I originally posted this article in April of 2005 and the method still remains effective today! I hope this can help you get rid of the clutter that’s creating stress in your life!
Decluttering is a simple-to-learn process, once you break it down into manageable steps. Tackling too much at once, or underestimating the time and effort it will take to “get organized”, can lead to frustration and a “throw in the towel” stance that will further add to your clutter and your anxiety.
By following the 4 simple steps of the SHOO™ Away Clutter method, you will map out a plan for success. Having a clear vision of what you want (more time, more space, less clutter, fewer things) and applying these 4 simple steps will allow you to achieve your goal. Since there are a myriad of things that one could organize, we will follow the example of a bedroom clothes closet to illustrate the 4 steps to SHOO™ Away Clutter.
The steps themselves are universal and can be applied to every situation and circumstance.
Step 1 – SORT This can be the easiest and the hardest step at the same time. By breaking it down, however, the sort becomes simple and can proceed quicker than you might imagine. Have 4 large boxes or bags ready for your clothing. Label one box as Keep, one as Trash, one as Donate and one as Other Home. Use the “1-Touch Rule” – you touch it, you make a decision.
The Keep items are those clothes you wear regularly, love and fit you properly. Don’t be tempted to keep clothing because it might come back in style or because you may get back into them in the future. Keeping things that don’t fit costs you space, effort and attention. If you do need a diet incentive, keep one spectacular item and consider donating the remainder. Think of the fun you can have shopping once you reach your goal!
The things to Trash will be easy to identify – they are stained, ripped, or missing buttons, zips or closures. If you do a lot of craft work or painting, make sure you keep one set of “grubby clothes”. Please don’t make the mistake of saying “I’ll fix it and can wear it again”. If it’s sitting in your closet and is missing items, you are likely not going to all of a sudden find the time to get it fixed. If you can commit to getting the repairs done within 1 week of your purge, great – go for it! But you must commit and give yourself a deadline.
Items to Donate include anything that you haven’t worn for the past 6 months (1 year for seasonal items like overcoats, winter boots, hats and gloves), anything that does not fit properly (too big or too small) or anything that you just plain don’t like. Make sure that your donation items are in good repair.
The Other Home items are things that don’t, or shouldn’t, reside in your closet. These can include sporting goods, children’s items, kitchen items, etc. Put them all in a box or bag and distribute these items WHEN YOU ARE DONE. Resist the temptation to return things as you find them. Doing so takes your focus away from the task at hand.
Step 2 – HELP/HEAVE Now that you have done your sorting, you can decide what to do with the items you have designated as Donations and Trash.
Charities and “Dress for Success” programs are always on the look out for good used clothing. Women’s shelters are another place where your donation items will do an immeasurable amount of good for those less fortunate. A quick look through the phone book or on the Internet will garner you a list of possible recipients. Some organizations offer to come to you home and pick up your items, so remember to ask if this service is available. This is also to time to bag up the Trash items to put at curb side on your regular collection day. If you don’t have curb side collection, put the bagged items into your vehicle and plan to take them to your garbage depot on your next trip.
STEP 3 – ORGANIZE NOW is the time to determine your storage needs. Since you have eliminated your unwanted items, this leaves only the “keepers” that need to be organized. You can now estimate how many containers you will need and what sort of storage will best suit your items.
To make the most of your closet, invest in a closet organizing system that will fit your space, or if you are handy, make one yourself. One of the tricks of organizing is to go up and make use of the wasted space at the top of a closet. Choose a system that supports double rods and offers full length storage. This maximizes your closet space.
“Occasional use” items can be stored in either their original boxes or in clear containers on higher shelves. A picture on the front of the box will allow you to easily identify the contents. Clothing can be hung according to color and item (all shirts together with each color group together). Consider storing folded sweaters in a set of canvas hanging shelves. This prevents stretching. Again, organize by color.
STEP 4 – OPTIMIZE This is the final step in the process. Live with your new “system” for a few weeks.
See what is working and take note of what is not. Are your most frequently worn items easy to access? Do you need to rearrange some items? The optimize step is where you make the system work for you, individually. Tweak the system to eliminate any hassles. This makes the closet work best for the person who uses it most – YOU!