As a professional organizer and clutter coach, I really believe that an uncluttered life is the best gift we can give ourselves. When we clear out the clutter we create space – physically, mentally and emotionally – for our dreams to come alive. Anything becomes possible when we can easily let go of the superfluous and give focus to what really matters. That kind of reality sounds great, right?
But (and you probably know this all too well) clutter clearing requires effort. The most energy draining part of the process is making decisions – with what to keep and what to toss being the most pressing. Every item requires contemplation. All that repeated decision making is exhausting, and the temptation to second guess ourselves exists at every turn.
Sometimes we even avoid making a choice because we’re afraid it will be the wrong one. We’ll actually spend energy thinking about what to do, go back forth in our minds trying to figure out the right course of action but never come to a definite conclusion. If you ask me, this one of the saddest ways to waste time.
And Bertrand Russell, the wise philosopher, would no doubt have agreed. Here’s a quote from him that absolutely nails it:
“Nothing is so exhausting as indecision, and nothing is so futile.”
So what should we do, accept the idea that clutter clearing has to be exhausting and frustrating? No, a hundred times no! We definitely don’t have to settle. What we need to do is act smarter. By that I mean we need to be strategic, we need to go into clutter clearing with a definite plan of action that will support us in the decision making process. And it’s actually much easier than it sounds; as a matter of fact it’s downright simple.
I’m talking about creating a decision-making policy. Why a policy? Because policies clarify what to do in any given situation, meaning you won’t have to think about and weigh the options. They save time, energy and effort by streamlining the process. That’s exactly the reason businesses have them, they know they would overwhelm their employees if they had decide everything on a case-by-case basis.
Here are some policy suggestions to get you started. You can adopt one of these or create your own. All that matters is that the policy has a clear pathway to a decision.
- You can set a time limit for analyzing each item. I’d suggest a minute or less per item, then make the decision, even if that means you have to flip a coin.
- You might create a policy that says anything that hasn’t been used in over a year needs to go, no questions asked.
- Perhaps you designate a quantity limit for each type of item. Items above that threshold must be donated. For example, maybe you decide you’ll keep two sets of sheets per bed, or three bath towels per family member. Any number above that needs to be let go.
- Maybe you decide on a holding limit for periodicals. You might be generous and decide after six months out they go. Or maybe you are little more rigid and once the new issue arrives, the old one hits the recycle bin.
- You might decide to employ one of my favorite policies, the one-in-one-out policy. My closet has a set number of hangers, before a new item can claim a hanger an old item has to be bid adieu. Is it always easy to say good bye to something? No, but since this is my policy I’m prepared for the decision. And if I don’t want to make it, I don’t acquire something new. In any event, closet clutter has zero chance of taking hold.
Policies aren’t just for controlling the physical stuff. We can clutter our lives with too many commitments. You can create policies in this area as well. For example, you might decide that you’ll say no to any activity or invitation that requires you to give up weekend time with your family. Or maybe you create a policy where you only volunteer with one organization at a time.
The bottom line, you create policies to streamline the decision making process. What’s great about policies is that they can be used in any area of your life, think of them as a tool that will guide you to a satisfying outcome with far less effort.
So what policies will you create?
Check out the companion video on YouTube – Decluttering and the Decision Making Process: How To Make It Easier
This guest blog post was written by Kelly Jayne McCann, the Organizing Maven – a professional organizer and clutter coach who helps people get organized through her blog, tutorials and online courses. Check out her website for more information. Also, read more about her on the Organize-It Blog Interview with an Organizer.