Clutter-Busting Basics

 Are you ready to learn to live a life of welcome, using your home to love and serve others? Or is there a little bit of hesitation when it comes to the whole subject of your home? I mean, you gladly have others over for a meal, that is if you could actually see the top of your dining room table! Or maybe you have killer dust bunnies under your sofa and you’re slightly concerned they may bite your guests in the ankles. Time for a little lesson and decluttering your house.

Let’s start with those pesky piles. Oh, I know you have them. We all do!  Piles of paper, piles of assorted kitchen clutter, piles of wayward items that have yet to find a home.  Do you know what all of those piles are? They are the result of two little words that you have unfortunately ingrained into your vocabulary. Those awful two words are….

“For now.”

You know, “I’ll lay this mail and newspaper ads here for now.”

“I’ll place these clean towels I haven’t found time to fold yet over there for now.”

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

Friends, our “for nows” are wrecking us! You must realize that every pile in your place is a stack of unmade decisions. Your brain was too overloaded to decide where the item should go so you just “for nowed” it and went on your merry—and messy—way.

For many of us the problem isn’t where to put the stuff. It is that we have too much of it! So, first let’s learn to do a little de-junking, ridding ourselves of unnecessary objects. Make a vow that for the next six weeks, you will devote a chunk of time each week to de-cluttering. The result? Less piles and more smiles. Here’s how:

First, you’ll need five boxes, 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, bobby pins, and coins so they don’t get lost in the bigger box.

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

The third box will be used for garbage. Label it Toss. 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 to place paper, glass, and metal objects in.

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. 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.)

Determine that you will be ruthless. 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 give it the old heave-ho!

Haul your boxes into your least problematic room. (You don’t want to overwhelm yourself.) Beginning in one corner of the room, pick up an article, and ask yourself the following five questions:

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

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

3. Is this item in such dire shape that it is no longer usable? 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.

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

5. Now here is the final question: Is this item no longer needed by anyone in our family, but one of them is so attached to it that if I pitch it now, they’ll be emotionally damaged for life and someday they will be seen in an online viral video crying over 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.”

Once your question and answer exercise is finished, look down in your hand? Is the item still there? Then 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.

Crank up some music you enjoy or listen to a podcast or an audiobook to help the time pass more quickly. Having a friend help also passes the time. Take turns helping each other de-junk.

Now, with what is left, you need to think logically. Just having things looking neatly does not necessarily mean they are arranged in a user-friendly manner. You want to place items back according to their frequency of use. No sense in 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 de-clutter and then re-think your work patterns will lead to an organized and functional home. You can do it!

Happy organizing!

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