwork and feel motivated to move on to the next thing.
Most of this will be easy; some of this will be really hard.
How do I decide which clothing to get rid of? What about sentimental items?
Marie Kondo, author of the “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” uses the idea of “sparking joy” as a way to determine whether or not to keep something.
You may be thinking, “How the heck can an inanimate object ‘spark joy’? Remember those 17 coffee mugs? I bet you drink your morning coffee out of the same one everyday. No matter how many more are in front of it in the cabinet, or if it needs to be washed, you’ll do what you have to get to that mug, because it’s your favorite. It’s either the perfect size to fit your extra large chai latte, or it feels comfortable in your hand. It has a silly phrase on the front that makes you smile, or your 5 year old painted it as part of a school project and the swirling colors on the exterior brighten your day each morning. That warmth you feel when you hold it, and that instant memory it evokes, that is what it means to “spark joy”.
Follow that instinct.
The clothing that fits you the best today (not 25 lbs ago) that makes you smile when you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror, keep those. That outfit that you get tons of compliments on every time you wear it? Keep that. Those basics that go with anything, anytime, in every work/business casual situation? Yep, that's right, keep. Those ratty old T-shirts that you got for free at that art festival or promotional event? Keep one to do yard work in and ditch the rest. Get rid of anything that you have to lose weight to fit in, or that is too big. We're not toddlers anymore; we don't need clothing to "grow into".
Bring in your most blunt friend for reinforcement.
You know, the one who says exactly what everyone's thinking whether they like it or not, during the most inappropriate times? They are the perfect person to help you purge clothing.
Another way that you can make progress is to:
Turn your hangers around.
Typically, you will pull things out of your closet periodically to try on, or at least hold up in front of you while you consider whether or not to wear it. When you hang it back up, you will naturally return the hangers to their intended position. At the end of 3-6 months ( depending on the season) take a look at the hangers that are still turned the wrong way.
Those are the items that you haven't even touched.
Haven't. Even. Touched.
If you couldn't be bothered to touch them, you certainly don't need them clogging up your closet.
Those super sentimental items that are cluttering your space that have no function? Is it the item that you so desperately need to keep, or the memory?
Turn it into art.
Collages are a great way to condense old pictures, post cards, and kids drawings. Scan them , shrink them and create a gallery in your home so that you are constantly surrounded by memories.
Take a picture of that furniture piece or keepsake and honor the memory by creating a digital scrapbook/blog with the memory written alongside it.
Baby blankets, vintage clothing, curtains from the home you grew up in? Cut a portion from each and make a quilt for your bed so that you are cloaked in those great memories every night as you dream.
So now that you have made it through the hardest part, sorting & purging, what happens next? What do you do with everything that is left?