Now you can see. Now you know. Now it’s clear why those first steps that told who you are and where you’re going with your home were so important. Getting from here to there is much easier when you’ve got some direction along the way, something to refer back to that’ll guide when the decisions are unclear.
The twin parts of the next step are often avoided because of a sense of fear that is sometimes associated with them. Can I just say right here, don’t be afraid? The freedom on the other side of purging and organizing is so remarkably worth it. Freeing yourself from the things that are distracting or preventing you from your home and lifestyle vision (purging), then taking what remains and setting it to rights (organization) are essential to your house becoming home.
Let’s begin with a thought process.
If you were to leave on a month’s trip in which there would be some work, some pleasure, some rest, and some adventure, what would you take with you? Certainly, it would depend on the location and the types of things you’d be experiencing, but focus in, recognize that you’d automatically take your favorite things. Your favorite clothes, your best gear (you wouldn’t take that broken umbrella, now would you?), the necessary accoutrement for carrying out your expected work, pleasure, and adventure.
Everything else you’d leave behind.
Imagine, now, that you had to leave your home quickly, with only a few moment’s notice, and you didn’t know if you’d return. What would you take? Interesting how, in this context, what’s most important rises to the top without much contemplation or argument. You automatically know what you’d take.
Everything else you’d leave behind.
These two scenarios may seem extreme, but they serve as filters that, when applied, can re-shape our vision, helping us see our possessions in a different way. They give us understanding. They help define which of our things are assets, helping us toward our goals in home and in life, and which aren’t. Now, you probably won’t live for the rest of your days with only the things you’d take on a month-long vacation, or the things you would carry out of your home at a moment’s notice, so go ahead and widen that scope until it falls where it needs to for you and your lifestyle. Anything left outside the line is what you’ll be getting rid of.
Now let’s put some rubber to the road. How, exactly, do you purge a houseful of possessions without crumbling in the process? Here are the steps I recommend:
- Decide. Before anything else can happen, you have to decide that you’re going to distill your possessions down to only those things that will help you toward your home and lifestyle goals. (Referring back to your vision boards from steps 2 and 3 at sticky points, helps).
- Appoint the time and choose the room. Mark a day or weekend on your calendar and regard it as you would any other commitment. Choose the room you’d like to complete first, and mark that down, too.
- Set yourself up for success. Have nourishing food stocked just for this, you’re going to work hard and you’ll need a nourishing rest mid-day, and a tasty supper at day’s end. Looking forward to eating some of your favorite foods is a helpful motivator to keep going when the going gets tough. Also? Drink lots of water (with a little lemon is nice).
- Choose your playlist. Upbeat tunes (maybe a little on the loud side?) help keep the pace going toward success.
- Have an assortment of empty cardboard boxes and a sufficient supply of trash bags on hand. Blank labels and markers are useful, too.
- Work clockwise around the room (or counter clockwise, if that suits you better). This serves as a great progress gauge and helps ensure that you don’t miss anything.
- Consider everything, including what’s hanging on the ceiling and walls, what’s on shelves, what’s in drawers, and what’s on the floor.
- Keep. Donate. Toss. Question Mark. Everything in that room will go into one of these four categories, or more specifically, one of these four marked boxes or bags. As the Donate boxes fill, put them straight into your car to be dropped off on your next trip out. As the Toss bags fill, take them immediately out to the trash or recycling. The Question Mark boxes should be labeled as such. You’ll close them up and put them in an out of the way storage place. If after a few weeks or months, you don’t need anything from these boxes and you really can’t even remember what’s inside them, go ahead and donate them without even opening a flap.
- On your way around the room, when you come across something that makes you hesitate (those sticky points), check back in with your home and lifestyle boards. The answer may be easier than you think.
- Congratulate yourself! When you’ve come full circle and are back where you started, stand back and enjoy the emptier, albeit somewhat scattered room. You’ve just accomplished something big.
- Rest and rejuvenate. Now is a good time to take a seat, eat a meal, put up your feet for a while. Maybe stop for the day.
- Begin the organization stage by sitting in the newly purged room with notebook and pencil in hand. Happily, the only things left are things you’re going to keep. Take note of them and determine how, exactly, you’re going to keep them. Next, look to see what you might already have that could be put to use here, holding this or or storing that. When you’ve exhausted your own resources, create a shopping list. Need hooks for robes or belts? How many? Need hangers? How many? Need boxes or baskets? What sizes and how many? Need to add shelves inside the closet? Draw up a plan and devise a supply list.
- When selecting storage containers for your space, choose the made-well and the beautiful.* Natural materials such as baskets and cloth-covered boxes have a pleasing aesthetic and will last over time. Metal bins come in handy, too.
- Note what sizes of new or new-to-you furniture you might need, and keep these measurements in your phone so when you’re out and about, and you come across a potential piece, you can double check its dimensions before you buy.
- Landing the baskets, bins, hooks, and shelves in their new space can (and should) happen pretty quickly, ideally within a few days so you can bring a sense of order to the room as soon as possible.
And there you’ve done it. You’ve succeeded in keeping only what truly reflects you and your lifestyle. You’ve organized it so it’s easy to see, easy to use, easy to put away. There’s open space for you to breathe, and a sense of calm has pervaded the space. Good, good for you!
Here, I write on living well. Where tasteful design and simple living meet in an inspired, organic way.
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