Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Declutter your life - part 1

Getting rid of clutter

If you're getting rid of clutter, you enter an emotional state. It's difficult to get rid of most things, because you become emotionally attached to it over the period you possess it. This results in going over all items, throwing some of it away and eventually being left with almost the same amount of items you had, before the decluttering.

It's not easy to get rid of the clutter, but there are several tricks to get through it easier. I'll try to explain some of those tricks here.

Assumptions

I'm gonna downscale this article into decluttering a room. If you're trying to declutter your entire house, I suggest you try to do it 1 room at a time. Otherwise, you'll be discouraged easily by the amount of items to sift through.
After all, why do it the hard way, when we can take it step by step? Every problem can be solved more easily, when you devide it into small parts. Solve each part seperately and the problem will be gone faster than you think it can.

Preparation

Empty everything, empty the drawers, the closets, the boxes... Put everything in the middle of the room. One big pile of stuff. This is the stuff we'll be sifting through. If you never decluttered your room before, chances are high that more than 50% of this stuff needs to go away. That may seem a lot to you now, but if you want space or if you want to live a simple lifestyle, it's a necessity.
For easy reference, I'll call the big pile of stuff, the 'STUFF pile'.

Method 1: The think fast approach

I developed my own system, which I like to call "the think fast approach". The concept is very simple. You look at each item individually and you give it a quick review. The item will stay or go away immediately. No questions asked.

I'll explain it in some basic steps.
Step 1:
Take out everything from the big pile, of which you know immediately (withouth thinking!), that you have to keep it. Put this in a 'TO KEEP' pile.
Step 2:
Take out everything from the big pile, of which you know immediately (withouth thinking!), that you don't want to keep it. Put this in a 'GET RID OF' pile.
Step 3:
Use the 30 second interval: Review each item from the 'STUFF' pile and try to think of why you would want to keep it or whether you still need it. You can only think for 30 seconds. If those 30 seconds are over, PUT IT IN THE 'GET RID OF' PILE!
If it was important, you would've found a reason by now. You still don't now, so it's not an important item.
Review all your items this way.
Step 4:
Look at the 'TO KEEP' pile and see how big it is. In 99% of the cases, it's still way to big. Yes, yours could be smaller too. You need to realize that you still keep too much items.
Step 5:
Our 'STUFF' pile, became a smaller 'TO KEEP' pile. But since it's still to big, we review the 'TO KEEP' pile.
Thus, our 'TO KEEP' pile is now our 'STUFF' pile and we no longer have a 'TO KEEP' pile.
Step 6:
Use the 10 second interval: Review each item from the 'STUFF' pile and try to think of why you would want to keep it or whether you still need it. You can only think for 10 seconds. If those 10 seconds are over, PUT IT IN THE 'GET RID OF' PILE!
By giving yourself less time to think, you'll be able to filter out more items.
Review all items in the 'STUFF' pile this way.
Step 7:
Look at the result. A smaller 'TO KEEP' pile. You need to ask yourself the question: 'Is this pile still to big?'. In most cases, it still is. If it is: STOP. Stop decluttering any longer. Leave everything in it's respective piles and go do something else. Take your mind of decluttering. Even if it's for a couple of days or perhaps even a week.
Step 8:
Repeat steps 5 to 7, until you are satisfied.

Method 2: Yes, no and maybe.

This is a different method, that might work better for people who just can't seem to manage being harsh in their decisions to get rid of things. You basically give yourself more time to think about it.
Here are the steps to take:

Step 1:
Take out everything from the big pile, of which you know immediately (withouth thinking!), that you have to keep it. Put this in a 'TO KEEP' pile.
Step 2:
Take out everything from the big pile, of which you know immediately (withouth thinking!), that you don't want to keep it. Put this in a 'GET RID OF' pile.
Step 3:
You can now review each item from the 'STUFF' pile and put it in one of the following 3 piles: the 'GET RID OF' pile, the 'TO KEEP' pile or the 'UNDECIDED' pile. Basically, you end up with 3 piles: a yes/keep pile, a no/get rid of pile and a maybe/I don't know yet pile.
Go over all items, until you reviewed them all.
Step 4:
Look at the 'UNDECIDED' pile and see how big it is. This will now be your 'STUFF' pile and you have to review everything in it, again.
Step 5:
Repiet steps 3 to 5, until your 'UNDECIDED' pile is completely gone.
Take as much time as you need to review everything.

Notes

Some notes and tips...

  • If you can't seem to decide whether to get rid of some items in the 'UNDECIDED' pile (see Method 2) or not, leave it in that pile for a couple of days, perhaps even a week.
  • If you use method 1, it might be possible that you get rid of something that you could've used at a later date. Thinking fast, means you are more prone to making mistakes. Don't feel bad about it. There was once a time where you didn't have that specific item and life was great. If it's gone now, it's gone. If you need it and it's gone, try using your imagination to come up with another solution.

In the next post, I have something more to say about the emotional bonds that come with items.