As I’ve been going through my house, purging and organizing, I’ve had several people ask about my thought process for what I get rid of, what I keep, as well as how I organize it. I feel like I’ve shared it sprinkled throughout my posts about organizing, but I thought it would be helpful to put it in one post in a more concise, organized way. So, here we go…
Do I love it?
I usually start with this question because it weeds out obvious things. If I don’t really love it, why have it in my home? But, I have found this question alone can be problematic because it’s such a subjective judgment call. It can easily turn into a lengthy internal debate about all of the different types of love and varying degrees. And it’s a question that just doesn’t apply to certain things without sounding crazy… Do I really love this printer paper? Do I really love this slotted serving spoon? I think this question is better when it comes to deciding the obvious things to keep. It’s something I clearly love. No hesitation, no debate. I just love it and it’s not going anywhere and I don’t even need to think about it.
This question helps narrow things down so you can focus on the clutter, the stuff that is really the problem.
For those who have difficulty getting rid of things, I would throw out one word of caution when using this question as a tool… sometimes loving something isn’t a good enough reason to keep it. You might have an entire home packed to the brim with things you love and it’s easy to do if you don’t also have some other qualifications and rules for yourself. In my case, I pair my love for an item with the question, “Do I have the perfect place for it?” If the answer is no, I need to sell it, donate it, etc. I’m not truly enjoying the piece if I don’t have the perfect spot for it.
Do I need it?
There are a lot of things that are in my home out of need. I don’t love them and I would get rid of them if I could, but we need them – the litter box, the toaster oven, computer cables, a snowblower… you get the idea. Again, this is a great way to make quick decisions about the obvious keepers, so you can get to the clutter.
Do I/will I use it?
This is question is the one that is most enlightening and where I have to force myself to be honest. Has it been in a cabinet or drawer for a year or more? Do I use it at all? Have I ever used it? Will I use it ever?
This is where I get stuck in the gap between who I am and what I do vs. who I want to be and what I actually do. Keeping things can show a kind of intent and hopefulness. I will wear that when I lose weight. I will use that when I have time. I will make that next Christmas. I will use those art supplies more once I take a class.
I am generally a hopeful, optimistic person who believes people, including me, are capable of amazing change and growth. When organizing, or any time really, I don’t want to repeat and reinforce a narrative that says I won’t ever do something I intended. I won’t ever take that class or read that book or wear those pants again. I am going to be as I am now forever, so all is futile. Instead of turning it into a berate-fest, I try to balance what’s realistic vs. what’s optimistic. I’ll also look at things from a more positive light…
When I lose weight, I’ll want the fun of trying on and buying new clothes. I don’t need to store a bin of clothes that are a size I might never wear again.
I haven’t made this, yet, because there are things I enjoy doing more. Since my time is limited, I’m going to focus on the things I enjoy the most and donate or sell things that can be enjoyed by others.
I don’t need to keep 30 tubes of paint because I might need to use one in the future. If I end up needing a color or two, I can buy it when that need arises.
If I think I might need/use/wear something, then I’ll put in “on hold.” This typically involves putting it in a bin or bag in the garage. If I decide I need it, I’ll fish it back out. 9/10 times, though, I forget about it and end up donating it. This hold time, though, allows me to live without it to see if I miss it without any feelings of regret.
Do I already own something else that I will always favor?
I’m guessing this is true of you and it’s certainly true of me. I will always, always favor the thing I like most. It could be my favorite pair of socks or the paper I like to paint on the best. If I’m always going to go for the favorite, I don’t need to keep the things that I don’t like. I will fish the socks out of the dryer instead of wearing ones that are neatly folded in my wardrobe. I will buy a new pad of paper instead of pulling a sheet out of one I don’t like. If that’s the case, the rest are superfluous and just taking up space.
This really helped me out as I was cleaning out the studio. I was intentional about only keeping the things that are my favorites and getting rid of the rest. Isn’t that the goal? To have a house or workspace that’s full of your favorites?
I hope that sharing my thought process here encourages you as you’re cleaning out and organizing your spaces. Organizing is one thing. It’s pretty easy to tidy things up so they look neat. Working through each drawer and cabinet and purging/selling/donating is quite another. It truly is a process and one that can be challenging, especially when dealing with stuff that is sentimental, a collection that has been curated over time, or things that are tied to your work and hobbies.
But, it’s all worth it! As I said above, imagine your home filled with your favorites. That would be a pretty special place. And I think most of us have that already, but we just need to do a little more editing and a little less shopping.