We're one week into the 2009 Get Rid of 50 Things Challenge! (Missed last week's article with information on what the Challenge is and how to participate? See Related Links below.) Some of you may already have started weeding out unwanted and unneeded stuff from your life, while others may be in need of a boost in order to get going. If you fall into the latter category, or if you simply want ideas on how to go about deciding what to bid adieu to, read on.
Where to Begin?
As with any organizing project, one of the hardest things about this Challenge is knowing where to begin. This is especially true if it feels like there are many areas of your life and your space that are ripe for weeding: how can you choose just one?
There are a few different ways of selecting a starting point, each with its own benefits. Here's a brief rundown:
- Choose the spot that bugs you the most. If there's a particular area in your home or office that annoys you day in and day out--the table in your front hall, for example, or the credenza in your office--you might opt to begin by decluttering it. The benefit: you'll tackle a big headache and will gain inspiration to keep moving forward.
- Choose a highly visible spot. Tired of seeing a tangle of stuff on your kitchen counter every single time you walk in the room? Start with that area to bring a sense of visual calm to the space.
- Choose a spot that will be quick and easy to declutter. If you already know that half of the stuff in the front hall closet, say, is ready to leave your life, let that closet be your starting point. You'll make a lot of progress fairly quickly and will gain a shot of motivation.
- Choose a certain kind of thing to weed. Want to make a bunch of decisions about one type of item (magazines, shoes, cookbooks) in one fell swoop? Get things underway by culling a particular category of stuff, then lather, rinse, and repeat.
- Choose a very specific space within a larger area. Finally, if you find you're best able to tackle organizing projects in small doses, opt to start with a micro-area like a medicine cabinet, one particular dresser drawer, one shelf in a kitchen cabinet, one desk drawer, and so on. You'll gain a sense of satisfaction without having to take on an entire room in one go.
Once you've picked a starting point, I highly recommend taking the time to establish a few simple guidelines for what you'll be weeding. These guidelines can help make the process of deciding what stays and what goes much easier, as they essentially answer a few basic questions upfront, such as "What determines whether an article of clothing gets to continue occupying space in my closet?" or "What is my statute of limitations in terms of keeping travel books?"
Once you set a guideline that says, for example, "I will keep only clothing that fits me right now, is in good condition, and is something I'd actually be willing to wear out of the house," you'll know that garments that are too snug or too big, that are worn or torn, or that are out of style should be destined for the Giveaway pile. If you decide to hold onto only travel books published within the last three years, you'll know that those from the early 2000's are on their way out.
Remember, the overall goal of the 50 Things Challenge is to clear out stuff that doesn't support your efforts to live the best life you can. One very general guideline to keep in mind throughout the Challenge, then, for whatever it is you might be weeding, is "Does this contribute in some way to living my best life?" If it doesn't, it's time to bid it adieu.
Slow and Steady
Organizing is a process best done in a measured, steady way. Don't feel the need to find 50 things to get rid of all at once; trying to do so can be exhausting and overwhelming. Just as exercising for five hours one day a week can completely burn you out, so, too, can trying to tackle an entire organizing project in one go.
Instead, try setting aside a few 30-minute chunks a few times throughout each week to work on the 50 Things Challenge. You'll still get to reap the rewards (a clearer space, a clearer head) without feeling like organizing is taking over your life.
Good luck with the second week of the Challenge! Remember to visit the Organization Forum to share your successes and get support around any roadblocks you encounter.