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De-Cluttering for the New Year

 Got stuff? Stuff all piled everywhere and driving you crazy? Step-by-step decluttering for the New Year at karenehman.com

Got Stuff?

And by “stuff” I mean piles.

Piles of paper, piles of kids’ items, piles of assorted kitchen clutter, and at this time of year, piles of new Christmas gifts and decorations waiting to be stored away.

Do you know what all of those piles are? They are the result of two little words that you have ingrained into your homemaking vocabulary. Two words that you must rid yourselves of if you want to bust up those piles. Those awful two words ladies are….

“For now”

You know, “I’ll set this junk mail here for now.

“I’ll place these toys and trinkets over there for now.

“I don’t know what to do with all of this ______(you fill in the blank) so I’ll lay it here for now.”

Girlfriends, our “for nows” are ruining us! And do you realize that every pile is just a stack of unmade decisions?

Thus the piles of “for now”.

And our kiddos and husbands only add to our problem. You see most of us get frustrated with ourselves and fuss and fume at the dear members of our families, wanting them to stop creating clutter and get with the program!

The problem, dear sisters, is we have no program in place to get with.

I hope this post can be your program.

For some of us the problem isn’t where to put the stuff. It is that we have too much stuff. So, first let’s learn to do a little dejunking, ridding ourselves of the unnecessary clutter. With what is left, we’ll find a place other than the dreaded culprit piles of “for now” where they currently lodge.

Make a vow that for the rest of this month, you will devote a chunk of time each day to de-cluttering. The result? Less piles and more smiles. Here’s how:

Dejunking Basics

First, you’ll need five boxes. (Or, if you are tackling a really big room or area, bins or laundry baskets.) They will hold items that you come across that belong somewhere other than where they are at the moment.

Label the first box Put Back. Inside of it place another small lidded container such as a shoe box or plastic tote. This box will be used to collect the items that are out of place in your home. The smaller container will hold items such as pens, pencils, barrettes, and coins so they don’t get lost in the bigger box.

The second box will be labeled Take Back. This will corral all of those items in you home that don’t belong to you and need to be returned somewhere. You know, library books, rented DVD’s, a shoe from your son’s friend who spent the night last week, a pan from the sweet lady fom church who made your family brownies two months ago, etc..

The third box will be used for garbage. Label it Toss or Trash. Line it with a garbage bag so that when it becomes full, you can tie it up and transport it to the trash can. If you are a family that recycles, you can also have a box or bin for that purpose too.

Next, you’ll want to have a box for those items that are still in good shape, but no longer needed or wanted at your home. Label this one Charity or Garage Sale. You can even place price stickers on your things at this point if you will be holding a sale. If you will donate your belongings to a charity or homeless shelter, as a box fills up, seal it and put it in your vehicle to be ready to drop off next time you are near a donation center.

The last box in the bunch will be labeled Nostalgia. More on this in a minute.

Before starting, please determine that you will be ruthless. Promise yourself that if you have not used it, needed it (but couldn’t find it), worn it, or enjoyed looking at it in the past year—then you’re going to LET IT FLY!

Haul your boxes into your problem room. Position the boxes in the middle of the floor. Beginning in one corner of the room, pick up an article, and ponder the following:

Is this item out of place? Place it in the Put Back box.

Does this item need to be returned to someone or somewhere? Into the Take Back box it goes.

Is this item in such dire shape that it is no longer usable? Then place it in the Toss box. If it is made of metal, glass, paper, or plastic, it goes in the recycle bin if you are going to add this step too.

Is this item in fine shape but no longer needed by anyone in our family? Into the Charity or Garage Sale box it goes.

•Now here is the final question: Is this item no longer needed by anyone in our family, but one of my children (or my husband) is so attached to it that if I pitch it now, they’ll be emotionally damaged for life and, yes, someday they will be on national TV spilling their guts on some talk show about my cruel actions? Then into the Nostalgia box it goes. All of your kiddos can have a few nostalgia boxes with favorite “keeper” items. I like to attach a note to the item such as “You wouldn’t fall asleep without this stuffed turtle by your side” or “You carried this little lunch pail on the first day of school.”

Once your question and answer exercise is finished, look down in your hand? Is the item still there? It must be:

A. Something you actually want or need and ….

B. It must be located in the proper room of the house.

Continue making a sweep around the entire room, following the same procedure with each item you encounter. Check every drawer, shelf and closet. Make certain you are taking inventory of everything you own. Again, be ruthless! Every so often empty out the boxes—put back the out of place items, throw out the trash bags, transfer the storage and nostalgia items to a box that can be placed in permanent storage, and keep on truckin’! What seems like an overwhelming task will soon gain momentum.

