It’s a New Year and if you’re like many folks, “Get Organized!” is written at the top of your resolution list in big bold letters. If you truly want to accomplish this goal, I’d like to let you in on a dirty little secret: those pretty canvas bins with the chalkboard labels just ain’t gonna get the job done.
There is nothing wrong with pretty bins and baskets. I happen to like them very much. But I’m here to warn you: fall not into the trap of thinking the organizing product aisle will organize your life. The only thing that will help you get organized is making no-nonsense decisions about your stuff.
Think about organizing as a two-step process:
Step 1: Minimize down to what you truly use and love.
Step 2: Just organize that stuff.
When you head to the basket aisle of Target before decluttering, you have skipped right through step one and I hate to break it to ‘ya…. but ye shall not be organized as a result.
It’s kind of like buying fancy new sneakers and expensive workout gear and hoping that your sweet workout swag alone will help you get in shape. Unfortunately for all of us, this is not true. The only way to get in shape is to pump the iron, hit the sidewalk, and put down the doughnut. Similarly, the only way to get organized is to look at your stuff and ask it, very seriously, Why the heck are you here?
Granted, this is not as fun as going to the basket aisle of Target. But I always say, if getting organized was as easy as buying some bins and baskets, we’d all be organized! Believe it or not, it is possible to become organized without spending any money at Target. (Of course, this would require you to not go into Target, because I swear, there is a legit financial twilight zone hovering over that store that forces me to spend my money as soon as I step inside. I believe federal researchers are currently looking in to this phenomenon…)
The main thing you need to do to get organized is follow Elsa’s famous advice in the Disney movie Frozen: “Let it go… Let it go… Don’t hold onto that panini maker anymore!”
Granted, letting go is hard. I mean, it took Elsa like a whole movie and a lot of merchandise to figure it out. So here are my top 5 tips to help you let go of the stuff you don’t need:
- Make donating a habit, not a special occasion. I used to go through my house once a year or once every two years, whenever the amount of stuff started to really bug me, and do a major purge. This is not a very effective way to stay organized. Think about it… stuff comes into your home more often than once a year; thus, it makes sense to donate items regularly as opposed to waiting for all the clutter to pile up. Keep a constant donation box somewhere in your house (or on every floor, or in every room, if you’re really serious) and add to it regularly. When it fills up, take those donations to the charity of your choice and drop them off. Fill, drop, repeat. Fill, drop, repeat. And watch the clutter flee from your home!
- Pick your favorites. This tip applies to duplicate items. For example, a toolbox full of similar hammers or a closet full of similar shirts. There is no reason to have multiple items that perform the same task. Get all your like items together, pick your favorites, and donate the rest. If you’d like to learn more about picking your favorites, read this.
- Set donation deadlines for “maybe” items. We often hit a decluttering roadblock when it comes to “maybe” items, those things we probably don’t need but we just aren’t ready to say sayonara yet. Put your maybe items into a box, tape it up, and write a future date on it. If you have not needed to open the box by that date, donate without opening. I recommend making tight deadlines for your maybes, just a month or two. At most, you could make the deadline one year from the current date. If you haven’t needed it in a year, you really don’t need it!
- Follow the 20/20 Rule: This tip will also help you with those “maybe” items. I often ask myself, “If I ever needed this item in the future, how hard would it be to replace it?” If I can replace it for less than $20 and by traveling less than 20 miles, I donate it. You would be surprised how many things you can replace following this rule! (Note: kids, pets, and spouses are generally not replaceable with the 20/20 Rule.)
- Don’t keep items out of guilt. I sometimes call this rule “Keep the Love, Not the Stuff” and you can read more about it here. But the basic idea is that you should not keep items in your home that make you feel guilty. If, for example, you are keeping something because someone gave it to you, ask yourself, Would I buy this for myself? If you are keeping something because you bought it and feel bad that you don’t use it, ask yourself, Would I buy this again? If the answer to either of those questions is “No”, donate it and get that guilt out of your life. Believe me, you will feel physically better!
I hope those tips help you accomplish your goal of getting organized this year! Thank you for reading, happy 2017, and happy decluttering!
Rose Lounsbury is the Dayton, Ohio area’s up-and-coming professional organizer. She also tried out for the part of Elsa in Frozen, but the producers said she didn’t seem to understand the concept of the movie. Their loss. After blogging about her own journey toward a minimalist lifestyle, Rose was inspired to start Less, a minimalist-minded professional organizing company. If you’d like Rose’s help with an organizing project at your home or office, please call her at 937-626-9030, email her at [email protected], or visit her online at OrganizeWithLess.com.