Three Piles that Leave the HouseEvery house should have three piles:
1. Throw away: This is for the things that no longer are useful to you and will not be useful to anyone else.
2. Donate: This is for the things that you no longer want or need, but someone else might benefit from.
3. Sell: This is for the things that still have plenty of value and when it sells, you can replace it with something of more importance to you.
Let it Sit
A suggestion I was given long ago was to put things in these categories and let them sit overnight. If you still feel good about getting rid of the things you have divided, then move forward without hesitation.
What if I Hesitate?
If you do feel hesitant, ask yourself, "Do I need this or am I just emotionally attached to it?" If you still need it, find a place that makes sense for the thing so it is not cluttering your home when it is not needed. If you are emotionally attached to it, consider taking a photo of it. Having the photo can help you still have something to attach the good memory to without having the object take up needed space in your home.
Take special care to watch clutter in high traffic areas like the entry/exit ways. Shoes, coats and bags are already filling this area full, so extra papers or objects are just going to get super overwhelming quickly.
Desk Area. If you have kids you have a steady stream of school papers coming in and out of your house. I have a file folder for Jane and a friend of mine said that she has a box for each child and has taught them to put all their papers in their box and she goes through them periodically. I have yet to try this, but it sounds great.
Clothes. Clothes are an easy clutter offender. Designate a place where everyone knows where to put the clothes, clean and dirty. Also, periodically check to see if there are clothes that have met their lifespan and need to be put into one of the three piles.
Mail. Like school papers, this is a daily occurrence usually, so have a plan. When I walk out to my mailbox I look and decide immediately which mail is important enough to bring in and which mail is worthy of the trash right away. If you do bring the mail in, make sure there is a place for it that is not right where you want to use the space all the time, like the middle of your kitchen counter or on the sofa.
Food. Grocery shopping is awesome until you have to put all the groceries away that you just spent the last hour buying and moving in and out of carts and cars. The best thing to do before you go for a large grocery run is to clean out your fridge. I don't mean you have to wash it all out, but get rid of leftovers that are moldy and clean out plasticware that is only half-full. This makes it so much easier when you need space to put groceries away. Clearing countertops and pantries is also really helpful since you will need most of the space to get things organized and put away.
Seasonal items. This one gets me every time the seasons change. If it is the middle of the summer and you have winter coats piled up near your door, you need to make a place for the winter items to store until it is time to use them again. If it is the middle of winter and you keep picking up a random flip flop, it is time to make a tote for summer shoes until you need them. You get the idea. If you are not using something daily, it needs a place other than right in your face driving you crazy.
A Quick Assessment
1. Have you thrown out, donated or sold something in the last six months?
If no, it's time! Make your piles and de-clutter.
2. Do you have piles of clutter all around your house?
If yes, find your offenders (mail, papers, clothes, food, seasonal items) and find a place for everything.
3. Do you have piles of mail on your desk?
Don't even bring the junk mail into the house. If it is important, make a designated place for it and sort through it at least weekly.
4. Do you have piles of clothes on the floor or on your dresser?
If yes, clothes only have three places it should be, in a hamper to be washed, in your drawers or hanging in closet, clean or on your body.
5. Do you have a hard time finding things when you need them?
Everything you use should have a place, even the stuff you only use twice a year.
6. Do you have a lot of things stored that are not useful, but you are attached to?
If yes, take a picture. Get rid of the item and store the memory in your heart. Allow yourself one tote of your favorite memories if you must, but don't hold onto more than that.
7. Do you buy things without being sure what you will use it for?
If yes, remember to be very particular about what comes into your home. Consider your space a holy place that only houses the most important and practical items in your life. Only make purchases that have a clear purpose to either beautify or simplify your life.
Ok, so now it is time to make an improvement, one step at a time. I have times that I am doing really well at this and other times I really have to buckle down because the clutter is starting to suffocate everyone. Be kind to yourself, but you can get better at this!
I hope this is helpful and most of all I hope that you home is more peaceful and inviting to you and your family as you simplify your life. Most of us have more than enough stuff and not enough connection, peace and joy. I think many of us would be surprised how little we really need to be happy.