Newsflash mama: that adorable outfit that’s five sizes too small for your kid -- the one you just can’t get rid of because maybe, just maybe, your grandchild will wear it someday? You have to let it go.
“Donate it, and move on,” says Liz August, professional organizer and owner of Worcester-based Simplify, Simplify. “Your kids are never going to put their kids in those things.” Barring family heirlooms, like the baptismal gown worn by three generations of her family, August says we have to recognize the rest for what it is. “It’s stuff. Let it go.”
Being able to identify things that actually mean something to you, and things that are really just clutter is the key to being more organized. Just because something belongs to you doesn’t mean you need to keep it for the rest of your life, and just because you love something, doesn’t mean it will serve you forever.
“If you find that something is giving you stress, if you’re like ‘do I keep it or do I let it go,’ forgive yourself and allow yourself to let it go,” says Liz. “At the end of the day if the house was on fire… what would you be so upset about losing? What would you really miss? Is it gonna be your 800 sweaters? Maybe not. An antique table your aunt gave you? Maybe. So hold on to that.”
An organizing guru, August left her job as a teacher to pursue her passion for helping people purge, simplify, and make their homes more functional and less chaotic. She’s seen it all, and says that one of the biggest hang ups that keeps people from getting organized is simply not knowing where to start. But taking the steps to clear out and clean up space in your home could make a big difference in your mind, too. “Outer order equals inner calm. If you feel that you are getting stressed it’s a good time to look at the space around you,” says August. Here’s her tips to make 2019 your year of order.
Pick a time and a section
Is there a room of stuff you know you need to tackle, but you just keep putting it off? August says you need to make an appointment, write it down on your calendar, and stick to it. Don’t worry about dedicating an entire day to it, just set aside an hour or two.
Once you nail down the time, pick a section. If you’re going to clean out your office, you don’t need to do the entire room at once. “Think in snippets -- snippets of time, snippets of a project,” says August. “Pick a section or a spot. Say, ‘I’m going to organize this one part of closet.’ Maybe it’s the sweater section, or maybe you need to make a sweater section. Once you get going and making progress, you’ll feel more motivated to keep going.”
Call clutter what it is
There are definitely important items we all should store in a safe place like birth certificates, tax information, or social security cards. But we tend to hold on to too much paper, says August, which inevitably turns to piles. Know what you really need to keep (7 years tax documents, for example), organize or digitize it, and get rid of the rest.
When it comes to other physical items, you need to ask yourself if you’re really using it. If not, why are you attached it? Don’t hold onto clothes that you’re going to wear once you “lose ten pounds.” And don’t keep items around simply because you’re attached to an idea or memory of them. “I knew a woman who had this big collection of dolls. Of course, they were just sitting there, but she had a hard time letting them go because she was so attached to the memory of them,” says Liz. “I took them out, took a photo of each one, and make a Shutterfly book of all the dolls she collected.” They preserved the memory, and got rid of the clutter.
Kids’ stuff needs ‘constant revising’
Just as fast as they grow out of their clothes and shoes, children outgrow their toys and gear. “If you’re not constantly revising your kids’ stuff -- their clothes, toys, books, or all the bouncers, wraps, carriers -- you’re going to be overwhelmed by all their things really quick,” says August. She suggests that every time you swap out your child’s wardrobe for the next size up, take some time to also go through the rest of their stuff. Get rid of things that they don’t use or play with.
Still want to hold on to that?
If it passes the keepsake test, make sure you stash it correctly. Store items in airtight containers like Rubbermaid bins. Never label plastic bins/boxes with permanent marker. If you do, you won't want to use that bin/box for something else one day. Instead, write on a piece of clear packing tape, and stick it to the box. That way you can can peel away the tape one day and use the box for something else.