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Organizing 101: What to Get Rid Of, What to Keep, and Where to Start

Do you want to get rid of stuff that is cluttering up your home, but you’re scared you might need it someday?

As a professional home organizer, the top two questions I get asked are:

• “How do I figure out what to get rid of?”
• ”How do I know I won’t need that item again?”

In this article I am going to reveal a secret: knowing what to get rid of, what to keep, and where to get started.

What to Get Rid Of: Get rid of everything in your home that is not meaningful or useful. How do you know whether you’ll need that item again!? You don’t! You only know you don’t need it now. What you must believe is this: you’ll have the resources to get it again, because you had the resources to get it the first time. Trust the market place. It’s as eager as you are to exchange stuff. If you ever need that item again, you can easily find a substitute on Craigslist, eBay, or one of the many online free markets across the US.

Let’s say you get rid of an unused bookcase by selling it on Craigslist for $40 and that a year later you actually need a bookcase. Within a week or two you will be able to find one. Most of the time you will find one that suits your needs better than the old one. Plus, you got the benefit of having that $40 in your pocket for the past year.

What to Keep: Keep items that are either useful or meaningful. If you tend to love memorabilia, but cannot let go of it, try this simple three-step process.

1. Pick out the top 10 items you truly value and that mean the most to you.

2. Honor your memories by beautifully displaying them. Frame a special t-shirt, hang it on the wall, or create a shadow box of special jewelry, news clippings, and other small items.

3. Get a single, large rubber bin (less than 15 gallon) for each household member. Pick out favorites and fill the bins. Bless someone else by donating or selling all of the remaining items.

Where to Get Started: Make a list of areas that you want organized. Chose the area you use the most. In one area:

• Start clearing out stuff that is obviously garbage or recycling. You will get distracted, but focus on garbage and recycling; don’t touch anything else. Here’s a focusing tip: put on your favorite song and have it cleared out before the song ends.

• Next, set out three large bins. Set out one bin for items to be donated, one for items to be sold, and one for items that belong in a different area. Get more bins if necessary. After sorting, move the bins out of the area.

• Start organizing only after all items have been sorted. Just organize the items that are staying. Reassess the area. What purpose do you want it to serve? How you can maximize the space? How you could use walls to maximize space for displaying items by keeping them off the floor? Answer these questions and let the answers guide the organizational process.

If you want help maximizing your space, or if you get stopped on one of the steps for any reason, consider hiring a professional organizer. To find a qualified home organizer in your area, check with the National Association of Professional Organizers (

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About the Author

Heidi DeCoux, Clear Simple Living, LLC
Minneapolis, MN 55419

If you would like to re-print this article, please contact the author.
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