Whether working with a client or decluttering my own home, I find that I follow a certain decision-making process each time. The key to my process is to keep it as simple as possible and to eliminate the number of decluttering decisions that I need to make within any one step. By reducing the number of decisions overall, I find that more efficient decluttering gets done and my clients feel confident in their decision-making process. Read on to see how I decide what to declutter and start your decluttering process now!
Decluttering Decision Tree
Keep or Don’t Keep
The main key to keeping my decluttering simple and easy is to reduce the number of decisions in any one session. I do this by breaking each decision point down into only 2 decisions. Here’s an example: When cleaning out my closet, I take everything out one by one. As I take it out of the closet I decide “Keep” or “Don’t Keep.” That’s it. That is the only decision I am making at this time. If you find this part to be the hardest part, use the 5-second rule. If you have to think about it for more than 5 seconds, keep it. You can always re-evaluate later.
I then make two piles of stuff I’m going to keep and stuff I’m not going to keep. That way, if I have to stop or I only have a little time I can usually get through that first hurdle of decisions before continuing. PRO TIP: use marked bins to separate your decision categories. If you get interrupted and can’t finish all in one session you can tuck the bins away to continue another time.
Here or Somewhere Else
Once I’ve gone through everything in a certain space, box, or bin I will normally have a large pile of things I’m going to keep. I then again break the next decision point into only two more options: keep it here in this space or it belongs somewhere else. Example: As I was cleaning out my linen closet, I found some sleeping bags that I wanted to re-home with the camping stuff that lives in another storage closet. But, I didn’t walk it over there right then. I simply put it in another pile to be re-homed later and kept going. By the end, I’ll have a bin of stuff that can be put back away in that space and a bin that needs to be taken elsewhere. PRO TIP: only NOW are you ready to start thinking about organizing that space. But that’s a whole other process!
Practical vs. Sentimental
Now I have one more decision point with the things I’m keeping: Re-home somewhere else in the house or put it into a memory or storage box. I like to think of these as practical items or sentimental items. It is only now that I will walk these items to their new homes. Warning: don’t start decluttering those new spots though! 🤣 Stay focused! Follow through the space that you started with. Otherwise, it is very easy to get overwhelmed, quit the entire process, and binge the entire last season of “Only Murders in the Building.” Or maybe that’s just me…
Donate, Sell, Or Trash
When it comes to the “Don’t Keep” pile there are 3 decisions: trash, donate, or sell. Technically, if you need to return a borrowed item this could fit there, too, but try to return borrowed items immediately to avoid forgetting. Normally, while decluttering my home or helping a client, trash IMMEDIATELY goes into a trash bag so I don’t have to sort through that again. So really, I’m only deciding between selling an item or donating it.
Donating Your Items
I have a confession: I’m a lazy donator. I pretty much donate everything that we’re not keeping unless it is completely obvious that it is trash. Similarly, I don’t put a whole lot of effort into researching the donation place, or looking up all the ins and out of the place where I’m donating. Finally, I don’t worry about itemizing every item or taking pictures for deductions. The important part for me is to get the stuff out of my house or out of my clients’ houses as quickly as possible. All of those decisions that I just listed take up too much time, energy, and thought. If I find that a place will take most anything, then I’m likely to keep donating there to keep the process easy and seamless.
Now, if you have very strong feelings about where your stuff is going, then by all means research a place that will make you feel good about giving it away. I recognize for some that the feeling of giving to someplace they find meaningful makes it easier to part with their stuff. Here is a great article that goes into a little more depth on donation sites and what to consider when deciding where to donate. But, I caution you, don’t spend too much time deciding. Pick a place and donate!!
Selling your Items
In the past, I have sold a lot of our used items. I have used Facebook Marketplace, and eBay, and even held garage sales. But now, I feel less and less that is worth the hassle or my time. For selling, I like to think of the 20-20-20 rule. If I can easily replace it for $20 or less, in 20 minutes or less, and/or it’s worth less than 20% of its original value, it’s not worth it. Just donate it!
However, for larger items (outside items especially) you may find that you have more luck. Gym equipment, sports equipment, or certain electronic items may be worth going through the process of selling to recoup a little bit of your original investment. Just make sure you’re not spending too much time caught up in selling every little thing.
I hope this breakdown of how I decide what to declutter has helped you in your decluttering process! If you have any questions about how I help other declutter, please feel free to reach out anytime or consider setting up a Virtual Consultation with me. If you’d like a guide to get started, check out my 30-day Declutter Checklist now!