You want to let of the clutter. But...you aren't sure if you are ready yet. What if you need it later?
We are just pretending, because of course I know you don't have any of that junky stuff. Right?
This is a purely hypothetical situation, because in your house there is place for everything, and no more things than you have places.
But imagine that you have kitchen junk drawer. An overflowing closet. A pile of who-knows-what on the table. Maybe even (dare we say it?) a whole spare room or garage full of jumbled items you are always going to sort through later.
Now let's say you want to get rid of some of this stuff, because it is in the way and deep down inside...you really hate it. Maybe.
Maybe not...okay, you aren't sure how you feel about it. You just want things to stop falling on your head when you open doors.
What is the first step to decluttering your (imaginary) life, and getting rid of the unwanted, sorta hated junk?
Here is how I finally cracked down on clutter, without using any complex systems.
You start by making more junk piles...
Before You Can Let Go of the Clutter, You Have to Do This...
Divide everything into 4 groups. You can pile it. You can put it in bins. You can color code it with sticky notes. Just make these four groups:
- Its nice, but I don't use it.
- Someone gave it to me, but I don't like it.
- Its broken, and I doubt it can be fixed.
- I'm saving it, but I don't know what I want to do with it.
If you are a crafter, you can probably skip that last category, because we all know that as soon as we throw something away, we will think of the perfect way we could have used it in a project.
Right away, peel of the stuff you definitely can let go of easily. Put broken stuff in the garbage and the nice, but unused stuff, in the car to go to charity or into a yard sale.
Now you are probably left with most of what you started with except a couple of dead batteries and a wicker basket.
You are wondering whether or not you really want to let the rest of the stuff go.
After all, it might hurt someone's feelings if you give away something that was a gift. And there is probably a small pile of things you are sure you will need if the zombie apocalypse happens before next pay-day.
This is where those four silly tricks for getting rid of clutter come in handy:
1. Try the "Trial Separation" Trick for Sorting Clutter
You will never know if you can live without an item until you have tried to live without it. Since we are pretending, let's say that your Aunt Ethel gave you this mooning gnome cookie jar years ago.
You really feel as though it doesn't fit in with your stainless steel and subway tile kitchen theme, yet, you don't want to hurt Aunt Ethel's feelings.
Plus, you have had that mooning gnome so long now that you aren't sure if you like it, or if you are just so used to seeing it that you feel as though letting go would be akin to losing your big toe.
(You could live without it, but things wouldn't look the same, you know?)
Its time to try a trial separation. Gather up the cookie jar (keep the cookies though, duh), and anything else that needs to be put out of sight for awhile. Look for a good deal on storage containers, and box that stuff for now.
If it helps, add a note like this to the top of the box:
"This relationship isn't working. Its time we try living apart. Its definitely you, not me."
If you have done all this, the last step is to put the containers away someplace dark and smelly where you won't be tempted to open them again for a few months.
If you don't actively miss what is inside, if you don't need what is inside, if no one notices that the stuff in the box is missing, (and you love the way your house looks without this clutter) it's safe to take all that junk and get rid of it. (Box and all, if it makes it easier.)
2. Try the "Use it Now" Trick
If the storage trick doesn't work for you, yet you are still sorta convinced you might use a piece of clutter in the future...
Stop waiting for the future.
Drop whatever else you are doing and use that item RIGHT NOW.
Obviously everyone is going to have a few items that are only used on occasion, but are super-useful when that occasion comes around.
As long as you routinely use these things when they are needed, they don't have to count. (For instance you might only use your stand mixer during holiday baking, but you use the heck out of it at that time.)
But let's say you have tons of other stuff that you aren't really using, ever.
A few kitchen gadgets that seemed great when you bought them ( I will sooo make tarts now that I have this tart press. NOT!), some unworn clothing (someday I will have a place to wear this), unopened cosmetics, scrapbooking supplies (even though you never scrapbook), etc.
If this were true, then you have to convince yourself that you aren't really going to use these items. After all, you never have; and the men in suits have never come to drag you away for this offense.
So, put on that fancy dress, open that makeup, and start making tarts. Right now.
Its a win-win. You will either find out you actually do LOVE these items and want to use them all the time. Or you will realize how insane it is to keep them stuffed in your house.
If the latter happens...toss it in the car to go bye-bye.
3. Write a Fake Ad for Your Junk
Maybe you have a certain piece (or two) that you are really uncertain about. Maybe you like it, but it doesn't fit your decor. Or maybe it is valuable, but not something you would choose for yourself.
If you just can't decide whether it should stay or go, then try this simple (jedi) mind trick:
Write a "For Sale" ad for this object.
But write it like you are trying to sell it to yourself, based on what you know to be true.
Take that mooning gnome cookie jar as an example. Why should you keep it? What would have made you buy it? (Remember: this is an ad, so don't put in the sentimental gift part).
- Is it sturdy? Cute? Functional?
- Does it hold more cookies than any other cookie jar on earth, or does it just hold those supersized cookies you prefer?
- Does it have an amazing alternate use (does it make the best container for saving change?)
- Is it easy to clean?
- Does it save space?
- Does it make you deliriously happy even when you are contemplating jumping off a bridge after a long day at work?
- Have people complimented you on your cookie jar?
If you can't write an ad that would convince you to buy this item, then why would you want to keep it? Pass it along to someone who has the salt and pepper shakers to match.
4. Carry The Clutter Around With You
I have an oval shaped, wicker basket. It is definitely a piece of clutter because:
- It has a broken handle that might be fixable.
- It could be a useful item, but I never use it.
- Someone gave it to me, but I don't particularly like baskets.
- I've put it in several places, but it never really "fits."
- It gets moved around a lot and is always in the way.
Yet...I still have it. WHY??
Because I keep thinking the same dumb thought every time I try to get rid of it.
"Baskets are useful. People like baskets. I should be able to find a perfect use for this basket."
But truthfully, I do not like baskets. Baskets are not sleek and clean looking. Oval-shaped baskets do not fit nicely anywhere. Baskets are hard to dust.
I know this, because I made myself carry this basket around for an hour trying to find a place to keep it permanently.
That sounds pretty insane too, huh? But it's not. If you have that item that you really feel should go somewhere, you have to prove to yourself that "somewhere" doesn't exist.
This is the best way to get rid of small clutter. Carry that stuff around and try to think of where it really should go. Does it have a place already? Is it reasonable to make a place for it?
Don't let yourself set it down on a table or counter for a moment to rest. Don't stuff it into a hole you find under the bed or in a closet.
Carry it until you either find it a forever home, or realize that it doesn't fit in your life at all.
After two years, the basket and I came to an agreement. We didn't belong together. The basket has been placed in the donate box.
Decluttering the Stress-Free and (Silly) Way
Getting rid of unwanted junk doesn't have to be stressful and heartbreaking. Having a little fun with it can make a lot easier.
Of course, that's only if you have clutter.
Personally, I know you don't have have an abundance of junk, you have a shortage of storage, like me! Am I right?
Seriously though. What's your major clutter problem, and what is your favorite trick for getting rid of stuff?