How to Clear Clutter: What to Keep, What to Get Rid Of, and Where to Start

how to clear clutterDo you want to clear clutter but are scared you might get rid of something that you need someday?

As a professional organizer, the two questions I get asked most frequently as it pertains to “how to clear clutter” are:

·      “How do I figure out what to get rid of?”

·      ”How do I know I won’t need that item again?”

Today I am going to reveal a formula for deciding what to keep, what to get rid of and where to start.

What to Keep:

Only keep items that are useful or meaningful.

Useful = items you are currently using or know that you will be using them in the near future.

A bookcase is useful, however, if it is currently collecting dust in your basement or garage, it is not useful.  Sell it on Craigslist and trust that when you need a bookshelf in the future, there will be one available for you.

Why not pocket the money for your used bookshelf and then buy a new used bookshelf when you actually need it?

Meaningful = memorabilia

If you tend to keep too much memorabilia, use this simple three-step process.

1.   Lay all of your memorabilia out and select the top 10 items you treasure most.

2.  Honor your memories by beautifully displaying these 10 items.  For example, frame a special t-shirt and hang it on the wall.  Or, create a shadow box of special jewelry, news clippings, and other small items.

3.   Get a single, large rubber bin for each member of your household.   Label each bin, for example: “Jane’s Memorabilia”.

Select additional “favorite” pieces of memorabilia and put them in your bin.

Leave some space, because all new memorabilia items that you decide to keep need to go into your bin or be displayed.  If your bin is full, you will need to let go of something to make space in your bin for the new item.

Have each member of your household follow the same plan.

Then, bless someone else by donating or selling all of the remaining items.

What to Get Rid Of:

Get rid of everything in your home that is not meaningful or useful.

How do you know whether you’ll need that item again!?  You don’t!

You only know that you don’t need right now.

What you must believe is that the item will be available to you when you need it.

Trust the market place.  It’s as eager as you are to exchange stuff.  If you ever need that item again, you can easily find a substitute on Craigslist, eBay, or one of the many online free markets.

Let’s say you get rid of a bookcase you’re not using by selling it on Craigslist for $40. Then a year later you have a need for a bookcase.

Within a week or two you will be able to find one; you know this because yours sold in about the same time.

Most likely you will find a bookcase that better suits your needs than the one you sold a year ago.

Plus, you had the $40 in your pocket for a whole year – instead of a dusty unused bookcase.

An important part of this how to clear clutter process is trusting that what you need will be available to you when you need it so you can let go of your clutter and create space in your life for the things and people you love.

Where to Start:

Make a list of areas that you want organized, then chose the area you use the most.

Start clearing clutter that is obviously garbage or recycling. To help keep yourself from getting distracted, put on your How to Clear Clutterfavorite song and give yourself a goal of having all garbage and recycling cleared from the area before the song ends.

Don’t touch anything else, just focus on removing garbage and recycling before your favorite song ends.

Next, set out four large bins or create four spaces using blankets or sheets.  Label each bin or blank as follows:  To Donate, To Sell, To Leave (which is for items that belong in a different area), To Organize (which is for items that are staying in this area).

Set a timer for one hour, put on your favorite sound track and start sorting items into the four bins or locations.

After an hour, take a short break and then repeat the process.  Keep repeating until all items have been sorted into those four categories.

If you find yourself getting stuck because you are not sure which category a particular item goes into, set that item aside and come back to it.

It is best to keep moving.  At the end of the day or the beginning of the next day, go through the pile of items that you set aside and make a decision on which category to put each of them in.

That is the formula on how to clear clutter.

Now it’s time to organize the items that are staying in the area.  Start by assessing the area and the items.

You may want to hire a professional organizer to help with this part of the project.

To find a qualified organizer in your area, checkout the following associations:

Residential Professional Organizer in the US =  NAPO

Residential Professional Organizer in Canada = POC

Business Professional Organizer in the US or Canada = IABO

If you are a DIY’er, here are five questions to ask yourself:

1.  What purpose(s) do I want this area to serve?

2.  Based on the purposes this room serves, what would be the most efficient layout?  For example, in a kitchen you don’t want to put all of the most used items in one spot because people will be tripping over each other to access them.

3.  How can I maximize this space?

4.  How you could I walls to maximize space and to keep items easily accessible and off the floor?

5. What systems can I put in place to keep this area organized.  For example, if it is a mail area, put a shredder and recycling bin in the area to make sorting your mail easy.

Let the answers to these questions guide your organizational process.

This “how to clear clutter” formula which will work for almost every area of your home and office.

If you get stuck at any point during the “how to clear clutter” process, call in a professional organizer.  Even just a couple of hours with a professional can help you move through your organizing project with ease.

Try out this formula and in let me know how it goes by leaving a comment below!

If you discover some helpful tips as you follow the “how to clear clutter” formula, please share them in the comments below.

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2 Responses to “How to Clear Clutter: What to Keep, What to Get Rid Of, and Where to Start”

  1. Donny Piers April 11, 2013 at 12:51 pm #

    Very useful post. I’ve always faced troubles dealing with the junk around my space. Just the thought of decluttering makes me feel frustrated and defeated. Now, I feel more confident of the final result next time I’m clearing up my home.


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