Keep It or Eliminate It? How to Make Decisions when Organizing
Organizing is about Making Decisions
Steps four (4) and five (5) from Eliminate Chaos: The 10-step Process to Organize Your Home & Life by Laura Leist are 'Sort' and 'Purge (Eliminate)'. These steps can be difficult because they require serious decision making. The steps require you to examine every item in the area you are organizing and make a decision on what is going to happen to it. When helping clients sort through items, I often pull out my set of lamented 'sorting signs' to help with the process. Each of the signs represent a decision on what to do with an item. The signs read Keep, Relocate, Trash, Recycle, Shred and Donate. Each of the signs is set out in the established staging area (Step 3 of the 10-Step Process) and items are placed accordingly. You can create your own signs out of regular paper, or write directly on the boxes or bags that you've gathered for your organizing project (Step 2 of the 10-step Process).
Ideally, a decision will be made right away about each item that is reviewed, but in some cases, you may end up with an "I don't know" pile when sorting and purging. Don't worry, you haven't failed! Creating an "I don't know" pile can in fact, be a helpful strategy when organizing. The pile lets you set items aside that require more thought, allowing you to carry on making timely decisions with everything else you're dealing with. However, I must warn you about the potential setbacks of this strategy! If the "I don't know" area starts to grow larger than the other areas, or you never get around to dealing with those items, you aren't going to be successful in your organizing project. If you do end up with an "I don't know" pile, make sure you follow through and make the hard decisions.
Ask Yourself the Hard Questions
If you find yourself with a large group of items you can't make a decision on, ask yourself a few questions. Be sure to give yourself honest answers.
Decision Making Questions
1. Have I or anyone else in my home used this item in the past year? Maybe you used a large punch bowl often for parties when your kids were growing up, but haven't touched it in years. If that's the case, let it go.
2. Do I have a specific use for this item in the near future? It could be that you have used an item within the last year, but there is no real use for it now or in the near future. If so, it's time to for it to find a new home, outside your home!
3. Do I or anyone else in my home love it? If an item brings you or someone else in your home extreme joy, by all means keep it! If it doesn't, consider passing it along to someone else that can use it.
4. Is this item more important to me than the space it's taking up? Look at the space you're sacrificing for the item. Could you be using it for something else that is higher priority in your life?
If you answer 'No' to any of the above, there is good reason to let go of the item or items in question. Of course, there are going to be exceptions, but keep these questions in mind when dealing with difficult items and you will be amazed how much easier and quicker decisions can be made.
No More Excuses
It's easy to come up with excuses for holding on to items that are cluttering up your life. Think about the excuses you are making for your clutter and challenge them.
Excuse: I'm saving it for my kids. Challenge: Are you sure it's something they really want? Never assume someone wants your items without asking. Your kid's personalities and tastes may be different.
Excuse: It's still perfectly good. Challenge: It's only perfectly good if it's good for you, and good for you now.
Excuse: I paid a lot of money for it. Challenge: The amount of money you paid for an item is irrelevant if it's only sitting and gathering dust. Consider selling it or donating it and taking the tax deduction to make up for the original cost of the item.
Organizing doesn't have to be a long painful process. If you stay focused and make sound, timely decisions using the guidance above, you will be successful. Keep the end goal in mind and a less cluttered and more organized home you enjoy is in your future!
If you live in the Greater-Seattle Area, see if you can join us at one of our upcoming classes or workshops. We hope at some point later this year to offer these classes over the Internet for those in other parts of the country/world.
I am also pleased to announce that Julie Heijster, Sr. Organizing Specialist with Eliminate Chaos is now also offering programs.
Here's a link to all of our upcoming programs. If you'd like to bring one of these programs or a differnt program to your organization, please contact us or call our office at 425-670-2551.
Create a free user account with It's Deductible to help keep track of all of the items you made the decision to donate. It's Deductible and be download as a Mobile App for your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch or, you can access it online. All you have to do is create a list of charities that you donate to online or in the app. Then, you list the items you donated and their value (high value or medium value) based on its condition, style, use and age. The program then assigns the pre-determined value you are legally allowed to write off (per IRS guidelines) for the items you donated for you. The program keeps track of all the donations you made throughout the year. When you prepare your taxes, you can print out a report or you can upload the information to Turbo Tax and the charitable deductions will be automatically updated as you prepare your annual tax return. Added bonus, the app can also track cash and stock donations as well as mileage for volunteer activities!