January 6, 2010

How to Painlessly Declutter Your Home - Reba's 10 Steps to Declutter Success and Downsizing the Stuff Your Life

Awhile back, I provided my system of streamlining stuff - aka declutter, downsize -- and I've had lots of nice feedback on how this system really works for others.  So, I'm providing the info again, in its own streamlined form:

Reba's 10 Step Declutter System for Stripping Away the Excess Stuff in Your Life That Really Works

Preliminary Advice:  Be patient with yourself. Task by task, step by step, you'll get it all done.  The Queen of England is NOT visiting this weekend. 

1.  Buy four large laundry baskets (different colors is great, but not absolutely necessary) - the bigger the better, I found some huge ones at Dollar Tree back in 2005 that I'm still using.  Baskets? Yes.  Their handles can be very useful, so I don't recommend boxes or bags here. 

2.  Take your laundry baskets and label them (yep, somehow this is important) KEEP, TOSS, GIVE, and PUT-AWAY.   I find masking tape wrapped around the basket handles with Sharpie marker labelling works just fine.  No matter how full the basket, you can see its label on the handles. 

3.  Give yourself a time limit. You can be sentimental later, you're just sorting right now.  And if you only have ten minutes today, that's okay.  Sort for ten minutes then. 

4. Start with a room, or a section of a room.

5.  Fill the baskets: each item goes into either KEEP or TOSS or GIVE or PUT-AWAY.  Sorting rule - each item HAS to go into one of the four baskets.  Period. 

6.  When the four baskets are full, you're ready for phase two. Trash everything in the TOSS basket first. Don't reevaluate your decisions here. Don't even look in the basket, just throw it away in the garbage can or Hefty Bag. 

7.  Next, go to the GIVE basket: again, don't rethink yourself.  Be brave, and just put everything in this basket in bags, label them for charity, and put them in the trunk of the car, or outside the door for pick up. Get them out of sight, it will keep everyone from rummaging through them later. Tape them shut if that will help you (or other family members) from second-guessing what you've just done.  Remember, you don't need this stuff and there's someone out there that can really use what you decided to give away.  Help them by staying strong here.

No, there is no Sell option here.  Yes you could take some of this stuff and sell it at the HalfPrice Books or in a yard sale.  But will you DO THAT?  Be honest.  It's been my experience that you don't get that much return on your money at a sale, and you still get the tax benefits of donation when you give away.  I recommend keeping an inventory of what you donate and at tax time, using It's Deductible software (or something akin to it) to determine the fair market value of what you've donated for use on your tax return.

8.  Now, take the PUT-AWAY stuff and put this stuff up. Where it should be, in a perfect world. Not in another pile, in another room.  Hang up the clothing, put the tools in the tool chest, the pens in the desk, whatever.  This is stuff you will use and it goes into its designated spot in your home. 

9.  You've got one basket left.  Everything in the KEEP basket gets stored.  In the garage, in the storage room, the attic or the basement.  In a box, labelled, and out of the way. 

10.  Check your time. If you've got it, do another round. If not, that's okay. You'll get there.

Last words:  Remember that with each successful Basket Round to reward yourself with an attaboy -- these simple steps will get you where you need to be. Drop that pressure, don't stress over this. It's hard to let go, memories pop up from some items, fears that you may need another thing in the future and won't be able to buy it can also threaten your declutter success.  Don't allow yourself to be overwhelmed.  Keep it simple as you're simplifying.  And good luck!!!!

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