Decluttering with a mission

I get more questions about decluttering than any other organizational issue. What to me is great fun is, apparently, quite a chore to most people. If you’ve got a drawer, closet, room, or HOUSE to declutter, it helps to have motivation and a deadline.

I had two brilliant motivators descend on me this week: a theater where I work is holding a garage sale and is looking for items to sell, including clothing items. And our library asked for art supply donations for an upcoming project.

My house is mostly decluttered but two areas where things seem to stick are my potential-costume rack, and my art closet. The potential-costume rack includes things I’ve worn in past shows, dress-ups for the kiddos, and clothes I “demote” until I’m ready to part with them. The art closet includes bits and pieces of recent and past craft and sewing projects.

I started in first on the costume rack. I had less time to work on Saturday and wanted to make sure I could finish what I started. There’s nothing more discouraging than getting part-way through a declutter and having to leave a huge mess to finish up later. I dressed-for-success in a work shirt, shorts, and comfortable shoes. I pulled everything off the rack, piece by piece. As I looked at each piece I thought about the needs of the theater; needs for future dress-ups; Goodwill items; and items for the trash. As I decided, each item went into the correct pile. Only the 10% of what I kept for dress-ups made it back onto the costume rack. The rest went into my car for distribution this morning.

The cool thing about having a specific time and place to donate costumes was that I got the job done on Saturday. And the person I donated to this morning was thrilled. When you drop off items at Goodwill they’re helpful, but no one is thrilled. It’s fun to give things away and have someone be thrilled.

On Sunday, I had more time and took about 8 hours to take everything out of the art closet, then sorted through each bin piece by piece. When you declutter you don’t want to do it often so it pays to be thorough – no glancing into a box and saying, “Yes, I’m sure this is all good.” Or throwing boxes out wily nily and then regretting it when you pitch something vital.

The items I kept went into bins with similar items. I grouped smaller items in clear, one-gallon plastic bags with resealable tops, and labeled each bag. And as you can see, I used a fun, green tape on the end of each bin to let me know what’s inside.

The library donation got the same reaction as the theater. The kids’ librarian’s eyes lit up when I arrived this morning with boxes of glitter, puff balls, beads, and yarn per her list. And she was quite happy with the many other craft items I brought her. She felt good. I felt good. And my art closet is in better shape.

I now have less stuff. I have a better feel for exactly what I have, and similar items in the art closet have been “regrouped,” i.e. the beads are back together; the fabric is sorted again by color; the markers are tested for ink and are back together in one cup, etc. And I can get to what I need much easier.

The bonus is that the space looks better, the theater is happy, and the library is happy.

Bottom line if you’re ready for a fall declutter:

  • Figure out where your items are going before you start. It’s a great motivator when you know that someone needs your stuff!
  • If you can’t find someone with a deadline, make one of your own including a great, juicy reward.
  • Dress for success.
  • Be thorough and merciless. You don’t want to do this again soon!
  • Finish what you start.
  • Give away the purged items as soon as you can – no second thoughts! Same goes for the trash. When you’re done, close up the bags, and move them to your trash area.

Let me know if you need help with ideas for a specific area. I’d love to hear your questions!

Peace-out from our never-cluttered gardens 🙂

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