Over the past 20 years of teaching financial principles I am frequently asked about my system for cleaning my house of clutter. I promised you that I would give you the How-to-do-the-decluttering part of my system. Here are the steps I use each time I tackle a storage space that needs to be cleared of the “not needed” items.
- Prepare to Declutter. Before you ever begin to declutter an area, you need the necessary tools to tackle the job. Get four containers and put them within arms reach for the smaller spaces and easy stepping distance if you cleaning out a closet or room. Each container should be labeled so that you don’t have to “think” about which-one-is-which as you work. Taking a few moments to put a label on a container saves your valuable time as you work. These labels are Trash, Recycle, Keep, and Donate for your containers.
- Empty. Whether it is a drawer, purse, cabinet or closet, the idea is to empty it of everything. Don’t allow one paperclip, gum wrapper or dust bunny to remain. As you are removing each item from the storage space place it into a labeled container. If you have difficulty deciding on where an item should go, you can add a container to your system that is labeled Doubt. When I first started using this decluttering system, I had such a box, but found that I rarely had indecision on the items. I didn’t have to worry with things because many of them had been loved and then were done. My donation box is always brimming and I rarely keep anything that I have a doubt about. If I do have indecision, I usually give the item away because I know a better suited item is coming into my life soon. But that’s my way. You decide yours.
- Clean. This is where you take out cleaning supplies and actually give a little TLC back to the storage space. clean out all the gunk that resides in the cracks and crevices of your space so that it smells great and doesn’t have goo anywhere.
- Organize. Now is the time to organize your stuff back into the space you cleaned. Don’t just throw it all back in without a container. This is where you can break out bags, boxes or envelopes and label them as you organize your stuff back into the space. There are many wonderful people, books and systems out there to help you with organization and ALL of them start with (drum roll, please) decluttering. The best organizational system is the one you create for yourself, but if you are truly stumped ask around your social networks for ideas.
- Repeat. As you look at your newly declutterd space of a drawer, gym bag, or bathroom cabinet, give yourself a few moments to admire the beauty of it and to appreciate the before-and-after status that comes with a job well done. After you’ve given yourself a much-deserved pat-on-the-back, repeat the process with the next drawer, cabinet or closet until you run out of steam.
- Stop before fatigue. As you move from space to space decluttering, it is important to stop before you get tired from the work. The process of decluttering your life is a marathon, not a sprint. As we declutter we sprint through each space as we clean it, but the entire process is run as a marathon with lots of energy and relaxation at various points along your course. Be aware of your own energy levels, time management and momentum. When you feel yourself starting to droop. Stop. Stop after that space is done and get yourself some food or rest. You want to make decluttering a joy not a chore.
For me, I always look forward to decluttering my home. I relieve lots of fun moments as well as see how much my family and I have grown and changed. I find it a delight!
One of my favorite stories about decluttering comes from a neighbor of mine, Joanel. She had watched me declutter our front entryway closet on one of her visits to my home. As we chatted she watched me work my system. She asked me for details on how I worked this system in other areas of my home, my garage, the back barn, etc. I told her it was the same no matter the space. Two weeks later my phone rings, Joanel is on the other end and says simply, “Look out your front window! You see that trailer? I just lost 400 pounds in 24 hours!” She was thrilled. I was too! The joy of weight loss never gets old, does it? Good luck with decluttering your own spaces and email me your before and after pictures! They are my favorite kind of weight loss pics!
Janine Bolon, Fool & Founder of The8Gates, writes your story so you can live the life you want. Find out how she does it here: http://the8gates.com/old/contact/