Decluttering in Depth

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Okay, so maybe it is time to declutter than closet. This basic technique works for desktops, drawers, cupboards and any other spots where you keep a lot of stuff together. It’s not for attics or out of the way storage spots where you’re allowed to keep things that are rarely used and off-season clothes. This is for high traffic spots.

Blender
The idea is that you have to take all the stuff out of where it is now in order to properly sort it. When you try to sort things inside the closet you just end up pushing them around and peering into the dark area in the back and saying, "well, I guess all this stuff can just, uh, stay in here." It kind of fits and you know it’s there and the closet is too small to get into and really do anything constructive anyway.

So, you have to pull all the stuff out. Note: this can be a messy, time consuming project. Don’t squeeze it in an hour before you have to leave the house. Plus, give yourself enough room to sort everything you take out. Making one big pile on the floor won’t help.

  • Put things with other like things as you go. Clothes go with clothes. Sporting goods, games, appliances, camera stuff, memorabilia, etc. You don’t have to be too exact, but you want to know how many blenders are in the closet, for example.
  • Look through each category pile individually. Get rid of multiples. Be honest about whether you’re going to fix the broken things (maybe you’ve already replaced them?). Think about donating that lovely coat you never, ever wear so someone else can enjoy it. Think also about donating that insanely ugly hat you received as a gift and never, ever wear so that, however inexplicably, someone else can enjoy it.
  • Take a hard line on what goes back in the closet. Each item must be:
  1. Useful in your life now, or
  2. Loved and desired, or
  3. Both of the above

You have to make a commitment to each thing when you put it back in the closet. You use it, you need it, you like it. Now you know what’s in the closet and, most likely, you can actually get in there and find something. Yay!

Take the Organizing Challenge

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Dog race Here's how it works. Find a spot where clutter has been allowed to congregate (and propagate!) This could be your desk, your kitchen counter, your dining table, your briefcase; wherever. Set your timer for one minute. Ready, set, go! Race around putting away as much as you can from that clutter spot. Sound effects can help: "Whoa!" "Yikes!" "Outta my way!" "Aaaack!" Hint: if you don't need sound effects, you're not moving fast enough.

Time's up! How did you do? Rate your performance below.

I put away 10 things. You are an organizing Jedi knight! If there was any clutter still left, I'll bet you could eliminate it in another minute or so. You wasted no time trying to remember what drawer to put the thingamajig in. The added benefit is that now you know where everything is!

I put away 5 things. Not too shabby. One minute isn't very long. You may have had to think a bit about where things went, which is part of the reason for this challenge. The more you have to think and re-decide, the longer putting things away takes. That means identifying specific, easy-to-reach homes for your possessions is critical to keeping that clutter from breeding.

I put away one thing. Hmm, either that one thing was the size of a baby elephant, or you need to refine your stuff storing skills. When tidying up is time-consuming drudgery, your motivation to do it will be approximately zero. On the other hand, when you know exactly where things go, you can polish off this task in no time.

I didn't put anything away. Were you overwhelmed because you knew you couldn't make much headway in one minute? Did you not even know where to start? I made up this speed challenge because I know that decluttering has to be somewhat automatic if you're ever going to fit it into your day. Imagine if every time you took a fork out of the dishwasher you had to figure out where to put it! You'd be living in chaos-land. Imagine that everything you own is a fork and find a fork drawer to put it in.

How did you do? Let me know in the comments section.

Racing dogs from Nebbish1's photostream.

New Year's Resolution Ideas for Getting Organized

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Autumn CycleGetting organized, along with losing weight and quitting smoking, is on most people's list of new year's resolutions. Here are some ideas for resolutions, and three rules for increasing your success at keeping those resolutions.

First rule for any resolution: keep it small enough to be do-able. You want a goal that's reachable soon, even if it seems insignificant. You're setting the stage for the next, bigger goal. Success breeds success.

Second rule: It's all about you. Don't compare yourself to others, especially that more organized neighbor or relative. You have your own unique skills, talents, desires and motives. Work with them, not against them. Start where you are now.

Okay, here are some suggestions. Scale them up or down as needed.

  • I will sort my mail every day
  • I will spend 30 minutes a week decluttering (use a timer!)
  • I will give away magazines before the next issue arrives even if I haven't gotten around to reading them
  • I will keep a shopping bag in my closet to put clothes I'm donating in
  • I will keep my to-do list small and manageable (put it on a Post-It)

The challenge:
How do you remember to do all these wonderful things? Despite your best intentions, you may find it hard to work these new behaviors into your life. Make it easier with reminders that work for you. Use Post-Its on the bathroom mirror; a classic. Programmed, regular email reminders are my favorite. Find a partner to trade reminders with on the phone every week.

Third rule: don't beat yourself up if you get behind. Just start again. Remember when you learned to ride a bike? How often did you fall off before you were able to fly down the street on that thing? Once you were flying, you probably didn't think about the falling part anymore. So, get on the bike.