A lot of decluttering doesn’t happen because “the rules” get in the way. Tell me if this type of advice sounds familiar.
“Get three boxes – donate, trash, and ‘put away’. Pick up each item in your space. Make a decision. You’re not allowed to put it back unless that’s where it’s going to stay permanently.”
Sound familiar? People trying to follow this advice frequently get stuck, and it’s not on the part where they get the boxes together – it’s on that “make a decision” step.
If you’re the type of person that can pick up each item in your place and make a final decision, that’s awesome. Skip this article, and go do that. But if you’re not that sort of person, relax. You’re not alone. And there’s a method that may help you – it’s called “decluttering in waves”.
Here’s how it works.
First, get your containers together – donate, trash, recycle, & “put away”. Note that “put away” at this point is only for items that can actually be put away. If you think it should go somewhere else, but there’s no “somewhere else” to put it, it shouldn’t go in that box.
Second, identify an area of your home you’d like to work on. If you can’t decide, pick the area where you spend the most time.
Now that you’re ready to go, here’s what you’re going to do.
Pull everything out of the space you’re working in. Take one small area at a time – one box, bag, shelf, etc. You’re not just glancing at each item where it sits – you’re actually physically removing everything. If you have a closet full of shoes, that means you’ll be moving and touching each and every shoe.
Look each item over. Take your time. Things that look fine when they’re sitting on a shelf or in a closet may be damaged, dinged, etc. You want to make sure you know if the item is in good condition, missing pieces/parts, etc.
Test each item, if possible. Try on clothes. Put on shoes. Plug in the battery charger and see if it lights up. For clothing, does it fit? Is it comfortable? For other items, does it work? Do electronics light up when turned on / plugged in?
Now make a decision. Should you donate this? Trash it? Put it away? Or just put it back where it was? Yes, I said “put it back”. You can put it back wherever you found it. Really, no joke. Don’t over-think this, and don’t feel pressured. Just make a decision as quickly as you can, and move on. Items to donate go in the “donate” box, trash goes in the trash box or trash can, “put away” stuff goes in that container, and everything else goes back where you found it.
Schedule a time a few months / half a year / a year out to do this process again. This is the key to this method, as you’ll be encountering your stuff on an ongoing basis. The frequency is up to you, but you’ll discover that every time you do this your brain will allow you to let some more stuff go. Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot – but a bit at a time, over time, translates to some huge progress.
Because in the end, that’s what you’re after – progress. Whether or not you get there fast or slow, the fact that you’re moving in the right direction is what really matters.
And of course if you go through a space and wind up with a gigantic amount of things to be donated or disposed of, you know what to do. Give our pros a call and we’ll get it gone fast!