One of the most frequent questions I ever get asked about organizing is the process. How do you make the decisions to get rid of things? While there are many tips and tricks you can use to ease the streamlining process, it all comes down to 5 easy steps:
- Set yourself a goal “I am going to sort half this room before bed” or “I am going to streamline the contents of this one box.”
- Figure out broad categories and where you are going sort each category into.
- Sort your stuff, moving systemically through the space, and not bouncing back and forth.
- Purge what you don’t want.
- Stop when you’ve reached your goal.
Use the sorting time to reminisce about the objects — don’t make any decisions at this point. Allow the emotions to come up and clear themselves out so that when it comes to the streamlining stage you are free from the emotional ties and can make more objective decisions about them.
If the idea of sorting overwhelms you, give yourself some early victories and do a walk-through of the space, choosing to remove a few large things that will open up the space quickly.
- Take one category and if you can, move it out of the space in which you are working, and into a clear space (like the dining room). This allows you to concentrate on the one category and not have to face the rest all at once.
- Ask yourself two questions: Need it? Love it? If you can’t say yes to either then get rid of it. Life is too short to fill out our spaces with things we’re indifferent to.
- Take the things you are not going to keep out of the house as quickly as possible. The longer they stay the more likely they will come back into the house.
- Give yourself rewards – for example out of fifty childhood books you’ve never reread but have kept for sentimental reasons, keep five and store them in a place of honor where you can see them and appreciate the memories associated with them.
There are two instances in which you stop for the day even if you are not done:
- If you find yourself hitting a “brain fog” where nothing makes sense or you find yourself holding on to everything you are reviewing.
- If you have hit a manic state and start tossing everything without looking at it.
Simple, yes? So now tell us, what are you going to streamline this week?
This post has been updated since its original publication in 2009.