The Number One Reason for Your Clutter and What You Can Do About It

If you catch yourself one too many times, saying to yourself, “I’ll just put this here, for now,” or “I’ll keep it just in case” chances are you’re experiencing what professional organizers refer to as delayed decision making or what I think of as decision-deficit thinking.  That is, you lack the objective criteria or information you need to make an effective organizing decision.

It’s not that you can’t decide. You simply don’t know what the decision points are.

Delaying a decision about your clutter because you’re not sure how to decide is the most common reason we become mired in too much stuff in the first place.

Before you can organize anything, whether it be your piles of old magazine clippings, your cluttered garage or the boxes of memorabilia you’ve kept for 20 years, you first need to decide three things about each item you’ve kept, in this order:

  1. Do I need it, use it or love it?
  2. If I do need it, use it or love it where should it live if I want to find it and if not, how do I dispose of it appropriately?
  3. What’s the best way to store or contain it?

Think about your home or where you live.

Does your home change from day to day? Do you live in a different place depending upon how you feel from moment to moment? Chances are you don’t. You come home to the same place most nights.

The same is true for our stuff.

Imagine that everything you own has a home. Not a “for now” home, but a permanent home.  If you’re not sure where something “lives” then think about the way you use an item and that often will inform you about where it should live. If you use an item in multiple locations, then assign it a permanent home so you’ll always know where you can find it.

Once you’ve determined what you really want, need or love, everything else should be donated or appropriately disposed or recycled. For the things left over, start thinking about where they will live.

Finally decide how best to contain them. It wouldn’t make sense for example to go out and buy 30 containers to hold all your old magazines if in the end you decide to donate them all to a local hospital or library.

The important thing is to get the information you need to make a decision that’s not “for now” but rather, for good. And, as always, you should always donate your unwanted stuff to a local charity. Scheduling a donation pick up is incredibly easy.

Article Contributed by: Lis McKinley

Lis Golden McKinley, M.A., is CEO, Chief Executive Organizer, of LET’S MAKE ROOM, a professional organizing and consulting company based in Oakland, California.
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