I am the tortoise type of a de-clutterer. I go slow and steady throughout the year and purge when something becomes an eye sore. I must say, I don’t ‘collect’ anything valuable – unless you count glass jars – and I really don’t care too much for keeping old CD’s and DVD’s either. Hello, iTunes and Pandora! Technology changes too rapidly to even think about keeping any electronic gadgets longer than I have to. Hello, eBay!
But, I do have a habit of NOT throwing out clothes. It’s a “dis-ease” when I can’t throw out 25+years old wool suits that I don’t wear anymore, vintage or not. And they are not even designers clothes! And memorabilia, magazines, books, crafting supplies, fabric, notions, etc….*sigh*
So when I decided to start the “De-Clutter 2012 Challenge“, it was more for my own sake than anyone else’s. Yes, I need your help to ‘make’ me throw out unnecessary clutter (is there ‘necessary’ kinds of clutter??) But I think you need it too, don’t you?
Anyway, just in case, you don’t know how to start your purging expedition, I’ve
stole borrowed what the King of Minimalist, Leo Babuata, would do.
Here are some of his purging tips and what I do.
Leo’s “The Surge”
One of my favorite ways to tackle clutter is in a huge surge — set aside a weekend, for example, and take on as much as you can, one room at a time.
Clear your schedule for a day or two. Get some boxes and trash bags. Get excited.
Let’s say you start with your bedroom. Pick one area of the bedroom — one flat surface, such as a shelf, the top of your dresser, a drawer, the floor of your closet. Clear that flat surface, putting everything into a pile.
Then sort, making quick decisions. Take the top item from the pile — it doesn’t matter what it is, and no avoiding certain items. Just pick up the first item in the pile. Make a quick decision to place this item in one of three piles:
Keep pile — for stuff you’ve used in the last 6 months and absolutely need and love.
Donate pile — to donate to charity, give to family/friends, or recycle.
Maybe pile — try not to use this pile if you can avoid it, but it’s for ones you absolutely can’t decide on. Put these things into a box, with today’s date, then put it into storage. If you don’t need anything in that box for six months, you can confidently get rid of it.
When you’re done sorting, put the things in the keep pile back, neatly. Where you place them is now their “home” — you should always put them in that spot. Put the donate pile into a box to donate to charity, perhaps setting some items aside to give to friends. Recycle the items that aren’t good enough to be reused.
Now go through the next flat surface — drawer, shelf, space on the floor, etc. Do it one are at a time until the entire room is done. This could take hours, but it can be a lot of fun. When the room is done, you should feel great. Celebrate. Move on to another room if you still have time and energy — otherwise, plan another surge session.
OK. I don’t go through the big “Surge” like what he’s describing BUT, I do have “Keep”, “Donate”, “eBay”, and “Chuck” piles when I’m in the mood to tackle the eye sore. One difference between him and I is that I don’t have a “May Be” pile. There is no going back once I decide on what to do with the items. There are no “May Be”s in the land of de-cluttering.
This is the baby steps approach, and it’s just as good. When I started Zen Habits, I had been reading a site called Fly Lady, who advocated starting with a clean sink. I did this: cleared the sink of dishes, scrubbed it until it shined. It was the epicenter of my clutter-free zone.
Then I spread the clutter-free zone, one chunk of space at a time, to the kitchen counters, dining table, kitchen floor, closet, cabinets. And so on, tackling one chunk at a time, maybe taking 10-15 minutes a day.
You can start anywhere, not just the kitchen sink. Your dining table is a good place to start, or a kitchen counter, or an area in your living room. It doesn’t matter — pick a spot, clear it. When you have time, clear another space near that clutter-free spot. Do your best to keep the clutter-free zone actually clutter-free as you expand.
Use the same pile-decision technique I described in the previous section — it works for chunking too.
I do do this, often, throughout the year. But this month, I will be starting in the family room – a room that has a fireplace with shelves and cabinets on the side, a room that has been neglected from “Chunking” too long.
Leo’s “In Combination”
In reality, you don’t have to choose between the two methods above. You can surge and you can chunk in combo. Maybe you start with a surge this weekend, and then chunk during the week. Maybe you have a month filled with various surges and chunks. Whatever works for your schedule and energy level.
Now, this approach is what I will be using as it’s more practical for my needs. I’ve already cleared out all the past issues of magazines this weekend. See the pile above? Gone! Yes, I subscribe to a few magazines that I like to read in the paper version, cut out pictures and articles as I read them. And when I can’t ‘get to’ them, I pile them up for ‘later’. Well, that ‘later’ was this past weekend. Now I can see some empty space on my table! I already feel …. purged! In addition, I’ve procured 2 bins for “Donate” and “eBay” piles for the next tackle. I believe it’s finally ‘time’ to donate those wool suits this year…finally.
So I am ready, willing and able! How are you doing on your de-cluttering challenge?
If you haven’t signed up for the “De-Clutter 2012 Challenge” yet, sign up today. Let’s do this together! You’ll feel great!