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Make Space: Decisions

Dear Jo the Clutterbuster:

I survived tax time, and Mother's Day. I now stop paper before it enters my house and created a basic paper management system .
Summer vacation looms. I'd like to take advantage of the longer days and the extra available bodies to clear out some clutter and make space for what's important.

But, I don't think I can climb these mountains of  mess.


Avoiding An Avalanche

Dear AAA:

There are many books, videos and now television programs about how to de-clutter, how to get organized, how to simplify your life. Whether you are de-cluttering and organizing one closet, one room, one office, or one house, the underlying principles are the same:

Make decisions
Make order
Make systems.

Put on your hiking boots and get started.

Make Decisions 

You make space for what is REALLY important by discarding, donating or dispersing items that are no longer useful or meaningful to you. Before starting the process, label 3 large boxes: Keep/Put Away, Donate, Sell/Freecycle. Obtain a very large trash can and box of black trash bags (so you won't be tempted to look at what you have discarded) and a recycle bin. You might also need a box of tissues.

For each room or specific space, create 'Criteria for Keeping'. The criteria will vary with the kinds of items you are sorting. If you are clearing a closet, some criteria might include: Still fits; wear frequently. Your criteria should NOT be: Paid a lot for it; Might fit into it if I loose 10, 20 or 'x' numbers of pounds. For unsorted papers, the criteria might include: need for taxes, personal or family memorabilia, to pay. Some general criteria might include the questions:

Have I used it within the past year? If no, let it go.
Do I love it? If no, let it go.
Can someone else make better use of it? If yes, let it join the rest.

Set aside a reasonable amount of time for the process. If it took 20 years to clutter up the house, you won't be able to de-clutter it in one weekend. In general, it takes 6-8 hours to complete an average closet; 1 or 3 hours to sort a box of papers and bills. Plan accordingly.

Getting Started

You are now ready to begin. Start on one side of the room or desk or floor and continue clockwise. Pick-up the item and place it in one of the pre-labeled boxes or into Trash or Recycling.

Decision-making is exhausting so be sure to include short breaks during the sorting process. Drink water and eat healthy snacks while you work.

During this process, you CAN NOT use the words someday or might as in: 'But someday' OR I might use, read, fix, OR they might remember they gave me that wedding gift 10 years ago.

By letting go of what you don't want, need or use, you then prepare for the second step in the process: Make Order.