Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Back to Basics: Cleaning Out Closets

I haven't written in a long while about cleaning out closets and want to go back to some basics. Often I forget how it was in the beginning, when I first started to declutter my life.  It is a long and emotional process, but once you master each step you will find yourself wanting even more of a challenge. 

So what is the first step?  It can be one of two things and that depends on you.  One, is to stop accumulating, which is better known as SHOPPING. Yes, stop shopping.  Stop going to stores. Stop shopping online.  Stop impluse buying at the grocery store and drugstore.  Stop going to sales to get a good deal.  This step is very difficult for some people, I know, and you may have to do it in small steps.  One time I went to Target and strolled through the store filling up my cart with things I could have used, or were perhaps a good deal.  When I got to the front of the store, I decided to just leave it because I really couldn't afford to spend $50 on all those good deals. I didn't really need any of it right then.  (Yes, I did feel bad about not putting it back-Shame on me!)  If this is your first step, you know who you are.  Cleaning out your home isn't going to do any good if you keep filling it back up.

The other first step for you could be going directly to cleaning out.  I like to set a timer for 10 minutes and stay in one area.  During the 10 minutes I will focus only on a drawer or a closet and do what I can.  Since this process is emotionally draining, it's best to keep it in a small amount of time and a small amount of space.  The rule is that you have to leave the area cleaner than you found it.  Don't drag a bunch of stuff out, then when the bell rings, leave a mess.  You have to deal with what you have time to deal with.  Leave the rest for the next time.  I know some people get started and they can't stop.  That's great if it works for you, but if you find yourself overwhelmed with it, try starting small.

For me, being organized isn't about having all those little cute containers to put your stuff in, but about being able to find things when you need them.  How much time is wasted looking for things?  How much money is wasted buying things you already have but can't find?  Don't go out and buy storage bins as your attempt to get organized.  This won't help you if you don't clear out the clutter first.  As you are sorting through your things in your 10 minute increments, put them where intuitively you will look for them.  For example, all batteries in the same place, tools in a toolbox, dvds together, bills easily accessed and books where you can find them.  I call this each item "having a place to live".

While you are doing these first steps, notice what you are drawn to and ask yourself "Why?". Shopping for a fantasy life is quite common.  Maybe you used to go out dancing a lot and were always buying cute tops for it, but now you don't.  Not only do you not need to buy them anymore but maybe you don't need so many hanging in your closet.  I won't get into all the specific ways to decide whether to keep it or toss it.  I think this first step is enough to get anyone started, or even restarted.  I also have to do this from time to time.  Clutter just accumulates, that is it's nature!  We all have to battle it. 

Look back through the archives for lots of in depth tips for clearing clutter. Remember that song by En Vogue from the 90's-Free Your Mind?  That's what you will feel like singing after you've done it!  You won't want to bring anything mediocre into your home again.

Picture is from www.traditionalhome.com

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