Week 2: Letting Go – How to Prepare Yourself and Your Space
When it comes to living an organized and productive life, letting go can mean a myriad of things. Sometimes it means letting go of that Precious Moments collection that gathers dust on your shelf. Other times it’s letting go of the anxiety associated with getting rid of those rosy-cheeked porcelain angels. Whether your reasons for holding on are related to time, know-how or emotional attachment, this week we’ll address how to get started in the process. We’ll talk about how to mentally, emotionally and physically prepare to let go and get organized.
Depending on the extent of your organizational goals, you’re no doubt facing a bit of anxiety, fear or confusion about where to start. So, we’ll start with just that. First, you must get your mind in a good place. Be positive. Be excited about the goodness to come from the results. If your reasons for getting organized are negative, you’re not as likely to follow through and be successful. For example, if someone is forcing you to get rid of stuff, that pressure is definitely going to add to the anxiety. Feeling the need to declutter out of shame or embarrassment may also set you up for failure. Understanding your own personal reasons for decluttering is essential to getting started on the right track.
3 Ways to Mentally Prepare to Get Organized
- Make a list. This is not a list of everything you need to get rid of (we’ll get to that). This is a list of your reasons for decluttering. Put them in order of importance, and note whether they are positive or negative. Examples of positive reasons may be having more space, spending less time cleaning, or being more productive. Negative reasons may be feeling guilt or shame about your stuff, being pressured to get rid of things, or pressuring your family members to get rid of their things. If you have more positives, you’re on the right track. More negatives might mean having some conversations with your loved ones, or rethinking your reasons for decluttering.
- Have a timeline. Having a realistic timeline will help to get you in the right state of mind about what kind of time commitment this project will be. It doesn’t have to be minute by minute, but even simply blocking a small chunk of time on your calendar each week to sort through your stuff can be very helpful.
- Get support. Share your goals with everyone that lives in your home, even children. Everyone can contribute in some way, even if the contribution is simply not adding more clutter. Be clear about the positive outcomes decluttering will have on the household. Outside support and help may also be needed depending on your situation. Professional Organizers can help you throughout the entire process – from prep to maintenance.
Now that you have an idea of why you want to get organized, it’s time to address the emotional reasons that may have contributed to the clutter in the first place. Emotional attachment to things is very common, and isn’t inherently bad. It’s when the attachment causes the things to pile up, and then the stress of having the things is greater than the value that the things add to your life. Preparing yourself emotionally is all about determining the value an object brings. Note: We are not referring to monetary value, but rather the joy, pleasure, usefulness, convenience or necessity an item has.
3 Questions to Help Determine the Value of Your Stuff
- Why do I have this in the first place? Did I purchase it “just in case“? Was it for a one time event? Was the price too good to pass up? If you answer yes to these questions, it’s usually a pretty good indicator that the item is adding more clutter than value to your life. If the item brings you joy, is frequently used or makes life easier and more productive, then it’s likely worth keeping.
- Is the value in the item or in the idea of the item? Does that box of your child’s baby teeth truly bring you joy and happiness or is it just a creepy way of holding on to the memory of babyhood. Emotional attachment to sentimental items comes with fear of losing the memory if we let the item go. Try photographing sentimental items and displaying them on a digital frame. If the photos illicit the same memories as the physical items, you can start to emotionally detach from the item without losing the memory. Not only will you see your sentimental items more often this way (instead of packed away in a dusty box), but you also won’t have to worry about storing teeth and hair clippings, because that’s just gross.
- How would I feel if I got rid of it? Test yourself. Go through your closet. Pack away a few things that no longer fit, are out of style or haven’t been worn in a while. Put them in a bag, and put the bag in the trunk of your car for a week. Did you miss the items? Did you even think about them, or was your life completely unchanged? If you’re still not ready to part, give yourself some more time. Sometimes all you need is a week with the items out of your space to prove to yourself how freeing it can be to get rid of that which no longer serves you. Now drive to the nearest donation center, and get that bag out of your trunk.
Once you understand your reasons for decluttering and you’ve begun to address your emotional attachment to items, it’s time to start thinking about preparing your space for the actual physical act of organizing. Here are some tips to make the process more manageable.
3 Ways to Prep Your Space
- Map it out. Have a plan. Prioritize each room. Start with a small project, like trashing old nail polishes or toiletries from a single bathroom drawer. This will give you momentum and a sense of accomplishment that will get you through the bigger, more challenging areas.
- Designate a “go zone”. This could be a corner of a room, a garage stall, an area in the basement. The “go zone” is where anyone in the house can begin to put items they no longer want or need. Break it down in to three sections. Trash. Donate. Sell. We’ll talk more next week about how to decide which items go into what pile, and then what to do with the piles. For now, though, just designate a space and if something is obvious, unquestionable trash, just throw it away.
- Don’t add. Make a household commitment to not add any more clutter to the home during your decluttering process (and thereafter). Get everyone on board. Set clear expectations and fully commit. This is where new habits will be established. If something new truly needs to be brought into the home, think it through, determine the value it brings and make a trade. For every item that comes in, something must go.
Take this week to prepare yourself and your space. Have questions? Stuck somewhere in the process? Contact us, and we’re happy to help you on your way.