Crank up some music you enjoy or download an audio book to help the time pass more quickly. And if you are like me, you’ll discover that this concept works best when following the buddy system. Junk busting is easier with a friend who is, unlike you, not emotionally attached to your stuff. They will help you decide objectively what you will keep and what you will pitch, give away, or sell. When you come to the Tupperware deviled egg holder your Aunt Tillie gave you ten years ago that you never use, your friend will grant you the courage to get rid of it, offering their full assurance that Aunt Tillie will not suffer irreparable harm because of your decision.

Now, with what is left, you need to think logically. Just having things arranged all ‘neat’ does not necessarily mean they are arranged in a user-friendly and organized manner. You want to place items back according to their frequency of use.

No sense having a bunch of kitchen gadgets you never use in a drawer right by the stove and the measuring cups you do use way across the room.

Taking time to dejunk and then re-think your work patterns will lead to an organized and functional home. You can do it! I have faith in you!

Happy organizing!

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  1. My garage could qualify for Hoarders…little paths lead to the laundry and the fridge. This happened when I got divorced 8 years ago and had to downsize. I literally freeze when I go in there! I just don’ know where to start…The next is all the paperwork throughout the rest of the house, combined with everyday clutter. It (the clutter) holds me back from moving forward & I remain in an endless loop of being behind & disorganzed :(

  2. Oh my goodness! What great ideas. Hard for me to put into effect though. I look at the upstairs where we no longer have a bedroom or other rooms due to clutter and no closets to store anything. We have one baby 10 months and another on the way and all the kids clothes are up there with odds and ends. Motivation is needed, then courage to start digging when I am so overwhelmed. I choose to not go up unless I need to get clothes for myself or anything else. Where to start? Maybe this book can help break it down for me, as most are keeper items with no space to store.

  3. My son moved out of his room & into the guest room. Now that room has become the “overflow room”. Things he didn’t take to hisnew room, things that won’t fit into my classroom closet, clothes I need to get rid of! One big garage sale!!

  4. The office for sure! I am self employed and I homeschool all out of an office shared by three adults. I’d love your book!

  5. All of my rooms need to be decluttered. I look around and wonder why–after 16 years of marriage–my hubby finally decided to put his foot down. This isn’t fun…I seriously need professional help. I need to be on some reality show where people will come help us clean out our beautiful home–one of the prettiest in our small town–and help us take better care of a special blessing.

  6. My laundry room has been at the top of the organize/declutter list for the last 5 years or so. Maybe this will be the year. Your book would surely help!

  7. I take care of my parents as a CNA and I fight the ‘pack rat syndrome’ with them daily. My mom has two rooms that you can barely get in. There are things in there from way back. I love organizing things and obsess in my own home. I love new ideas probably out of fear that I will turn into my mother otherwise. lol Some day I will figure out how to tackle those spaces and make them livable.

  8. My entire house needs to be de-cluttered and organized. Our house flooded last year due to an exploded hot water tank that is stored in our attic. This was Thanksgiving last year and I still have boxes that are not unpacked and things stored in boxes on the back porch. Our house was gutted. This is so overwhelming and I could use this book and many prayers !!!

  9. My living room is the epitome of “not now.”
    Usually the result of moving stuff from one room (undergoing renovation) to the living room (to be dealt with later.)
    Unfortunately, later never seems to arrive. Stuff is crammed into boxes, baskets, whatever and piled (vacations and dumpster-time being limited) while I work on the renovation. Repeat for each succeeding renovation and you can see where I’m going…buried under a bunch of stuff! Help me!

  10. “For Now..” I never really thought about how true it is that those 2 words result in such disorder.My home office can benefit from your helpful suggestions.
    Thank you!

  11. I would have to say I feel so much less alone! I have family members that are very tidy, and I always feel bad when they come by and we are so disorganized. This is a very interesting method! Thank you!

  12. My life needs to be de-cluttered (as in my living areas, kitchen, closets, spare room/crafting/junk, bedrooms). I started working in spare/crafting/junk room recently so I could use my sewing & monogram machines…but it didn’t take long for those 2 words to creep back in “For Now.”

  13. The absolute best idea I’ve ever seen for de-cluttering!! I know what I’ll be doing Saturday & on my next day off next week! Thank you for sharing & God bless you!

  14. The kitchen! We just remodeled a very outdated kitchen and EVERYTHING that was in it is in the living room. NOTHING will go back in it that isn’t truly necessary. No more outdated canned foods, no more wooden break-apart chop sticks from grocery store sushi, no extra ketchup packet. This must be done!

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