pile of sweatshirts (white, bottle green, yellow and gray colors) on a beige carpet

Step By Step Guide to Decluttering

You know how to get started with your decluttering project. You’ve eaten, you’ve used the bathroom, you have water with you and you’ve set your timer for twenty minutes. You’ve picked a category of things to work on and you have those things all in front of you.

Now what? How do you actually declutter?

Big Picture

The idea is to sort out your things into those you love, want and need and those you don’t. You’re going to keep the things you love, want and need, you’re going to jettison the rest.

Decluttering Without Getting Overwhelmed

Take a look at your pile. Let’s say you’ve chosen to sort athletic clothes. It still feels overwhelming, so we’re going to break it down even further.

Start making smaller piles. Maybe your piles include:

  • sweatshirts
  • sweatshirts with hoods
  • lightweight sweatshirts
  • long sleeved shirts
  • short sleeved shirts
  • tank tops
  • shorts
  • sweatpants

Start sorting the big athletic clothes pile into your chosen categories. You’re not making any decisions yet, you’re still just sorting. Keep going until everything in the big pile has been allocated to one of your chosen smaller pile categories.

You can do this sorting gradually, in twenty minute increments. Try to find somewhere to leave the project as a work in progress. Get creative, it could be on a spare bed, on the basement floor, as the top layer of all your stuff in a certain area.

Keep Breaking it Down as Needed

If you’ve narrowed the big pile down to a pile called sweatshirts but that pile still feels too much, it’s time to make even smaller piles. You can sort by condition or by color or by warmth, by whether they have a decal or not. Since the goal is to avoid having each item be its own unique category, try to generalize as much as you can.

Let’s say you started off with 24 sweatshirts and divided them further into three piles – 12 everyday sweatshirts, 3 lightweight sweatshirts, and 9 sweatshirts that have really seen better days but could be used for gardening or painting or cleaning.

Set Up Your Decluttering Rules

Before you start, pick your guidelines.

Perhaps your rules will include:

  • I won’t keep any sweatshirts with rips or holes in them.
  • I can keep a maximum of three gardening/cleaning sweatshirts.
  • All sweatshirts that don’t fit me can go.
  • All sweatshirts that were gifts but never worn can go.
  • If I won’t wear a sweatshirt but it has great memories, I’ll keep three.
  • If I have more than three of any color, I can keep three of that color.

Your rules are your rules, but promise yourself you’ll stick to them.

Decluttering Means Deciding

Take a look at that first pile of everyday sweatshirts. You have 12 of them, you’d like to have fewer. In the end, how many you hold onto depends on how much space you have for everything.

It also depends how much freedom you want to feel. If you hold onto all 12 because they’re not in utter rags, that’s very different from finding the ones you love, want and need.

So, assess each sweatshirt by thinking about:

Question #1: Do I love wearing this sweatshirt? Does it make me feel fabulous? If yes, proceed to

Question #2: Does it fit me now? It’s all very well adoring something but if it doesn’t fit you, question why you’re holding onto it. If it fits, move onto, you guessed it,

Question #3: How many other sweatshirts exactly like this one do I have? How many would be enough? If you have twelve almost identical sweatshirts, could you make do with eight? With six? With four?

If you have 12 sweatshirts and you absolutely love and cherish each and every one of them, know that some other category will require you to be more ruthless. Be kind to yourself and move onto a different pile.

Still Overwhelmed?

If making decisions like this is still paralyzing and you’re determined to do something about the clutter, it’s time to work with a pro. Sorting things into categories like this is something that can be done virtually using Skype or Zoom during the current crisis. Ask your organizer to help you make decisions in real time using one of those technologies or set an intention to get in person help once things are back to normal.



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