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Resolution: Cleaning & Organizing January 6, 2011

Posted by Sindy in Uncategorized.
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Partly because I’m a DIYer, and partly because I inherited the genes for it, I am a pack rat. Yes, I admit it, but at the same time I proudly announce that I’m a recovering pack rat. I have reduced my personal possessions by at least 30%. But, since that’s still not enough (one professional organizer I heard said that a pack rat should reduce their stuff by 50%, and then reduce that new amount by 50%) I am continuing one of last years resolutions to continue to reduce and organize.

So, how’d I do it (at least what I’ve done so far)? A couple of different methods actually which I’ve listed below.

The Four Box Method:
1. Gather four boxes. They can be paper boxes from your local office, or I use some foldable boxes I got at a dollar store.
2. Label them as follows
Trash – Garbage goes into this box.
Donate – As a green-conscious person, donate anything that could be useful to someone else to your local thrift store or other charitable organization.
Out – This is for items that should be in another room. So, if you’re working in your bedroom and you find a dinner plate, instead of losing your stride to take it into the kitchen, just set it this box for the time being.
Later – These are things that need some extra attention. Be careful what you put in here because it can quickly turn into the “I don’t wanna!” box, which is where the majority of the pack rat problem started in the first place.
3. Systematically go through each room, item by item filling the boxes (and emptying them when they’re full – NEVER grab another box).
NOTE: You don’t have to set aside a large chunk of time to do this (although it sure helps a ton). Just make sure to consistently do a little whenever you can, and keep moving at it. If you find yourself stuck on something, see if there’s another little section you can work on for a little bit. Same with if you get tired &/or discouraged. My Mom often says that “a change is as good as a rest.”
4. If something is too big to fit in it’s allotted box, just get up and take care of it, but make sure to come right back.
5. Consider how often you use it. If it’s been more than six months, ask why. Just because it COULD be useful in the future (like whenever you eventually have kids) doesn’t mean it has the right to fill up your space. Besides, if it’s really that useful &/or necessary, when you do need you can just get, make or borrow another one.

The Snowman vs. Dancer Method (used in conjunction with the Four Box Method):
A couple years ago I found a podcast called Julia’s Journey to Organization (part 1) (part 2) on the Organized Woman Show. Julia had hired one of the hosts of the show to help her organize her house after her divorce. During cleaning they found two statuettes. One of them was a snowman that her ex had given her, and she absolutely hated it. The other was an elegant dancer. She had been a dancer and loved it, so she was rather fond of this little statuette. To help her in making dicisions, with each item the host would ask her “Snowman or Dancer?” In other words, was the item associated with the person that she was, the person she hated being, or was it associated with the kind of person that she wanted to be, the person she was striving to be. So, in your own organizing, here’s how to implement this method:

1. Select something to represent who you are right now, or who you feel you are. This something does not have to be a physical item like a statuette. I chose Part-Timer as what represented who I am now, and who I didn’t want to be.
2. Select something that represents who and what you want to become. Again, this does not have to be a physical object. I chose Business Owner because I’ve always wanted to have my own business, to be an entrepreneur.
3. If you’d like, and if it helps you in keeping these mental images in your mind, go ahead and find physical objects to represent these two (it’s preferable to use something you already have because 1. you won’t be buying yet another thing to stuff your house with, and 2. the emotional reaction is already set in place). I personally don’t have anything physical right now, but I do have a little sign I made and put on my bedroom door, so I see it every time I head out of my room.
4. As you go through your organization, with each item ask yourself if it’s association with the bad/old you, or the new/improved you.

The Question Your Purchases Method:
Finally, it’s one thing to reduce and organize what you have, but it needs to be combined with teaching yourself how to not bring in the extra stuff in the first place. Of course there are the methods including taking and sticking to a list, and eating before you go shopping, but I also ask myself these questions for each possible purchase:

1. Do I really NEED it?
2. Why do I WANT it?
3, What purpose is it filling?
4. Can I REALLY afford it? (Don’t forget that when considering if you can afford something don’t just think about the money. Think about the extra exercise you’ll have to do to work off the weight (if it’s edible), think about the space it will take up, think about what you’ll have to go through if you decide not to keep it.)
5. Where will I put it? (This doesn’t just apply to furniture, but also to decorative items, groceries, books, and everything.)
6. WHEN will I use it? (If the answer to this is more than six months, reconsider the purchase.)
By the way, as a DIYer, consider these questions before starting a new project too.

Finally, there are two areas I’m still struggling with and that I haven’t found a good method for: Papers and Books (since I love to amass knowledge). If anyone has any suggestions, please feel free to post a comment. Thanks.

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