I’ve been thinking about the old story of the landscaper who waited to see which way people walked over the lawns at a college before he chose where to have the concrete paths laid. I’ve always thought that story sums up the very heart of organizing.
Do you shove everything you own into the awkwardly sized plastic tubs you bought by the score because they were on sale?
Or do you assess what you still love and need and then figure out which container would work best for you?
Do you cram your papers into a generic filing system, complete with cookie cutter categories?
Or do you create a filing system that’s based on the actual things you want to save?
Do you declutter clothes on Mondays because that’s what the latest organizing guru says you have to do?
Or do you set the timer and sort out the fridge because that’s what you feel moved to tackle?
It can seem easier to go with the crowd and try to declutter the way someone else tells you to, but how many times have you already tried that and found yourself just as deep in clutter as you’ve ever been? If you were writing the book on decluttering, what would you write?
Here’s an approach my clients have used to help decluttering work for them. Yes, it’s off-beat and quirky. Maybe that’s why it works!
Try organizing by random category. So today, sort by color. As your eyes roam across the clutter, let them settle on things that are red. Ignore everything else and make decisions about ten red things. Or ten things that have more than one color (great chance to whittle down that stock of race t-shirts).
Or declutter by shape. Only square things (or oval or rectangular things under the size of a coffee table) can be decided about today.
Putting these silly limits on what you can focus on helps your brain move away from the constant worry and panic about all the mess and gives it a specific focus. And if you’re the rebellious sort, telling yourself you can only sort red or square objects has the result that you sort everything but the red and the square.
The only decluttering method that actually works is the one you’ll use. So this month, choose some parameters and declutter within them. Let me know what you come up with!