“You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?” – Comedian Steven Wright
When March arrives and winter begins to recede, spring cleaning comes to mind. This year, go beyond cleaning and use the change of seasons to clear out clutter. Every day all sorts of things enter your place - mail, papers, magazines, new clothes, gifts, supplies, etc. The renewal of spring is a great time to let this stuff go.
Follow these clutter-clearing tips to make the process easier
Make the time
Set aside a specific block of time to tackle the stuff that’s been piling up. Giving yourself a finite amount of time will focus your efforts. When I help a client, we usually work for three hours. Don’t try to go that long by yourself without frequent breaks!
Gather some supplies before you begin. Your task will be much easier if you have some sturdy garbage bags, recycling bins, and a few cardboard boxes for stuff you want to give away, donate or sell.
Start with one area – or one type of thing. For example: the hall closet or magazines. Don’t move on to the next area or type of thing before you are finished. Better to complete one project that to open up 4 or 5 different cans of worms.
Sort it out!
Before you start, establish criteria to determine the stuff you will get rid of. Some examples of things that you might want to toss:
- Things you never use.
- Things you hate. Even if it was a gift. (Well, maybe not if it was a gift from the person you live with!)
- Things that are broken -- it’s almost never worth your time or money to repair things like broken answering machines or phones.
- Things that are out of date. If you feel you MUST save magazines and papers, determine an “expiration date” that makes sense – almost any printed material more than a year or two old is probably stale by now.
- Duplicate things – one staple remover is enough; a drawer full of pens is probably too many. If you find you have multiples of things, consider setting a limit -– this can be a number or a limit based on how much space you’ll devote to the item. For example, 4 pairs of black pumps or as many pens as will fit in a mug on your desk.
- Mystery things – odd cables, random keys, photos of people you don't recognize, etc. If you don’t know what it is, you probably don’t need it.
- Things that you don’t have time for or that are no longer a priority. Are you really going to take up knitting?
The idea is to only hold onto things that are useful and important to you and that enhance your life! You can also establish criteria for the things that you want to keep:
- You use it.
- It’s related to a project or goal you’re working on.
- There are legal, tax or compliance reasons for keeping it.
- It’s hard to replace or valuable.
- You love it; it’s meaningful to you and it makes you feel good.
- Try to avoid “It might come in handy some day”. This is a recipe for holding onto everything!
Now you’re ready to begin. Make the process as fun as possible – turn on some music or the TV, invite a friend or relative to help, have some snacks ready for when you need a break.
Once you get started, try to stay focused on just letting stuff go. This is not the time to read every old magazine and article that you’d clipped to read “some day”. If you’re struggling with a decision on whether you should throw something out, consider putting it into a temporary holding bin or sticking a Post It marked "Keep?" on it. You can put an “expiration date” on these things – if you don’t use it by that date, it’s time to let it go. Don’t spend time agonizing over decisions – the first step is to quickly clear the clutter and toss the trash.
After you're finished sorting, make sure everything you’re going to keep is put away and take a minute to take out the trash.
When you’re done, congratulate yourself and do something to celebrate. You’ve just cleared some space so new things can come into your life. That should put a spring in your step!