- First, lay three good-sized towels or blankets on the floor. These represent the piles of stuff you will make as you start sorting through your clutter. One pile will be for things you have decided you absolutely cannot do without and must keep at all costs, another for things you don't really need and feel someone else could benefit from (you will give away/recycle these items), and the third pile will be for things that you feel aren't much good to anyone (you're going to toss these things out).
- As you begin sorting through things, keep this one thought in the forefront of your mind--if you haven't used an item in two years and it hasn't seen the light of day (i.e. it hasn't been outside of a closet, box, hamper or other storage space) for at least a year, it's very likely that you do not need this item. If you do not absolutely, positively, wholeheartedly need the item--DO NOT KEEP IT!
- Now give yourself 30 minutes on a timer and start sorting. This short time span prevents you from stopping and thinking too hard (reminiscing, weighing the value of, wondering if someone somewhere will get back at you if you get rid of the item) or too long about the imporance of an item. It requires you to make a quick, administrative decision regarding the item's relative worth to you and forces you to categorize its value immediately.
- Once you've sorted things out, do not move things from one pile to another--the position of the item is absolutely fixed once you place it in its respective pile. If, after giving the reuse/recycle and toss piles a cursory once-over, you see one (and only one) item you simply cannot live without, go ahead and pull it out and put it in your "keep" pile.
- Quickly assign someone, preferably not you, to take the "toss" items out to the dumpster and toss them. It's really better if you're not the one tossing these items out as you won't be tempted to keep them.
- If you have space at your residence to hold a yard sale, start marking your reuse/recycle items now. It never hurts to have a little extra cash around--especially this time of year when tuition and fees are coming due! If you do not have adequate space or aren't in a good location for a yard sale, consider gifting your items to your favorite non-profit organization--get a receipt for tax purposes.
If this method of clutter reduction doesn't work for you, try asking a friend or group of friends to do this for you. I cried the first time I tried this, so my husband sent me out for the day and took over the job--not that I'll admit to lovingly hoarding objects or anything.
Until next time!
For more information on reducing the clutter in your life, check out Mervyn Kaufman's Organize It!: How to Declutter Every Nook and Cranny in and Outside Your Home ($18.95 US) from Filipacchi Books. Available online and from your local bookseller.