After some recent fieldwork, I thought I’d follow up on my post on clutter and couples. As I mentioned in that post, my girlfriend is not the neat freak I am, and we’re moving in together soon. A move, as was pointed out in the comments, is a great time to take stock of your belongings and purge the clutter. So, we decided to tackle her closet last weekend.
It turned out to be a painless process. The toughest challenge a neat-freak like me will face is convincing their partner that in fact there is clutter among their possessions. Luckily for me, Kathleen freely admitted she probably had a thing or two in her wardrobe that she didn’t need. So, it was a simple matter of systematically going through each item in her closet. Here’s what we did:
- Action Piles – Following the 30 Days to a Simple Life plan, we set up three areas: love and keep, trash/donate, and ambivalent (only two or three things ended up in this pile).
- Tackle Chunks – Rather than just picking at the whole closet (and becoming overwhelmed), we tackled discrete chunks of the closet. For example, we first tackled all the shoes. We didn’t do anything else until we had finished with the shoes. Then we pulled out one drawer from the dresser and did just that one drawer before we moved on to the next. A partner or friend is helpful here because they’ll keep you focused on the task at hand. There’s a temptation to look up from
the shoes and start going through dresses; a friend can keep you focused.
- Evaluate Each Item – It sounds like a lot
of work, but it’s not, and it can even be, well, fun. The friend or partner (me in this case) picks up one item from the current “chunk” and asks whether it’s a keeper, trash, or what. Again, a friend helps here by fighting off the temptation to rummage through the ‘chunk’ rather than focus on each item one at a time. Another temptation a friend helps fight off is to believe that everything’s a keeper. Because you’re answering your uncluttering buddy, you’ll have to really think about whether you need/use the thing. If something’s not obviously a keeper, but you say it is, your friend can ask gentle but probing questions to find out if that’s really the case.
In the end, we got rid of five garbage bags of clothes and shoes. Yes, ladies, shoes. About half of all her shoes.
My contention is not that a woman shouldn’t have many shoes if it makes her happy. Quite the contrary, I think you should have whatever makes you happy. Instead my point is that shoes, or any other similar “collectibles,” have a tendency to come in the closet but never go out. As long as shoes are neatly organized, and pairs that are never used are thrown out, knock yourself out.
By picking up each and every pair of Kathleen’s shoes and asking her, “Do you use this?” she independently made the decision to throw out about half of them. About several pairs she replied that they went with just one particular dress, and that’s A-OK. But you get to that answer by asking yourself, not by believing that your shoes (or your gadgets or tools, men) are all off limits. Going item by item and asking yourself
if you really use it is a great exercise to do regularly with your shoes and all your possessions.