The Purge
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Purging the Demons

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Start slow and steady - with scheduled, regular decluttering sessions.  Work on one closet, cupboard, or type of item at a time.  

If you're a clutteraholic, it's going to be painful.

If things have gone way out of control, then it's important to identify your clutter personality in order to come to the point where you can say "yes" to letting go of clutter.

Once you know why you crave clutter, you can choose the best Purging Strategy for you and tackle the job.

Identify Your Clutter Personality

Purging Strategies

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Clutter Personalities

Determine your clutter personality and take back control.  According to experts like Organized Home magazine, getting to the root of your craving for clutter is the key.  

Hoarder - "This might come in handy someday..." If this is your type, you are rooted in financial or other types of insecurity.  Remind yourself that the hoarded items can be found elsewhere - at the library, on the web, at yard sales or thrift stores.  Give yourself permission to dump.  If you can't bring yourself to throw things away - then donate them to a worthy cause, or sell them at your own yard sale - or a combination of both!

Deferrer -"Tomorrow..."  If this is you, you've got masses of unread mail, unpaid bills, dirty dishes in the sink, wet laundry in the washer, and untended gardens. Remind yourself that "tomorrow" has no more time or energy in it than today.  It drains energy from today when you are dragged down by the undone things from yesterday.  Just make a start - any start.  Once you get momentum going, it will be easier to tackle the next job, and the next, until things are under control again.

Rebel - "I don't want to/you can't make me"  This attitude is usually a carry-over from childhood - it's mom's fault - or someone else's - but not yours.  Get over it.  The war with parental authority is over now - and YOU may in fact now be the parent. So don't act like the sulky child - be the adult on the job.  YOU be the authority figure and say "I want a nice home to live in".

Perfectionist - "I'll do it perfectly...when I have time"  Except there is never enough time for perfection. Learn to live with imperfection because the all-or-nothing attitude will never get the job done. Remind yourself of the 20-80 rule.  Twenty percent of the work takes care of 80% of the problem.  (The remaining 20% of the problem will take 80% of the work!)  Give yourself permission to do only that 20% so you actually begin to see achievements.  Tell yourself that you'll do the remaining 80% perfectly - "later....when I have time".

Purging Strategies

There are a number of strategies that can be "mixed and matched" to tackle the clutter-front.

1.  The "last-used" system:

clutter.gif (195x230 -- 18472 bytes)"Never!"  Out it goes - trash, donate or sell.  It doesn't matter who gave you that never-used complete set of whatever.  If you don't use it, it has no place in your home.  Donate it to your favorite charity or thrift shop and allow someone else the thrill of possessing a genuine advertised-on-TV gizmo.

"Within the last year."  Out it goes, with one exception.  Holiday tools and items used only once a year may be give house room if, and only if, they are removed from taking up space in the living area of your home.  You don't have space in a busy home for holiday one-timers.  So, store them away - in a labeled box, at the back of closets or hide in a high used cupboard with other seasonal items.  The rest?  If you've only used it once a year, why do you have it at all?  Out! 

"Within the last month."  Candidate for a keeper.  Deciding where the item should live will come during the storage phase of the clean-up.

"Yesterday!"  Watch for these items; they're the backbone of a organized home.  Keep. Clean them if necessary and put away where you found them.  They will be the star performers of your new improved home environment. Box and banish everything else.

2. The 4-box system

Get four large boxes or bins and label them:  Put Away, Store, Sell/Donate, and Trash (you may find it helpful to use a trash can for this one).  Things that are definitely to be used on a regular basis go into the Put Away box.  Seasonal items cherished mementos, etc. go into the Store box. Useable unneeded items go into the Sell/Donate box, and the rest goes into the trash.

3. The Penicillin Method

Think of those science experiments in school - how a drop of penicillin from orange mold put into a moldy petri dish gradually cleared all the mold from the dish.  This works in much the same way if you experience a "creeping mold" syndrome at your house, where a decluttered area soon picks up a new lot of junk.  Pick a place to start today - it can be a table top, a bookcase, a counter, or a whole room.  Declutter it.  Now do NOT put any new items back into or onto the decluttered space.  You can put it anywhere else, but not on cleaned spaces.  Eventually, the decluttered spaces get larger and "join" together leading to an organized home.

4. The Whole House Declutter

Sometimes, you simply have to re-invent the wheel and do a complete overhaul. Remodeling, a child's departure for college, or birth of a new baby can all signal a need for a whole-house declutter. It's a two-part process of identifying and assigning storage, while at the same time decluttering and revamping existing areas in the home. 

Once you know what should go where, the active phase begins. You will need boxes, lots of them, and time - a lot of time. Starting at the front door, move from room to room placing boxes in front of each storage area like cabinets, drawers, closets, and shelves. Then begin at the beginning again. Pick a place to start in any room - a table for example, and remove any and all items that are not assigned there: gloves, mail, keys, change, purses, etc. and put them in your box. 

When the table is empty, except for the centerpiece that belongs there, circle the house with your catch. Put the items in your box where they are supposed to live. Throw away Items go to the garbage can.

When the box is empty, move on to the next storage area in the chosen rooms and repeat the process of putting all clutter into the box. Again, circle the house with your box, putting items in to the new storage area where each belongs.

As you work, you're sorting and decluttering in two directions. You're removing clutter and improperly-stored items, while collecting and replacing the things which belong in any given area. This is a big undertaking, and it doesn't work well if performed in fits and starts. Choose this method if you have a few days in a row to devote to a major declutter.

5. If All Else Fails

If you can't work through the methods above, there is a never-fail, if drastic, solution to decluttering. Some go through this after a remodel job or a move.  Others can use it as a one-fell-swoop method to get the job done. It's also an excellent method to use with children.

And, it's simple.  Pick a cluttered site in your home.  Remove every blessed article of clutter from every nook and cranny in the room, closet, cupboard, or in the pile, etc.  Place these items in lidded boxes, and move them to a nearby storage area.

Each time you need something from the box, go get just the necessary items. It's a good way to sift out surpluses of multiple items. Return these items to a place of honor in the appropriate living area of your home.  

After several weeks, this method absolutely separates the wheat from the chaff.  Items in active use are in the rooms where they belong, and the "chaff" is already boxed and ready to be moved out.

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