Simple Decluttering Tips

You don't always need to declutter to find order


Instead of requiring yourself to look at every piece of clothing to determine whether it's worth keeping before you start organising, just start organising. Picture / Babiche Martens

In recent years, organising and decluttering have become synonymous concepts, but they aren't really the same thing. Although the two activities go hand in hand, the main purpose of organising is not necessarily to discard things. Your closets and drawers can be packed but totally organised. Or, you may have a relatively clutter-free house but can't ever find what you're looking for.

Organising is putting the things you own in order. Decluttering means getting rid of unwanted items that are taking up valuable space. It's possible to do both things, but decluttering alone will not make you organised.

Most people fall somewhere in the middle. They have areas in their homes that they keep organised and others that are perpetually disorganised. For some, closets are their biggest organising challenge. For others, it might be their home office or kitchen. Some people can perfectly organise photos but don't have a clue about how to organise papers.

The goals of organising should be to know what you own, where to find what you need and where to put things, regardless of how much stuff you have.

READ: Is Being Disorganised a Good Thing?

For instance, I was recently helping a client organise photos. Not digital photos, but good ol' hold-in-your-hand pictures. The photos had collected in a large bin over the years.There was no order to them, and my client had no knowledge about what was there.

She expected me to tell her that she didn't need the pictures and that she should just toss them. But I don't advise people to part with their valued possessions to get organised. Instead, we spent three hours sorting through the piles, discarding many unintelligible or unimportant shots, tossing the paper envelopes and cardboard boxes, and organizing the photos into smaller boxes by year.

Once we got to work, my client realized it wasn't as difficult as she had imagined it would be, it didn't take as long as she thought it would, and it was easy to determine what to keep and what to toss. It also allowed her to take a fresh accounting of her pictures, gather some to mail to friends and family, and pull some for framing. Sometimes a little decluttering, and a lot of organizing, equals success.

Closets are another common source of organising angst. The directive to purge everything you haven't worn in the past year stops people in their tracks. They think that they couldn't possibly organise their clothing without doing a thorough clean-out first, which usually leads them to do absolutely nothing. After all, who wants to throw out that many pieces at once?

Instead of requiring yourself to look at every piece of clothing to determine whether it's worth keeping before you start organising, just start organising. Purging and organising don't have to be two wholly separate processes.

By hanging everything on the same type of hangers - hangers that properly fit your clothing - and arranging everything in a logical order - shirts together and facing the same way, pants hung properly and together by type, jeans and sweaters folded neatly - you'll find your closet to be much more organized, and you'll be better able to see what you have.

This process of tidying up and organising spaces you use every day can happen without decluttering, and it should happen a couple of times a year. If you discard some things along the way, that's progress.

Personally, I like to keep cards that people have sent me. All of the decluttering and minimalism advocates out there would tell me that the only reasonable thing to do with these cards is to toss them. But because I deem them important and want to keep them, I've decided to store them in neatly organised shoeboxes in my attic. It's true that I rarely look at them and that they are taking up space, but it's not space I need for anything else right now, and they aren't cluttering up my living space. In short, the cards are organized - I know what the collection is and where to find it and have a designated space to add new cards.

With her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo set the bar very high for all of us mere mortals who aren't quite ready to part with our possessions that don't "spark joy." If you set a goal of doing a massive purge, you're likely to get overwhelmed. Instead, be realistic, and strategic, by organizing the things you value most in an efficient and useful way. And if you get rid of some stuff during the process, you're doing just fine.

The Washington Post

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