How to declutter

When the floor’s crunchy with legos, candy wrappers and crumpled pieces of paper, and the closets are filled to busting, it’s time to organize. So you pull out one of your many guides (books/articles/blog posts) to getting organized and there it is: “Before you can organize, you have to declutter.” But how? Trying to decide what can stay and what goes quickly gets overwhelming. The experts casually refer to the decluttering process as if it were a simple matter of choosing your favorites. But if it were that easy, you’d already be doing it. Decluttering is tough!

So how do we declutter? The process (and it is a process) begins with asking yourself one question: how much is enough? Are fifty-six spoons enough? Are two rolls of toilet paper enough? Are three hundred black t-shirts enough?

There’s no wrong answer

When you hire a Professional Organizer we don’t arrive with a well-thumbed copy of the Definitive Guide to How Much You Need of Absolutely Everything. Only you know how many black t-shirts or pieces of teeny tiny Tupperware you feel comfortable owning.

There’s no right number

If you have ten pieces of teeny tiny Tupperware, and you realize you hardly ever use teeny tiny Tupperware, it’s the number where you don’t have a lurch in the pit of your stomach telling you you’re going to be stuck when time comes to pack a few carrots or make individual servings of salad dressing right in the container.

You might feel okay holding onto five or seven. Or maybe you know you need to keep them all. There’s no right number, just the number that gives you the comfortable feeling of having enough.

How much storage space do you have?

If this is the drawer I put my black t-shirts in and I can’t squeeze the drawer shut, I’ve got two options. I can either designate another drawer for black t-shirts or I can decide that enough t-shirts means the number of t-shirts that’ll fit in that one drawer.

I can play around with folding the shirts or rolling them up, to see if I can fit anymore in the drawer. But once I’ve come up with the physical limit, I can look at all my black t-shirts and start playing favorites.

How to decide what to keep

It helps to be really specific. My drawer can fit 14 black t-shirts. That’s the big picture. Now, looking at my 35 black t-shirts, can I sort them a little bit more specifically?

How many short-sleeved everyday black t-shirts are there?

How many long-sleeved black t-shirts?

How many dressy black t-shirts?

How many well-loved and tattered black t-shirts?

Once I’ve collected the black t-shirts and sorted them into piles like this, it’s time to ask myself how many of each category feels like enough.

I love the tattered black t-shirts for sleeping in but I have 19 and I do laundry often enough that I’m going to feel okay with five. You might feel comfortable with 1 or 19 or any other number. The idea is to find out what the right number is for you.

I have two long-sleeved black t-shirts, but I never wear them. I’m comfortable letting both of those go.

I wear the dressy black t-shirts often. I have nine and I want them all.

And I have five short-sleeved everyday black t-shirts. I’d like more, and I’m keeping all of these too.

But I have a problem. I want to keep 19 altogether but there’s only room for 14.

Time to balance that budget

However many of each category I choose, the total needs to add up to 14. If I truly can’t part with any of the nine dressy shirts, I can pick five more from the other categories. If I can let some of the dressy ones go, I can pick more of the others. Again, there’s no right way to choose, there’s the way you feel most comfortable with.

Be kind to yourself

No muttering to yourself about how you can’t believe you have so many black t-shirts, how you’re doomed to living in chaos. Start where you are and remember where you want to go – keeping all the black t-shirts in the same drawer and being able to shut that drawer.

There are no decluttering police.

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